Two events stand out in a year of cancellations:

Firstly, an “experimental” recital for organ and percussion at St Anne’s SEC, Kemnay. An enthusiastic audience of over 30 came to a Saturday afternoon programme in this rural Aberdeenshire venue to hear Haworth Hodgkinson and myself perform a programme of Glass, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart and Stockhausen. This apparently curious programme consisted of pieces in my repertoire which were playable on the historic Thomas Elliott organ which had formerly stood in Castle Fraser. Fortunately the pieces seemed to complement each other very well.

After months of “lockdown”, during which my organist post at Barry Parish Church was suspended as the church could no longer afford, I played a few hymnless services at the Episcopal church in Montrose, including an Advent Service of 9 lessons and organ interludes by Bach, Handel, Brahms and Marcel Dupre.

Among the cancellations  for 2020 were two Fringe programmes: piano music by Philip Glass and the organ version of John Cage’s ASLSP, and a programme of Clarinet and Piano Music by Morris Pert as part of Arbroath2020: this latter event will hopefully be rescheduled for 2021.

Even so, 2020 saw significant work on organ and Piano repertoire and saw me join the committee of Dundee Chamber Music for whom I turned pages in 2019/20.

ALAIN                         Le Jardin Suspendu

ALKAN                       Priere (tr Franck)   

 BACH                        Mattheus-Final (tr WIDOR)

                                     Prelude and Fugue in E minor BWV 533

                                     Prelude and Fugue in A major BWV 536

                                     Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 549 

                                     Fugue in E flat BWV 552/2

                                     Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565

                                     Fantasia in G major BWV 572

                                     O Mensch Bewein BWV 622

BEETHOVEN            2 Preludes Op 39

BONAVENTURE.     In Orbit II

BRAHMS.                  Chorale  Preludes Op.122 (selection)

BUXTEHUDE.           Ciacona in E minor

CHOPIN.                    Prelude in E minor

DAVIES.                    Three Voluntaries (1976)

DEBUSSY.                 Andantino, tr. from String Quartet Op.10 by GUILMANT

DUPRE.                      8 Short Preludes on Gregorian Themes Op.45

                                     Annonciation d’apres Leonardo Op.57

                                     Regina Coeli Op.64

                                     Vitrail Op.65

                                     Souvenir Op.65b

ELGAR.                      Vesper Voluntaries

                                    Organ Sonata (in preparation)

FRANCK                    Piece Symphonique (1859)

                                    Fantaisie Op.16 (in preparation)

                                    Trois Pieces (1878)

                                    Chorale No3 in A minor (in preparation)

                                    L’Organiste (complete)

FRESCOBALDI.       Fiori Musicali (selection)

GLASS.                      Mad Rush

                                    Music in Fifths

                                    Two Pages

GUILLOU.                Pieces Furtives (selection)

GUILMANT.             Sonata 3 in C minor

HAYDN.                    Pieces for musical clock (selection)

HOLLINS.                 Sicilienne

IVES.                          Prelude on Adeste Fidelis

KURTAG.                  Jatekok (ex Vol 6)

LANGLAIS                Te Deum

                                    Pieces Op.10

                                    Suite Breve (1947)

                                    Epilogue from Hommage a Frescobaldi

                                    Trois Meditations sur la Sainte Trinite (in preparation)

                                    Deuxieme Symphonie (1977)

                                    Sept Etudes de Concert pour Pedales (1983) (in prep)

                                    Expressions (1987)

                                    Suite in Simplicitate (1990)

                                    Trio (1990)

LEGUAY.                       Et puis, et puis encore?

                                         Preludes 18, 21

MATHESON.                Pipe Dream (1997)

MATHIAS.                    Recessional (1985)

MCCABE.                      Nocturne (1965)

MCGUIRE.                    Ae Fond Kist (2010)

MENDELSSOHN.        Prelude and Fugue in G major Op.37/2

MESSIAEN.                  Le Banquet Celeste

                                        Apparition de l’Eglise Eternelle

                                        Force et Agilite des Corps Glorieux

                                        Verset pour la Fete de la Dedicace (in preparation)

                                        Monodie

                                        6e Meditation sur le Mystere de la Sainte Trinite (in prep)

