The Manhattan Suite for piano four-hands.
Let's be honest; how often, in the course of our frantic days, do we ever take a few seconds to actually look at the buildings around us? How often do we stop for a moment and raise our eyes, in order to really take in what surrounds us? “The Manhattan Suite”, for piano four hands, is a homage to some of my favorite places in Manhattan. The piece is in five movements, each trying to capture the vibe of a different place or building. They are all particularly dear to me, and there is a special emphasis on Greenwich Village, where I have been living for several years. The work is a joint commission from Duo Miroirs, based in Milan, Italy, and pianist Denine Leblanc, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Funding was provided by Mr. Cletus E. Amlung, Bruce E. Cohen, and Denine LeBlanc (in memory of Dr. Michelle LeBlanc), to whom we are very grateful.
The first movement, “Old Penn Station”, depicts the hectic pace of commuters coming to the City by train every morning. What older New Yorkers now call nostalgically the “Old” Penn Station was built in 1910 and had a pink granite facade with eighty-four Greek Doric columns. The interior, made of glass and steel, was a Beaux Arts masterpiece, and was one of the largest public spaces in the world. It was ruthlessly torn down in 1963, for financial reasons, despite the outraged protests of countless citizens, journalists and intellectuals. Its demolition led later on to the creation of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission.
The second Movement, “Jefferson Market Courthouse”, tries to capture the solemn and imposing atmosphere of this building, which was built in 1876 and originally served as a courthouse. Its design, called Victorian-Gothic, consists of a mixture of many different architectural styles, that include stone, glass, pinnacles and Venetian-like structures. Located at 10th Street and Sixth Avenue, this red-brick building is now a branch of the New York Public Library.
The third movement, “The Varitype Building”, is dedicated to this overlooked little gem, situated at the intersection of Cornelia Street and Sixth Avenue. This building, echoing in its design the much more famous Flatiron Building with its unmistakable triangular wedge shape (although much smaller in scale), was built in 1907, and has always evoked in me a feeling of dreamy and mysterious atmospheres, which are reflected in the music, suspended in time and without a regular pulse.
The title of the fourth movement, “Ladies Mile”, refers to the area extending from 14th to 23rd Street and from 5th to 6th Avenue. It is called “Ladies Mile” because of its length, approximately one mile, and because from the second half of the 19th century to the early part of the 20th century it was the home of many of the most important and largest department stores in the city. Many of the imposing buildings here have beautiful cast iron facades, and are built in different styles, such as Beaux Arts, Neo-Renaissance and Romanesque Revival. The music brings to mind the frantic activity of many buyers going back and forth through the crowded stores.
The fifth movement, “Saint Lukes's Gardens”, is dedicated to one of my favorite places in New York. It is an oasis of quiet and serenity that feels like miles away from the noisy and hectic streets of Manhattan. The gardens, part of the church of Saint Luke's in the Fields, are located on Hudson Street, in the heart of Greenwich Village. Here it is possible to relax, read, meditate, surrounded by beautiful trees, flowers, birds and (in the spring) dozens of butterflies. The music recalls all the birds and butterflies flying around, in and out of the blossoming flowers.