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.