Will a composer’s new music hold up for the long term? If popularity with audiences is one of the criteria, then Knoxville Symphony Orchestra conductor and composer Lucas Richman’s brand new “Concerto for Piano and Orchestra: In Truth,” which made its world premiere Thursday at the Tennessee Theatre with pianist Jeffrey Biegel as the moral protagonist, certainly qualified.
In today’s multimedia world, it may be expected that new music be cinematic — movie music, if you will. Richman’s concerto was that, too. Some might consider that to be a derogatory quality for classical music with a serious motive, but Bernstein, Copland, Glass, Kodaly, Prokofiev and Shostakovich all wrote movie music. In the jazzy second movement, one could hear more than a few reflections of Bernstein, maybe even Stravinsky. But there was also a lot of Richman, too. The music was a lot more than an homage to the composers who have influenced him. The first movement had thick, rich textures and pulsating rhythms, offset by an introspective, lovely melody in the piano that had whiffs of Rachmaninoff. Biegel, who clearly loved playing this piece, played it brilliantly throughout. But nowhere was he better than in the gorgeous piano solo that opened the second movement and dissolved into jazzy syncopations in the orchestra. In the third movement, Biegel’s tender, delicate playing of another solo set up more contrasts with the orchestra. Will Richman’s concerto stand the test of time? Only time will tell. But it was more than worth being able to say you were there when it came to life.