Sean Hickey profile


4/27/2011 Allice Tully Hall, Xiayin Wang

11-minute virtuosic work for solo piano. Commissioned by pianist Xiayin Wang in 2011, the piece was premiered at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, in New York. Klara Min gave the UK premiere in 2013 at London's Wigmore Hall. Philip Edward Fisher recorded the work, the title track on the critically-acclaimed release on the Delos label.

Program Notes

Sean preparing score

Cursive was commissioned by Xiayin Wang in 2008 and premiered by her at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in 2009. Though she’s certainly deserving of showpieces, I wanted to avoid creating a work that was simply a vehicle for her – or anyone’s - virtuosity.

Since it had been a few years since I had composed an original work for solo piano, I found it hard at first to reestablish my acquaintance with the instrument. Much of my more recent works have tended to be less rhapsodic and more chordal and deconstructed, often displaying a disjointed cubist perspective, much as a smashed timepiece is still a thing of beauty. In this work, I wanted to concentrate on, and elevate, that which I enjoy most in the rich piano literature, namely that of the Baroque and Classical eras: a strong sense of line.

The piece begins with a seven-note ostinato in the right hand which serves as a fixed idea throughout the entire work. But the nature of this falling pattern is such that it immediately spawns other related figures, both expanding ostinati at different pitch levels and yielding chords that emanate from the same figure. In this manner I tried to create a long, mostly-unbroken line from beginning to end, much as a calligrapher would only lift his pen between words in fashioning an elegant script. Despite the grace notes that punctuate each page, all is not curlicue and filigree. Engaging narrative requires more than a few bumps along the way, and a semi-regular changing meter, offbeat accents and a mid-section naively evocative of Messaien, advances the drama when it needs a kick in the pants. Following is more flowing contrasting section that sounds Japanese to me, with a melody in octaves and ornamentation in the middle of the keyboard. The piece concludes with a flurry of arpeggiation and hand over hand runs, as if this were the denouement of an agitated story, written in a florid prose. Pianist Philip Edward Fisher has since performed the piece several times and has recorded the work Delos, among several other piano works. Klara Min gave the UK premiere at London's Wigmore Hall in April 2013.



Cursive album cover