Live recording of a performance with Turku Philharmonics, conducted by Mo Bojan Sudjic. Solo piano: Juho Pohjonen (composed by Aleksandar Simic)
A word from the author:
The whole idea about writing something like the Zodiac began many years ago, when I realized that very seldom composers were taking an innovative and imaginative approach to the wonderful and majestic medium such as piano and orchestra. Usually, when listening to a piano concerto, you are being given three large chunks of music - a fast movement, a slow movement...and an even faster one. I was always wondering how come we have pieces in the classical solo piano repertoire, like the Pictures at an Exhibition, or Schumann's Carnival, or Tchaikovsky's Seasons, for that matter, and when it comes to a piano plus orchestra, we still limit ourselves to the rendering of a standard Sonata cycle.
This is how I knew that I wanted my "piano concerto" to be a collection of miniatures, rather than a typical three movement form.
Looking for a theme that would unite this pieces together, I even went in the direction of Nordic folklore, planning to take a fairytale and turn it into music, with individual movements conveying different parts of the story.
But I knew I also needed something genuinely universal, in order to really capture the audience...I mean, why would anyone bother to listen to a new piano concerto by Aleksandar Simic, if he can have Rach 3, Tchaikovsky's B-Flat or Prokofiev's Second?! So I decided to turn to Universe itself.
The idea of the Zodiac is as old as our civilization. Our deep, unconscious and instinctive connection with the stars was there when first men roamed the Earth, thousands and thousands of years before the first astrologers began to unravel their secrets. As we evolved, so evolved our need to understand ourselves, come to turn with the good and the bad sides of our characters and possibly find some absolution in the fact that our destinies have been determined from the very first day we were born - and guided by the stars.
I began to read and prepare for the actual composition, going through every piece on astrological psychology I could get my hands on - from Jung and Freud, to Bruno and Louise Huber, and after some time I was confident enough to draw up a plan, or should I say a natal chart for the Zodiac. I decided to begin the cycle with the sign of Aries, and end it with the Aquarius, celebrating the new chance that we are given with the beginning of a new era. My initial plan was to bring a choir to the last movement, and I even wrote the lyrics, imagining the huge vocal ensemble of cosmical elders, delivering a message to the Human race: "Bring Peace and Hope; Bring Love and Joy; As we pass the threshold to the newborn skies - Fulfill the ancient promise that was given to the stars". This time the Zodiac appears before you without the choral ending, but I do hope the message is felt in the music itself.
I also hope you will find a piece of yourself in the music, and not necessarily in your own sign. Because we are all a part of a single bigger picture.