MOZART.                        Andante in F K616

NIELSEN.                        Small Preludes

PART.                                Pari Intervallo

                                           Trivium

PERSICHETTI.               Sonatina for Organ (Pedals Alone) Op.11

PERT.                                Cul Mor (with percussion)

PURCELL                         Voluntary for a Double Organ in D minor

SADOH.                           Nigerian Organ Symphony

                                           Nigerian Suite No. 1

SATIE.                              Priere des Orgues (Messe des Pauvres)

SCHNITTKE.                  Two Pieces (1980)

SCHUMANN.                 Fugue on B.A.C.H  No.3

SEARLE.                          Toccata alla Passacaglia 

SHOSTAKOVICH           Passacaglia

SIBELIUS.                       Sorgsmusik

SMITH BRINDLE.         3 Improvisations 

SOWANDE.                     Joshua fought de battle ob Jericho

STEVENSON.                 Easter prelude and chorale

                                           Fugue on a theme of Wagner

                                           Fantasy and Fugue on a twelve note theme of Liszt

                                           Reflections on a Scottish psalm tune

STOCKHAUSEN.           Zodiac (Tierkreis)

SWEELINCK.                 Variations Mein Junges Leben

                                          Variations Unter den Linden Grune

                                          Echo Fantasy in A minor

TISHCHENKO.             Inventions (selection)

TOURNEMIRE.             Petits Fleurs Musicales

                                          Antiphons Op.68

VIERNE.                         Scherzetto 

                                         Berceuse 

                                         Carillon de Longpont

                                         Feux Follets (in preparation)

WAGNER.                     Parsifal Prelude Act 1 (tr Lemare)

                                        Parsifal Prelude Act 3 (tr Lemare)

WALTON.                     Prologue from “Wartime Sketchbook”

                                        Introduction and March (from Battle of Britain Suite)

WEIR.                            Michael’s Strathspey

WIDOR.                        Symphony in D major Op.13/2

                                       Toccata Op.42/1 
                                       Andante Sostenuto (Symphonie Gothique)

ALKAN.                   Etude for left hand Op 76/1 (in preparation)

                                  Barcarolle in G minor

BACH.                     Komm Susser Tod (tr Stevenson)

                                  Fantasia in G minor BWV 542 (tr Liszt)

                                  Passacaglia BWV 582 (tr d’Albert)

                                  O Mensch bewein BWV 622. (tr A M Henderson)

                                  Prelude in C major BWV 846 (tr left hand, P Wittgenstein)

                                  Chaconne in D minor (tr left hand, Brahms)

                                  Contrapuncti 1, 5, 14 from The Art of Fugue)

                                  Contrapunctus 19 (completed by James Iliff)

BARTOK.                3  Hungarian Folk Tunes

                                  Mikrokosmos (selection)

BONAVENTURE.  Green Odyssey

BRIDGE.  .              3 Pieces for Left Hand

BRITTEN.               Night Piece (Notturno)

CARDEW.               Red Flag Prelude

CHISHOLM.           Piobaireachds (selection)

CHOPIN.                 Prelude in E minor

                                  Nocturne in E minor

DEBUSSY               La Cathedrale Engloutie

                                  Berceuse Heroique

ELGAR.                   In Smyrna

ENO.                        Links

FINNISSY.   .         Edward

                                 There never were such hard times before

FRANCK.                Danse Lent

GLASS.                   Music in Fifths

                                 Mad Rush 

                                 Etudes (selection)

GRAHAM.             North East Hauntings

                                 Doodlings, set 5 (in preparation)

GRIEG.                   Den Bergtekne (tr Stevenson)

HANNAN.             The Little Cloud

HAYDN.                 Sonata in C major 

ILIFF.                      Note Piece

JOLIVET.                 Etude sur des modes antiques

KURTAG.                Jatekok (selection)

LISZT.                     Unstern!

