This is certainly the most important question one should consider when one wants to commission a certain composer for a piece. I have been commissioned for many specific purposes : from easy music to be played by children, music written for handicapped people (e.g blind or limited fingers on one hand) to the most recent example : a concerto for piano and orchestra, with the prime reason that since I have a certain reputation as a pianist whose repertoire ranges from Rameau to Rueda, a piano concerto would be an interesting contribution of mine to the repertoire. I myself didn’t (and still don’t) think that this is true ; after all those Beethovens, Tschaikovskys to the quite recent “Nusantara” symphony of David del Puerto with that incredible piano concertante part, what could I contribute more to this genre? And so my concerto took almost 2 years to write, interrupted by many other pieces and being premiered every time in bits and pieces. And I still don’t think of it as a finished work, in its 17-minute duration. But no work of art is finished anyway, only abandoned, right ? And funny enough, the problem of my First concerto was that I had a false start, but continued on it. I got the impression that public liked it a lot, with its virtuosic elements and anything else that a piano concerto should have, but to be honest with myself, I now know how my next concerto would sound like, and in fact immediately after my First’s premiere I started sketching the structure and materials for the orchestral part of what would be either my Second or a concerto for another instrument. It would have more things which I want to express, instead of just a flashy virtuosic piece.
But I wanna point out another important thing, and that is about style. Certainly an institution (like an orchestra) or someone (such as one needing a birthday or wedding present for a loved one) wouldn’t commission a composer without knowing how his music sound like. But there is that unpredictable element that comes with it. In any case, this is a commissioned work of art, of a new creation. And in art there is always this concept of “freedom of expression”. Yeah, one can impose certain restrictions to the composer, such as its duration, formation and even technical difficulty, but what about how the music should sound like ?
Someone approached me after the piano concerto’s premiere, asking me for a piece for a certain ensemble that should sound “not so heavy”. His words were like “The concerto was really great, but your music always has some moments that needs a certain effort to listen to”. The way I interpreted him is that “my music are sometimes difficult to digest”, and he wants me to write the music which sounds not entirely “me”.
I think commissioning a composer is like asking him to marry you. You wouldn’t propose to marry your loved one saying “I wanna marry you, but I don’t like some aspects of you, so would you stay with me for the rest of our lives but only while we sleep?”, would you?