So where are we now? Well, physically the answer is Somerset, although it has also been London and France over the past few days, often in bewilderingly quick succession. A couple of weekends ago I partook in another of my jaunts to Puycelsi (inevitably described, rightly, as “picturesque”) to play in the fundraising concerts organised by Ross and Ginny Jenkins, conducted by Mark Opstad and delivered by a brave group of singers who come together only the day before, or, for the April concert, on the day itself. This time around it was Bach, Handel, Brahms and Haydn, and the rain just about held off, although there were some spectacular electrical storms over the valley after the concert.
Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Parliament Choir has spent the past couple of weeks getting to grips with the Te Deum Laudamus and they seem to like it, although we now take a break as they head off for their various conferences. Still, they have various audio files in tow, so I am hoping that we will be able to hit the ground running when we get back. Two other recently completed commissions have also been well received, so it has been a good start to the new academic year. There’s another piece on the go on the drawing board, but, come September, my focus tends to shift towards preparing for various lectures, giving me the opportunity to explore pieces and concepts in more depth.
This time around, having dealt with Beethoven’s Op.109 and Op.111 in the past, I am analysing Op.110, and it is, as one might suspect, a fascinating piece, deeply endowed with hidden meaning and secret messages, from the folk songs in the second movement to the quotations from the St. John Passion in the finale. Tickling this composer as well is the thematic interplay between the various movements, so pronounced as we head into Beethoven’s last period, and always so fascinating and entrancing. Back in the old days, when I stood before the young and generally unengaged, every now and again one of my students (normally an aspiring composer) would ask why we had to study the music of dead people. Op.110 is one of many, many legitimate reposts to that narrow question.
Somerset continues to be a treasure of delights, and even being unable to sleep at night becomes less an irritation that a source of quiet joy. This morning, at five or so, a lonesome owl was hooting off in the distance, and a couple of hours later it had been replaced by the dawn chorus, but, by then, emails done, I was back in bed, more listening to the various goings on than making a conscious effort to drop off, although drop off I did. As I hove towards the first anniversary of my move here I come to accept more and more that it has been one of my wiser decisions, and once the anniversary has come I shall have lived through all the year has to offer at least once, so I am aware that the run to Christmas will be busy, keeping me in London possibly for just a little longer than I might ideally like, but that the rewards are worth the effort.
Aside from the commission on my desk at the moment, I need to orchestrate the Te Deum Laudamus, though not quite yet, and tidy up another piece for a performance in November, but it is a relatively quiet patch after the efforts of the past eighteen months. As always, though, there are shadowy moves on the horizon, and mutterings of new pieces to be written anon.