1. Allegro: "Classically" • 2. Andante: "A Distant Past" • 3. Vivace: "Traditions"
Behr's third piano concerto, completed in 2016, is named Paradigms for good reason. The Oxford American Dictionary defines paradigms as “An example or model of how things should be done." This fits Behr's musical philosophy: melodic yet contemporary, in a word, modern romanticism. He rejects intense atonality of modern composers, instead emphasizing balance: melody alongside modernism, phase music, light atonality, and multiculturalism from folksy/jazzy American to Turkish to Russian to Spanish music. Behr presents a unique phase style all his own. The kaleidoscopic feel of his music is unlike anything heard before: fresh, original and modern yet a salute to that which makes Romantic music so beloved. Each movement reflects traditions from which Paradigms finds inspiration. Behr, a product of classical training (he's a Juilliard graduate with a B.M. & M.M.), admires atonality from Stravinsky to Schoenberg, but believes a return to romanticism in the Classical world is long overdue. The need to reach new audiences with accessible new music is important.
1. Classically • The first movement, Classically, follows sonata-allegro form, excepting a lovely melodic passage ending the development. A glorious coda foreshadows the second movement. Classically is at times dark, playful and lushly melodic. It is ever-changing and wonderfully unpredictable.
2. A Distant Past • The second movement, A Distant Past, following ternary form, opens with a nod to Medieval Europe as double bass clumsily recite a Gregorian Chant-like melody repeated by woodwinds with Renaissance-like feel. A contrapuntal piano solo of churchlike feel follows, abruptly launching into jazz-like riffs and delicious melody. Afterward comes rhythmically punctuated Spanish-style development then a piano cadenza, dark, brooding, modern. The Jewish Hatikva briefly appears, an acknowledgement to a distant past that cannot overlook the contributions and tragic persecution of the Jewish people. The movement concludes with the opening chant and lush “B” melody, but with ominous overtones reflecting troubled present times of violence, terrorism and threat of rising oceans.
3. Traditions • The finale, Traditions, follows rondo form. Spicily multicultural, whimsical and charming passages flow into a lyrical piano solo then atonality. Recapitulation returns the playful “A” section flowing into a five-part fugue, a nod to the Baroque giant J.S. Bach. The concerto concludes with a pulsating, thrilling coda.
© Paradigms by James Behr. All rights reserved.