Michael Torke: Blue Pacific


Commissioned by the Stecher and Horowitz Foundation for their Third New York Piano Competition back in 2006, Michael Torke’s Blue Pacific is a dazzling work for solo piano. Torke explains the inspiration for the work:


“Blue Pacific was written on a cliff side overlooking the sparkling Pacific Ocean in southern Mexico. The sun shines without fail, the temperature rarely strays from the mid-80s, and an ever-present breeze blows off the water. Reminiscent of this setting, a song-like melody develops through a series of keys, reaching its full height near the end.”


The Music

The opening chordal fluctuation serves as the foundation for Blue Pacific. The openness of the music and the colours that Torke gets from the instrument is crucial to the overall character of the piece. As described above, Torke moves the main melodic theme through a number of keys to create different effects and to represent the movement of the Pacific Ocean. Using the full-breadth of the instrument, Blue Pacific is full of big intervallic jumps. 

Big rolling scalic runs flood the central section as the material becomes much more complex for the performer. The sparkling upper range of the piano serves as an entry point into the next section. Torke utilises the whole instrument throughout, as well as extracting some rich middle-range material. The constant feeling of movement Blue Pacific is charming and adds to the nautical theme. As the dynamic comes back down towards the end of the piece, Torke builds the rich textures back up which explode with colour when the climax is reached. The use of the lower end of the piano here is effective, with the upper register sitting neatly on top. Blue Pacific concludes with a satisfying resolution as the hands come together for the final chord.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

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