NICO MUHLY "In Certain Circles" For Two Pianos And Orchestra, US Premiere


In Certain Circles is in three movements. The first contains a little fragment of a piece by Rameau, l’Enharmonique. The movement is about uncovering it through various disguises and lifting of those disguises. From time to time, the tune from the Rameau appears and quickly vanishes; while it’s not always meant to be fully audible, there should be a sense of l’hantologie here, where the simple intervals of the Rameau permeate the texture in oblique and sometimes obscure ways. A very simple gesture permeates all three movements: a rising second, forcefully declared by the brass in the very first bar; the brass often insists on these intervals even when they antagonise the pianos.

The second movement is a pair of dance-suite movements: a sarabande and a gigue. I tried to call on my knowledge of French baroque music to make something I’ve never done before, which is to say, music which more or less obeys the rhythmic rules of a received form. Here, the piano go in and out of rhythmic unison with one another — a little mechanical, a little expressive. While the sarabande is quite supple, the gigue is explicitly mechanical and a bit unstable. The normal sets of 6 and 12 beats are oftentimes interrupted with unwelcome little hiccoughs of 4 or 5 beats, creating a sense of anxiety despite the explicitly diatonic harmonies.

The third movement begins with the pianos in completely different rhythmic worlds from one another. ‘Disconnection’ is the guiding musical principle here; the music shifts quickly from very dark to very bright, from jagged rhythms to simple quavers and semiquavers, and from delicate to quite violent. Every playful moment is offset by something severe or mechanical. After a relatively joyful pulse-based episode, we perceive a final spectre of l’Enharmonique and the movement ends abruptly. In Certain Circles is dedicated to Katia and Marielle Labèque.

Nico Muhly

NICO MUHLY short bio

Nico Muhly, born in 1981, is an American composer who writes orchestral music, works for the stage, chamber music and sacred music. He’s received commissions from The Metropolitan Opera: Two Boys (2011), and Marnie (2018); Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, Wigmore Hall, the Tallis Scholars, King’s College and St John’s College, Cambridge, among others. He is a collaborative partner at the San Francisco Symphony and has been featured at the Barbican and the Philharmonie de Paris as composer, performer, and curator. An avid collaborator, he has worked with choreographers Benjamin Millepied at the Paris Opéra Ballet, Bobbi Jene Smith at the Juilliard School, Justin Peck and Kyle Abraham at New York City Ballet; artists Sufjan Stevens, The National, Teitur, Anohni, James Blake and Paul Simon. His work for film includes scores for for The Reader (2008) and Kill Your Darlings (2013), and the BBC adaptation of Howards End (2017).

Among his concerti are works for violin, (Shrink, for Pekka Kuusisto), organ (Register, for James McVinnie), viola (Nadia Sirota), two pianos (In Certain Circles, for Katia and Marielle Labèque) and his vocal collaborators include Iestyn Davies, Renée Fleming, and Nicholas Phan. He has collaborated with visual artists Maira Kalman and Oliver Beer, and has created site-specific pieces for the National Gallery, London, and the Art Institute of Chicago, and written articles for the Guardian, the New York Times, and the London Review of Books. Recordings of his works have been released by Decca and Nonesuch, and he is part of the artist-run record label Bedroom Community, which released his first two albums, Speaks Volumes (2006) and Mothertongue (2008).




“Dessner is an important composer with a developed technique and an intense emotional voice. He continues today as a major voice of his generation.” [Steve Reich, 2018]

The double piano concerto is one of the pieces I’m most proud of, that I wrote a few years ago now for Katia and Marielle Labeque who are these incredible pianists, really unbelievably talented. We shared a concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2015, and during rehearsals, they asked me if I ‘d ever consider writing something for two pianos. This piece was this amazing journey of learning about their history. They’ve worked with everyone. They were discovered in the Paris Conservatory as teenagers by Olivier Messiaen, and they worked directly with him. Luciano Berio was very close to them and wrote music for them. They’ve kind of come through every era of all this important music , they bring a level of attention and dedication to music that I’ve not witnessed before.It’s a whole level of intensity and dedication with this piece, There’s a shared soul in their music, it’s so powerful. Two pianos It’s this big, powerful sound with so many colors you can play with.There are things in each of their parts that call out the things they like doing, it’s a very personal piece.