                                  RW – Venezia

MACMILLAN.       Lumen Christi

                                  In Angustiis 1 (2001)

MATHESON          Drosten

                                 Distances (in preparation)

McGUIRE.              Autumn Leaves

                                 Four Nocturnes

                                 Nine Decades 

MESSIAEN           Piece pour le tombeau de Paul Dukas

                                Plainte Calme (Preludes)

MOMPOU.           6e Prelude (main gauche)

MOZART.             Sonata in C major K 330

                                Adagio in B minor

NIELSEN.             Music for Young and Old

NIETZSCHE.       Fragment

OGDON.               Prelude in C Sharp minor

                               Fantasia Busoniana (1989)

PERT.                    Moon Dances

                               Sonores 1 & 2

                               Voyage in Space

                              Standing Stones Suite

                              Mountains Suite

RAVEL.               Pavane pour une infanta defunte

REGER.              Prelude and Fugue in E flat minor for left hand

SADOH.             Three Studies on Atonality

SATIE                 Gnossiennes 1-3

                            Gymnopedies

                            Prelude a la Porte Heroique du Ciel

                            Nocturne 4

SHOSTAKOVICH.    Prelude and Fugue in E minor op. 87/4

SKRYABIN.               Prelude and Nocturne for left hand Op.9

SORABJI.                   4 Aphoristic Fragments (1977)

STEVENSON            Recitative and Aria on DSCH

                                    Sonatina Serenissima

STOCKHAUSEN.     Zodiac (Tierkreis)

TAKEMITSU.           Rain Tree Sketch II 

TOURNEMIRE.        Etudes (selection)

WAGNER                  Tristan Prelude (tr von Bulow)

                                     Solemn March to the Holy Grail (tr Liszt)

YEATS.                      The Magical Control of Rain 1 & 2

It was always my intention to include concert reviews on this blog, so:
Yesterday evening Norway’s Engegard Quartet played a programme of Mozart, Sibelius and Grieg for Dundee Chamber Music in the Marryat Hall. 

D minor can show Mozart at his most serious and substantial as in the piano concerto K466 or ultimately the Requiem. The Quartet K421, the 2nd of a set of six dedicated to Haydn is no exception, though as an earlier composition it made a suitable preface to Sibelius’ Voces Intimae in the same key. The Engegards produce an appropriately serious and mature sound; and while the tempi were possibly faster than Mozart would have intended, that is a more general question pertaining to modern interpretative practice rather than a specific tendency of these fine musicians.

Sibelius’ only mature quartet has a predictably symphonic responsiveness: equally predictable was the fact these players had no problems evoking the required Scandinavian atmosphere. No wonder their CD of this music sold out in Aberdeen the night before.

Greig also produced a single mature quartet which partners the Sibelius on said CD. It’s G minor tonality reminded me of its composer’s Schumanesque Ballade for piano and his late Den Bergtekne. The work made for a satisfying conclusion to the evening, and like the Sibelius, spoke of the restorative powers of Scandinavian nature as opposed to urban oppression, as the helpful spoken introductions the violist intimated: a fine winter programme.

The last two DCM concerts took place with piano quartets playing with the hall’s new Steinway on the floor and to the side of the Marryat; yesterday, the string quartet played on a dais at the end. Both positions enable a good auditory experience, which is surely what matters.

A fair amount of water has passed under the bridge in the 15 months since I last wrote here. As in previous years, a significant amount has had to be cancelled or postponed because of a chronic family illness situation, including the first two events of 2020.

But before I give an account of the developments of 2019, I feel I should mention the “Sustain Your Errors” workshop organised in Dundee by Cicely Farrer at the end of 2018. This focussed on text compositions from the 1970s by David Cunningham, who was at the time part of the Cardew/EMC  scene – familiar territory from my Mars in Aquarius activities. Over a Friday and Saturday several of these texts (which I think were discovered in a DJCAD archive?) were interpreted and rehearsed musically and in movement, before an evening performance which seemed to be fairly well received by the audience.

Recitals at Dundee University and Edinburgh Society of Musicians concluded with James Iliff’s “Contrapunctus 19” which I find convincing and satisfying to play (a later performance at St Giles in the presence of the composer’s widow was one of the more disappointing cancellations of the year). These programmes began with other Contrapuncti which Bach completed. The Edinburgh recital also included the complete “Variations for Judith” by a number of British composers including Thea Musgrave in her 90th anniversary year.

In the middle of the year I returned as an audience member to one of my old haunts, the Royal Festival Hall, to hear Stockhausen’s Donnerstag. Too much of interest for this humble blog post, but the appearance of Tierkreis in the 3rd Act happily prefigured developments later in the year, while the trumpets playing the audience across the Hungerford Bridge was just what was needed.

