Things appear to be going well as we move firmly into the new year and beyond. There are various performances of my work lined up, including the Missa Sancti Nicolai at Christ Church, Hampstead in February, and bits of the same piece performed by Cantores Salicium, the choir of which I am proud to be President, in April in Bolton Abbey.
I was also fortunate to be given a sneak preview of the recording of Flyht, still in the earliest phases of editing, but sounding mightily impressive for all that. It sounds like a decent piece as well, the dip in the middle working well for the introduction of the Old English, and the gradual return to modernity handled with aplomb by conductor, organist and singers alike. It makes the thought of the first performance on April 4th all the more exciting, knowing that the piece is already in being to recording standard. Thinking back to the very beginning of that piece’s journey and the discussions about vague shape, length, form and subject matter, I think it many ways that it has hit the mark very well. Hopefully the alumni of Exeter College will feel that it is a worthy companion to their anniversary.
The recording of the Suite For Two Clarinets is also going through to the editing stage, also very finely performed by a young duo. This is an entirely different piece from Flyht, of course, but one I still enjoy listening to, its faux-Baroque leanings wonderfully handled by the players. It has taken this piece longer to get to a recording, of course, but it is just as thrilling a development and I look forward to the finished product (and pointing you, good readers, in its direction!).
I have been working on a solo cello piece for the past couple of weeks, the piano and choral pieces already close enough to completion to allow me to focus on this other work. I have combined the writing of it, with all the scrapping, redoodling and goodness knows what else that entails, with a period of sharply intended study of various books, the better to hone my craft. In this, as in other areas, it goes without saying that a solid knowledge of one’s subject helps to instil a confidence which is difficult to shake, and I need to remember that in 2014. The sections rewritten after this study are so much better than the areas sketched before that I sometimes wonder quite why I feel the need to wander from the straight and narrow path.
In terms of the future, there are premieres lined up for April (more details anon), and other pieces sit in various inboxes awaiting consideration. There have also been whispers of more commissions of late, two of which might well be quite substantial. In fact, having had a little moment of doubt last night (only a little, mind), I have only just put the phone down on a wholly positive conversation about a piece which could turn out to be on the large side, so, even though it is the earliest of early days, my fingers are tightly crossed and the view from today looks substantially better than the view from last night.
Lastly, it would be remiss of me to let this entry pass by without mentioning the recent death of Claudio Abbado, one of the greatest conductors of all. I have many, many of his recordings of the Mahler symphonies and have nothing but the highest admiration for them, also for his crafting of Tchaikovsky, a composer with whom I have more trouble, so that really does say something about Abbado’s stellar craft. His achievements are well documented elsewhere and his performances will stand the most rigorous tests of time, but his death also touches sadness on a personal as well as an artistic note for me. For a few years I had very close musical dealings with one of Abbado’s sons, and, without spilling the personal into the public domain of the internet, it is clear that the apple has not fallen very far from the tree at all. In fact, he and I have both had pieces performed and recorded together, and I even played piano on the private recording of one of his pieces a few years ago. I therefore note, as a musician, the loss of Abbado’s death, but my thoughts are more with my colleague, for whom this time is so much more personal.