The effect of Dessner’s 2017 concerto for and about the Labeque sisters was markedly different. After that, one wasn’tso much enraptured as in shock and awe.Dessner, a polymath equally adept in the worlds of film, concert, and popular music, has penned a thrilling 20-minute work that showcases the sisters in all their glory, one that calls for their unique brand of delicacy as well as their steely ferocity and great virtuosity.

At times, it had all the gossamer beauty of a Debussy Prelude. At others, the thrashing aggression of a rock anthem.A short, robust motif was omnipresent as the sisters took turns sharing lyrical ruminations or whipping up tempests and interrupting each other with sharp barks and growls. Gimeno, too, kept up the pressure, conjuring blistering percussion and a spectrum of orchestral colors.

...enraptured as in shock and awe.Dessner, a polymath equally adept in the worlds of film, concert, and popular music, has penned a thrilling 20-minute work that showcases the sisters in all their glory, one that calls for their unique brand of delicacy as well as their steely ferocity and great virtuosity. ….all the gossamer beauty of a Debussy Prelude...the thrashing aggression of a rock anthem.

Under the Radar

"a glowing artistic achievement.”


“It's safe to say that Dessner has made an international impact..... a strong piece of post-Impressionist atmospherics, beautifully written for two pianos.” energetic and sharp. Recommended.”


"Indie rock’s preeminent classical composer offers a selection of piano pieces from minimal, to rousing, to a heroic concerto for two pianos backed by a full orchestra.”


“an ambitious series of sweeping, deeply moving classical works.”


“Dessner’s new album will undoubtedly seduce lovers of music of a broad musical horizon.” “The Labèque sisters bring a crystalline and hypnotic palette ”


"a vibrant and beautiful collection, at times devastating and at others soaring.”


he has outdone himself by turning in a grand statement with a sense of ease.”

“Dessner works beautifully the pulsations, the timbres [....] His music is wildly supple, richly orchestrated, ornamented even, in the baroque sense of the term. It is overflowing with life and the Labèque sisters joyfully give everything in the virtuosity of the syncopation, the intoxication of the ride…” "A refreshing and unclassifiable album.”

Financial Times

World première with London Philharmonic Orchestra (April 2018)
“More like Glass than Glass himself” “There are moments when you marvel at his ability to bleed pigments into each other, like a watercolourist.”

Sächsische Zeitung

German premiere with Dresdner Philarmonie (June 2018)
"sparkling finesse: His capacity to propel energy is just as effective on the classical podium.”

Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten

“Dessner creates suspense because he repeatedly emphasises the mood or lets the pulse of the melody follow . This results in amazing effects, even during the Tutti with the barely audible violins. The work received more than a warm, enthusiastic reception from the audience.”



April 23rd, 2015

The Double Piano Concerto was composed for the Labèque Sisters in the Fall and Winter of 2014-2015. It was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and will receive its world premiere in Los Angeles in May of the year, 2015.
The Orchestre de Paris, Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic Orchestra, Göteborgs Symfoniker, and Orquesta Nacional de España are all co-commissioners and will be presenting their own premieres in their home cities in the coming year.
Like many people involved in today’s music I have long been an admirer of Katia and Marielle Labèque’s performance of traditional and new concert music for duo pianos. I was very happy to hear their brilliant playing and interpretative skills with my own music – first with the 2007 work, Four Movements for Two Pianos and then, more recently, the Two Movements for Four Pianos.
The work itself follows the three movement form in which many concertos are conceived. However in this case the first and second movements are both fast and the slow movement is the third and last part of the concerto.
Also it seemed that there were enough ‘fireworks’ in the first two movements as to make an additional cadenza for the soloists unnecessary.
Again the relationship of the soloist to the orchestra is not the usual one, contrasting the smaller duo with the larger orchestral ensemble. Instead the music of the soloists is shared between the two and the orchestra serves to extend the range and color of the soloists.

