This piece was commissioned by the Creative Music Fund for the Sydney Youth Orchestras, and premiered by Claire Edwardes and the SYO, conducted by Max McBride at Verbrugghen Hall at Sydney Conservatorium of Music on 11 and 12 July 2009.
Claire Edwardes and I had been talking about a concerto for her for some time and when this opportunity presented to us, to write it for the vibrant Sydney Youth Orchestra, it just seemed perfect for a piece that was inspired by my trip to Vienna just a short time prior to our discussions. For some reason I associate ‘gold’ with Claire. Apart from Claire winning major awards and prizes (in the music world this is comparable with Gold in sports!), she has the shimmering golden glamour about her playing and presence on stage. When we had our first brainstorming talk about the piece, the impressions of Vienna and images of Gustav Klimt everywhere on souvenirs and objects like umbrellas, cups, pens, bags, curtains and towels were still fresh in my memory and those reflections merged into an idea of the title Golden Kitsch. I actually quite like the comforting aspect of kitsch, so it was not my purpose to write an ironic piece, but rather to attempt a lightly mysterious essay. While I was finding my way into the piece I found that the sound of a toy piano was the one representing the golden shimmer in the optimal sense for me, and so the piece started to grow from that first sound of the toy piano playing slow augmented arpeggios in parallel with the piano, which is sometimes in a key just a semitone away from the toy piano, so it is not always harmonious. And the Austrian influence is perhaps the fact that the piece is for the most part a waltz, which is maybe a little unusual for a percussion concerto. The melodic content happens mostly in the orchestra, with the percussion solo weaving in and out of the texture, sometimes enhancing it, sometimes pushing it along, sometimes working against it, sometimes playing chords on the vibraphone, which is used alongside almglocken (cowbells) and crotales, as well as a waterphone among others such as a bass drum.