Philip Glass is certainly the most surprising recent arrival in my repertoire. Firstly I played his “Mad Rush” at the Caird Hall Organothon, and later found I could play it equally effectively at the piano. My Fringe recital at St Andrew’s & St George’s West added “Two Pages” and “Music in Fifths” marking 50 years of these minimalist classics. The 100+ audience far exceeded expectations. It’s taken some time to come to terms with Glass: I was not entirely convinced by the broadcast of Satyagraha Live from the Met a few years ago, but having actually played some, I was much more appreciative of the recent production of Akhenaten.

September & October saw an organ programme in memory of Montrose Sculptor William Lamb presented firstly at St Mary’s SEC Newport-on-Tay, where Lamb installed a Crucifixion in the 1930s, and then again at St Mary’s and St Peter’s in Montrose. The Newport instrument is only about a third of the size of the Montrose organ, but nevertheless managed to pull its weight. These events were supported by the Friends of William Lamb Studio who wish to develop links with St Mary’s Newport, which is the “number two Lamb venue” after the Lamb Memorial Studio in Montrose.

October also saw Tierkreis performed as a piano solo at Dundee University, prefaced by short pieces by John Tavener and Morris Pert. The initial plan had been for a Keyboards + percussion Tierkreis by Mars in Aquarius, but extraneous factors necessitated a last minute rethink.

November saw another step forward with the premiere of my composition “Music for Melodica and Djembe” at Dundee Contemporary Arts in one of their (((Echo))) events, this one in response to Alberta Whittle’s exhibition “How Flexible Can We Make the Mouth?”. The music was based on a 12 tone series which I derived from musical themes (mostly sung including a shanty and a lament) in the exhibition’s film (which also included Djembes playing in a Spiritual Baptist Church). After an opening exposition of the main melodic themes, a djembe cadenza led into a development section using various permutations and transposition of the series, culminating in a melodica cadenza and recapitulation of the opening. This sonata form seemed to suggest itself during composition, rather than being actively sought. I was accompanied in the performance by percussionist Haworth Hodgkinson, himself a  prolific composer. And speaking of composers, I should also mention Judith Weir’s “The Big Picture” premiered at the November reopening of Aberdeen Art Gallery. This was performed on all three levels of the refurbished atrium: on the ground floor Con Anima chamber choir directed by Roger Williams with keyboard; on the first floor I was part of the disparate community choir accompanied by marimba; and on the second floor solo clarinet Joanna Nicholson. Coordination of these different layers was hard in rehearsal, but easier when the presence of the audience changed the acoustics. Effective occasional music.

Another new activity has been a return to page turning: now for visiting pianists performing with ensembles at Dundee Chamber Music concerts, which brings me into active contact with some fascinating repertoire some well known, some less so.

So, a fair amount of achievement despite the cancellations. I should also mention the weekly activity of playing the organ at at least one service on a Sunday morning (normally Barry Parish Church): a real source of  musical sustenance, much of the material being quite different from my concert music, but nevertheless informing my overall outlook.

It was very satisfying to return to Aberdeen ‘s “Cathedral at Noon” series a couple of weeks ago at the Episcopal Cathedral in King Street. I’ve played over a dozen programmes at that venue: after an absence of 2 1/2 years I decided to open my programme with music by Aberdonian composer John MacLeod. I first heard his Three Interludes from Another Time, Another Place at the Sound festival over a decade ago and first played them myself earlier this year in the composer’s presence. 

Another new work for me this year has been “Nine Decades” by Eddie McGuire  – written in honour of his composition teacher James Iliff whose 1 966 Note Piece I played next as a preface to my fourth performance this year of Eddie’s fascinating piece – happily the composer was in the audience.

Also present was the composer of the last work, Joe Stollery. “Stone Fragments” is part of his Masters portfolio:  each of the five  varied movements takes as its stimulus s different symbol from the Pictish standing stones situated around NE Scotland . The Dionysian finale “The Pictish Beast” is quite a handful, but brings everything to a suitable conclusion. I aim to repeat this work at least once more in 2019.

It was particularly fortunate to have veteran critic Alan Cooper in the audience. While The Glasgow Herald no longer seems interested in events in the North East, he kindly sent performer and composers copies of his attentive review.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of opening this year’s session of Arbroath Piano Club at St Vigean’s church, the other player being Ian Bowman, former head of music at Inverness Royal Academy.

