The two works heard on this recording bring together a number of strands in the complex web of Milton Babbitt's compositional concerns. The Head of the Bed (1981), commissioned by the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore and composed for Phyllis Bryn-Julson, embodies both Babbitt's interest in chamber music and his long-standing affinity for the female voice, previously exemplified by Du (1951), Vision and Prayer (1961), Philomel (1963-64), Phenomena (1969-70; 1974), and A Solo Requiem (1976-77). The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written in 1985 for Alan Feinberg and the American Composers Orchestra, conjoins his massive, intricate vision of the orchestra with the pianistic virtuosity of Tableaux (1972), Reflections (1974), Time Cycle (1978, 1982), and Canonical Form (1983). Both compositions manifest the juxtaposition of brilliant virtuosity against a voluptuous setting characteristic of so many of his works for solo protagonist.
Although both works are structurally complex — among Babbitt's most elaborate extensions of Arnold Schoenberg's breakthrough— each in its own way dramatizes the expressive flexibility and power provided by twelve-tone musical syntax.