Michael Shapiro's 'ARCHANGEL CONCERTO' recreates the epic battle between good and evil / Medium
I am not sure why I picked up "Paradise Lost" by John Milton again. I remembered trying to read the book as part of the Core Curriculum for Columbia College freshmen in 1969 and not understanding very much about it, the language incomprehensible to my immature mind.
But I am quite clearly obsessed with the conflict between good and evil, about the never ending fight against tyranny, it is my creative raison d'etre, so something brought me back.
And wonderment befell me when I did, and I was transfixed.
In beauteous and alluring language, Milton somehow creates that moment before time when Satan was cast out of Heaven to rise back up with his demons against the forces of good, only after a cosmic war to be thrown down into Hell by the Archangel Michael (no relation) and his righteous Army of Angels. And ever since, we have been trying to put the pieces back together.
And somehow the creative urge told me to create a piano concerto that would not only thematically recreate that epic battle, but also have a second initially more tranquil and perhaps sublime movement, Adam and Eve in Eden, before the Serpent's arrival, and their casting out into the world we all live, the Archangel's fiery sword sealing the door to Paradise.
Archangel Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is my most programmatic work. It is hopefully obvious listening to it, I think, to know what is going on. Satan, of course, is a leading man, albeit supremely evil and self-confident. When the Archangel Michael appears, he is lyrical and fine, his goodness shining. Their battle appears to be final and epic but there is a question at the end whether evil will return. It always does, and as we find in the second movement, that is because Man lets it.
In Eden there is first a different sense, at least when I depict what seems to be eternal life and uninterrupted beauty and love (before the arrival of Original Sin) - the projection of sublimity in music before the onslaught of unmitigated Evil. With the introduction of the contrabassoon portraying the Serpent (Satan), there is no turning back, and we are all Adam and Eve in this world, fighting back every day against our worst tendencies, against oppression and tyranny and hatred and xenophobia. Surely fighting back against the subjugation of each other is reason enough for us to hope for the return of the Archangel, but we must be entitled to welcome overriding good, and we are nowhere close to that happening. Thus, the relevance of Milton's vision, and I hope my Archangel.
by Michael Shapiro. CLICK HERE FOR Medium ARTICLE
CLICK HERE To listen to my Archangel Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (first premiered by David Leibowitz conducting the New York Repertory Orchestra, Jose Ramos Santana, piano), please listen to the recording by Steven Beck, pianist, and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.