I opened my part of the programme with Frank Bridge’s 3 Pieces for left hand which were written 100 years ago for the musician Douglas Fox who had lost his right arm at the front. The similar date of other musicians was of course behind the likes of Ravel’s left hand Concerto and other pieces by Britten, Prokofoev, Janacek etc. More locally, Montrose sculptor William Lamb – whose memorial Studio is presently under threat from the attitude of “Angus Alive” – taught himself to become left handed after the 14/18 war.

1918 also saw the death of Debussy, so I played the piano version of the closing choral from “Symphonies of Wind Instruments” along with Stravinsky ‘s transcription of a passage from the prologue to Boris Godunov, no doubt reflecting the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the uncertain fate of Russia in that year.

50 years later, Lutoslawski wrote one of his few remaining piano pieces, a two part invention which I felt served as a useful transition to the rest of the programme.

I prefaced the last piece, Eddie McGuire ‘s “Nine Decades” of 2013 with two short pieces from 2003 by its dedicatee James Iliff: an Andante written for his neighbour Audrey, and an adventurous Allegretto. It was a great boost to the Piano Club to have Eddie McGuire himself in the audience for third performance this year of “Nine Decades”. In fact it also enabled an unusual encore in the form of a performance of “Ae Fond Kist” (2010) on the 1870s Harrison & Harrison organ, introduced by the composer himself. I had prepared to play this piece at a lunchtime organ recital in Glasgow Cathedral in August, only to be informed that that organ series had been cancelled the previous December! This opportunity to play this piece to the composer in his 70th anniversary year went a long way to making up for that disappointment.

On Sunday 17th June I finally played the programme postponed from 4th March (see below) on the Feurich piano at the Scottish Arts Club. I was very fortunate to have 6 of the composers featured in the programme present in the capacity audience: Eddie McGuire, Michael Bonaventure, Janet Graham, John McLeod, Lyell Cresswell and Iain Matheson.

Many thanks to Charlie Scott and the Scottish Arts Club Charitable Trust for enabling and subsidising this memorable occasion.

 

Below l-r: Eddie McGuire (composer of “Nine Decades”); myself; Michael Bonaventure (“Green Odyssey”); Iain Matheson (“Drosten”).

 

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On Saturday I joined Intuitive Music Aberdeen in a lunchtime concert of Intuitive Music by Karlheinz Stockhausen and IMA member Haworth Hodgkinson (who took the attached photo). My role was to play the latest evolutionary phase of Stylophone (Gen-X1 to be precise, a fascinating instrument with apparently huge, if improbable, potential) in two compositions from the  May 1968 collection Aus den Sieben Tagen, namely “Arrival” and “Right Durations”. The other players, including Colin Edwards and Mandy Macdonald, played digital synthesizers/keyboards, percussion and recorders along with my analogue sounds, producing a suitably ritualistic music in the Episcopal Cathedral’s resonant acoustic. The two Hodgkinson pieces were “South Breakwater” and “Prime Rant”.

The current unforeseen weather conditions have forced me to postpone a recital of piano music by living Scottish composers: hopefully it will be rescheduled in the coming months. The programme is:

Recitative & Aria on DSCH (1975)                   Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015)

Sonatina Serenissima (1977)                                 ” ”           ” ”

Nine Decades (2013)                                         Eddie McGuire (b1948)

Michael’s Strathspey (1985)                             Judith Weir (b1954)

Lumen Christi (1997)                                        James MacMillan (b1959)

Sonores II  (1973)                                               Morris Pert (1947-2010)

Green Odyssey (2013)                                       Michael Bonaventure (b1962)

North East Hauntings (2015)                           Janet Graham (b1948)

(Snow Sky – Sea Mist – Lullaby for Lost Skylines – Red Dust)

*******INTERVAL*******

3 Interludes (1997)                                            John McLeod (b1934)

Apteryx (2000)                                                   Lyell Cresswell (b1944)

Drosten (2012)                                                   Iain Matheson (b1955)

3 Pieces from “Variations for Judith”           Thea Musgrave (b1928)/Judith Weir/                                                               (2012)                       Peter Maxwell Davies (1934-2016)

Capriccio Bk 1 no2 “Stillness” (2002)            Janet Beat (b1937)

Mountains Suite (2007)                                   Morris Pert

(Suilven Moon – Foinaven – Quinag – Ben Stack – Arkle – Cul Mor)