Inspired by an earlier work, Three American Nocturnes, for two pianos, my Second Piano Concerto brings three American landmarks at night. The role of the piano soloist is different in each one of the three movements, but at the same time, it serves as a connecting element through the different night scenes in the United States. It is both an spectator as well as a willing participant of each one of the places.
The first movement evokes Chicago, Illinois, or as it is known in some hip-hop circles, Chi-Town. The night starts quietly as some street performers gather around in a street. The music becomes more rhythmic and improvisatory as the hip-hop tones envelope the street. At its highest moment, the piano cadenza brings the attention to the observer of the scene. A very virtuosic performance is followed by the musicians suddenly ending their jam session and departing quietly, leaving the street corner to the night itself.
The second movement transports us to St. Joseph, Michigan. The sinuous St. Joseph river arrives to Lake Michigan as a full moon lays its reflection on the water. The shimmering, but ecstatic quality of the music is accompanied by fluid designs of the soloist, all within a very flexible (almost rubato) performance of the melody. This movement is the composer’s homage to the father of the nocturne, Frédéric Chopin.
The exuberant last movement takes us to Miami, Florida. La fiesta has just started. As we hear the sounds and chords from the first movement as faded memories, vibrant salsa and merengue patterns interact in an invitation to dance while the night is young. A final cadenza of the piano reminds us that the soloist has become more than just an observant of the night scene, but the soul of the celebrations.
Reviews of Piano Concerto No. 2, “American Nights”
“A world premiere of a delightful new work… Muñiz’s colorful orchestration of the piece makes exemplary use of all these musicians to create distinct portraits of three cities at night: Chicago, St. Joseph and Miami. Muñiz provides the movement with thrilling cadenzas that Ulianitsky performed with a propulsive, lively attention to their Latin rhythms, and, overall, this movement in particular sparkles with life and joy.”