Philip Glass


Review: Philip Glass Comes, Finally, To The New York Philharmonic


With these performances of the Glass concerto, featuring the splendid pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque as soloists, Mr. van Zweden has filled a gaping hole in the Philharmonic’s history. Overlooking Mr. Glass’s work had to have been a deliberate choice by a succession of music directors, because, love him or hate him, he has been an influential figure in contemporary classical music for some 40 years.

And this 27-minute concerto in three movements, which had its premiere in 2015 with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is inventive and unusual. The orchestra starts off abuzz with rippling, subdued riffs. Almost immediately the pianos, backed by various instruments, play a slippery theme in chords that dip and rise almost step by step.

The music is fidgety and full of harmonic shifts, run through with two-against-three rhythms. There’s a mellow, jazzy quality at play: Imagine Gershwin as a Minimalist.

Most concertos have combative passages between the soloist and orchestra. Not this one. The pianists and orchestra are like allies, and that quality persists in the darker second movement, which has long stretches in which two-note motifs keep oscillating and you can’t decide whether the mood is soothing or ominous. The pianists, like trusted guides, take the orchestra (and listeners) through a pulsing thicket of music.

There are moments when what sounds like an echo of that slippery opening theme emerges: The pianos try to catch hold of the tune and pin it down. Mr. Glass ends his concerto with a wistful slow movement. Recurring figures in triplets hover in the pianos, while a sighing, spare melody floats above in bare octaves.

The piano parts, though not showy, are detailed and difficult. The Labèque sisters played a scintillating and elegant performance, and Mr. van Zweden nicely conveyed the mix of sassiness and delicacy in the music.

Philip Glass - Labeque Double Concerto

Review: NY Philharmonic Opens Its Season With Mahler and Glass Under the Sure Baton of Van Zweden

By Christopher Johnson, Contributing Writer, September 25, 2017

Glass’ Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra(2015, revised 2016) received its New York premiere, featuring the Labèque sisters, for whom it was written. It’s an attractive and absorbing piece, with more event than you might expect, and far more in the way of external reference than Glass usually gives away: I felt the Ravel G-major concerto whispering behind the second movement, and the slow wind-down of the opening movement distinctly evokes Shostakovich, whom Glass greatly admires. The Labèques played it with absolute commitment and beauty of tone, and van Zweden conducted with real feeling, so that it came over with moment-by-moment inflections that often go missing in more poker-faced specialist readings.

Philip Glass - Labeque Double Concerto

Jaap van Zweden conducting the New York Philharmonic in Philip Glass’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (NY premiere) with Katia and Marielle Labèque, pianos; photo: Chris Lee.




for two pianos, percussions, and orchestra

I. Berimbao
II.Tambor en Blanco y Negro
III. Guaracha y Mambo
IV. Sur
V. Tormenta y Quitiplá
VI. Procesión

The piece for two pianos, latinos percussions and orchestra is based on "La Pasión Según San Marcos" by Osvaldo Golijov. Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov, has been hailed by the New York Times as 'standing the whole world on its ear’. Nazareno was commissioned by "Fondazione KML » and perform with Berlin Philharmonie (recorded for the Digital Concert Hall) , London Symphony Orchestra , Orchestre de Paris,Sidney Opera House with Gonzalo Grau and Raphael Seguinier on percussions.

Nazareno Gonzalo Grau

Tour June 2022

Colombian Youth Orchestra conducted by Andres Orozco Estrada

Hamburg (Germany)
June 21 2022, 20:00
Rostock (Germany)
Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
June 22 2022, 19:00
Koln (Germany)
June 23 2022, 20:00
Stuttgart (Germany)
Kultur- & Kongresszentrum Liederhalle
June 25 2022, 20:00
Freiburg (Germany)
June 26 2022, 20:00
Mannheim (Germany)
Mannheimer Rosengarten
June 27 2022, 20:00
Wien (Austria)
Wiener Konzerthaus
June 29 2022, 19:30
Rheingau Musik Festival - Wiesbaden (Germany)
June 30 2022, 20:00
Amsterdam (Netherlands)
July 03 2022, 20:00