Aerobatics Over Lake Wanaka is a piece for 6 pianos, performed regularly by the ensemble Piano Circus.
On my first trip to New Zealand's South Island, I was driving along the shore of Lake Wanaka, a stunning majestic lake cradled beneath a sky chalked airily with brushes of cirrus clouds.
While trying hard to focus on not crashing the car from overdosing on the scenery, a roadside sign caught my eye: "Aerobatics here! 30 mins trip". Did I pull over?.. sadly no - as I had an appointment in the next town that I was already late for..
But I gleefully imagined many times in my mind what that aerobatics trip would have been like - and this piece is its imagined story. A peaceful, scene-setting opening with a chorale-like tune gives way to a stunt plane starting its engine, then a sense of building anticipation leading to the exhilaration of experiencing high-speed rolls, dives, loops and spins, all high above the tranquil setting of the lake.
A levelling-out follows, with a return to the contemplative nature of the opening, and a close-up examination of some of the intricate reflection patterns glittering on the water below. Finally another build and climb to another stint of flying thrills, leading to a celebratory coda in which the chorale tune returns.
Aside from the story above, this piece owes a debt for its inspiration to Piano Circus itself, since it was on hearing the group in 1991 that I realised the possibilities of the ensemble, and felt instantly compelled to offer material for it!
For 6 pianos