Last month I recorded my Piano Concerto in C with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Gavin Sutherland. Keep an eye on this page for news of the broadcast date. I’m just listening to the first edit. Sounds GOOD!
On Thursday March 3rd I spent the day at Leith Hill Place, the childhood home Ralph Vaughan Williams presented to the National Trust, playing the piano at which he composed all his music from 1905 onwards. I appeared live on national BBC television news and on Radio 3’s In Tune, and clips were featured in news programmes all through the day, including Radio 4’s PM. I made an interesting discovery about this charming little Broadwood upright – the Honeysuckle model! It is so very modest in tone that it focusses the player’s attention purely on the pitches – that’s to say, the chords you’re playing; all the more so because, unusually, it’s what we call straight-strung, so there’s no extra resonance from crossed strings, as in most pianos. After a day’s playing, it was easy to see that this characteristic of the piano would have encouraged RVW to trust his daring harmonic simplicities. In fact, at this piano, I found myself improvising new Vaughan Williams. Here, I’m playing his hymn tune ‘White Gates’, named after his house near Dorking, now demolished. And here’s a bit of the Tallis Fantasia.
Here I’m at Chopin’s Pleyel Grand Piano in the Cobbe Collection, Hatchlands, presenting BBC4’s Perfect Pianists, first broadcast on Friday March 4th at 8pm, and now available on iPlayer. A compilation of archive film of great pianists, including Benno Moiseiwitsch, Myra Hess, Artur Rubinstein, Radu Lupu & Murray Peraiha.
The first outing of Notes from the Piano Stool was at The Pound in Corsham on March 19th. Next outings: Cranbourne Farm Concerts (sold out) & Forde Abbey, June 16th & 17th. I’m playing some pieces that no-one else plays. One is Elgar’s coruscating Concert Allegro
that’s the beginning – wait till you hear the ending – and another’s by Walton, believe it or not. And I shall be telling the unvarnished truth about Jon Vickers and the Tweed Jacket, Sir Peter Pears and the Power of Suggestion, and how I rode my motorbike up the A12 with a harp strapped to my back.
Depending on the mood of the audience, I might play my new Song without Words upon a theme from HengeMusic
or sing the song I wrote for the Plain English Campaign.
Or possibly both.
On a different note, I’m delighted to report that I was recently elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
On March 5th I played Sterndale Bennett’s Piano Concerto in F minor, Number Four (see my WSB page). I performed this forty years ago in Graz, when I was a student at the RAM, and in this Bicentenary Year I jumped at the chance to try it again, to test out some of the ideas about WSB performance that I’ve developed since then.
My compositions Turning Points and HengeMusic are successfully launched, and I’m working on getting more performances for both of them. A performance of Turning Points will take place on February 4th 2017 in Winchester Cathedral, with the Waynflete Singers, Southampton University Symphony Orchestra, and the musicians of the Hampshire County Youth Service.
Turning Points is featured in the University of Southampton’s online course on Agincourt.
BBC 2 Television’s PromsExtra returned last year, with my Chord of the Week now transformed into Inside the Score, which gives me a wider brief, ranging from the necessary paradox of the Bach Chaconne to the unconscious minds of Irving Berlin & Jerome Kern. I started with a chord, though – all seven notes of the scale at once, in Beethoven 9. Followed by Holst, spelling his own name, the dance songs of Frank Sinatra, Britten on the beach at Aldeburgh, Tchaikovsky running in the wrong direction, and Schubert grappling with technology.