SPCO concerts are canceled through May 10 in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Urban Gardens of imagination and memory

Nicola Campogrande at rehearsal

Photo: Composer Nicola Campogrande observes Wednesday’s first rehearsal of Urban Gardens.

On a cold morning like this one, just the title of Urban Gardens has to be appealing to a Minnesotan. And more than a few of us may see something familiar in the composition’s inspiration: gardens of imagination and musical memories.

Tomorrow night, we’ll perform the world premiere of Nicola Campogrande‘s new work. The Italian composer, who will be in the audience tomorrow night, describes the piece:

The score is inspired by the urban gardens that are becoming a new, exciting presence in our cities. In such a setting I imagined the piano as an urban memory and the orchestra as a green, vegetal presence that surrounds it. Doing that, I created in my mind three special places to develop the different movements of the score.

The first is indeed ideally On a Concert Hall Rooftop: some echoes of great piano concertos of the past—not their actual notes, rhythms, or sounds but just faint memories of them—come to visit the piano part, whereas the orchestra is agitated by the pressure of plants that are growing up, seeds that are unfolding, and vegetables that are expanding.

The second movement is imagined In a Jazz Club Courtyard, where the piano, for most of the section, is surrounded just by winds, brass, and percussion instruments. There is something connected to a blues-style ballad, in the main theme, but some other different elements are part of the movement, from a dramatic climax to a variation where the piano part is written in a toccata style. The peculiar ability of jazz to devour and transform everything is evoked in the final section, where the strings, too, become part of the game: the piano presents some micro-quotes of classical repertoire in a jazz style and the dialog between the two worlds is strongly underlined.

The third movement hails from an urban garden created On a Studio Terrace and the general form, the musical materials, and some specific orchestral solutions are connected to the job of recording and editing in a studio. Probably our imaginary plants are now big and strong, because their sound is full of energy and rhythm, and if you think you’re listening to a tomato or to some string beans ready to be picked, you’re not completely wrong.

We have a long history of commissioning and premiering new music, and we look forward to presenting the first world premiere of the new season.