Posted by: Gavin | 12 April 2011 - 11:59am

Juan Muñoz, a tribute

Juan Muñoz (died August 28th 2001)

 

I was extremely shocked and upset when I learned of Juan's sudden death, which happened when he was on holiday with his family on Ibiza. I was on the west coast of Canada, where we live in the summer, and a friend called me to let me know the news.

Juan and I first met when Artangel asked me to speak with him about a possible collaboration. He was in England for an exhibition at the Hayward gallery and, simultaneously, he was undertaking projects outside the gallery confines, this being Artangel's principle area of interest. One of the projects he realised was his Monument on the South Bank of the Thames, which gives the sense of being some kind of memorial but, in reality, (like many 'monuments') is a bogus testament to nothing at all. As such it provides the kind of double-take that was so much the key to many Fluxus pieces from the 1950's onwards (though I suppose a monument can hardly be said to be in 'flux'). This particular piece performed a similar function to Juan's spurious anthropology with his Posa in the elegantly presented pamphlet entitled Segment.

The project which we developed, however, was for a sound piece and I was initially curious that a sculptor should be interested in working with a musician, especially on a project for radio. We met and found inevitably that we had many things in common - he had studied at Croydon Art College with Bruce Maclean at about the time I was teaching in the Environmental Design department; there were details in his iconography which mirrored my passion for Twin Peaks (the recurring dwarf, the patterned floors) and so on. Coincidentally in 1992 I found myself devising a project for the Chateau d'Oiron in France only to find that Juan had a piece in a collective work already installed there, the Jardin Bestarium - his "siffleur" (theatrical prompter) yet another example of the dwarf, and in the same year we both, along with Cristina Iglesias (his wife) contributed to the Seville exhibition Los Ultimos Dias, designed as a counterbalance to the potentially excessive millennium celebrations already in the offing.

The idea that Juan had in mind for our collaboration was for us to create a series of pieces for radio. Naturally the idea of working with a sculptor in a non-visual medium was interesting and challenging, especially when it emerged that what we would be dealing with was the idea of describing actions which  themselves cause visual illusion and trickery, and placing them in some kind of broadcasting framework.

Our discussion about radio resurrected my long-standing interest in the work of Glenn Gould, whose highly original approach to recording techniques in record production was paralleled by a vision of radio as a creative medium ("Radio as Music"). I would place the piece that we made together - A Man in a Room, Gambling - as one of the most highly enjoyable projects that I have worked on, and for both of us it represented a mature and clearly thought through collaboration.

The original version gave us a series of short recorded pieces, ten in all, designed for radio broadcast. Juan read short texts, though each was expanded to fit a five-minute format, and I wrote string quartet accompaniments. Five of these programmes, in revised orchestrations for my ensemble, were eventually released on CD (A Man in a Room, Gambling, Point Music). We also started to perform them with Juan reading the texts live, and this was a new departure for him, and was something that made him extremely nervous but which he did with great professionalism and style. When we filmed one of these 5-minute pieces for the profile that German TV was making about me we also spoke about my idea for a chamber opera based on the life, and especially the dramatic last days, of the author of the book on card manipulation, S.W.Erdnase, which Juan used as the source for his texts. Juan was very interested in being involved with the design of this opera, which would feature live card manipulation among other things.

It makes me unbelievably sad to think now of his death. It is doubly sad because Juan was such a vitally alive person and the last occasions when I met with Juan and Cristina in June - first when they both came to the concert at the Purcell Room with my Tozai piece, and then again at the special dinner for Juan at the Tate Modern prior to the opening - were such great occasions. At the time Juan had been working incredibly hard on Double Bind, the Tate installation, as well as on the retrospective exhibition of his work to open in Washington in October 2001 and continue on to other US cities (Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago) over the next year or so.

After all the pressure that Juan had been under to complete the piece for Tate Modern, it was good to be able to spend time together in a relaxed environment. Juan was on good form and we talked about meeting up, after we would both have been away for the summer, to talk about my plan to issue all 10 of the original versions of A Man in a Room, Gambling, and also to develop the ideas we had spoken about for a chamber opera based on the last days of S.W. Erdnase (provisionally called Erdnase? Who was Erdnase?). His death put an end to this, but I will now go ahead with the release of the full set of A Man in a Room, Gambling on GB Records, of course working closely with his family and with James Lingwood from Artangel. I will also make the chamber opera at some time in the future.

Juan was an amazing person - probably the most generous and quixotic person I have ever met - and a wonderful artist. I think about him a lot and will miss him dreadfully.

Postscript

It was some small consolation to be able to take an active part in the memorial event at the Tate Modern on September 30th, where many people spoke about Juan. Bill Hawkes and I played a version of The North Shore (viola and piano) as well as the piece which Alberto Iglesias - Cristina's brother and a fine composer - had written after Juan's death Lacrimae for Juan. This was originally for viola solo, but Alberto added a piano part when he knew that I would be playing piano that evening. Bill also played the adagio from Bach's G minor violin sonata (transcribed for viola, in C minor). I add the full programme below.

Memorial Evening for Juan Muñoz (Turbine Hall, Tate Modern)

 

Sunday September 30 2001

6.30 PM Doors open  Guests arrive through Main Entrance

Monteverdi  Fourth Book of Madrigals (recorded)

7.00 PM Tribute begins

John Berger       

Sir Nicholas Serota          

James Lingwood

Gavin Bryars: The North Shore

(Piano: Gavin Bryars Viola:  Bill Hawkes)

Juliao Sarmento

Richard Noble

Neal Benezra

Vicente Todoli

Bach:  Adagio from G minor Violin Sonata  (transcribed for viola)

(Bill Hawkes Viola)

Louise Neri

Adrian Searle        

Alberto Iglesias      

MINUTE'S SILENCE

Alberto Iglesias: Lacrimae for Juan 

Piano: Gavin Bryars

Viola:  Bill Hawkes

END OF TRIBUTE

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 24 February 2011 - 12:29pm

Gavin's note

On March 5th we will finally put together the whole of the Anáil Dé project, which Iarla O'Lionaird and I have worked on for over three years. Anáil Dé, which translates as "The Breath of God", is based on settings of Old Irish spiritual texts dating from the 8th to the 16th century. It is a collaboration between me and the great Irish singer Iarla O'Lionáird, the finest Irish singer of his generation who, while working within the tradition of sean-nós, has also produced acclaimed work that fuses this tradition with contemporary music. Anáil Dé sets a number of texts in an early form of Gaelic, chiefly from a collection of poetry called Lón Anama ("food for the soul"). The five-part accompanying ensemble are all members of my ensemble: electric guitarist James Woodrow; violas Nick Barr and Morgan Goff; cellist Nick Cooper; and myself on double bass. 

Iarla will also sing a number of traditional sean-nós songs. Included as part of Anáil Dé is a 16th century lament, Tuirimh Mhic Fhinin Dhuibh, which I arranged and which is the first piece we did together - for Real World in 2005.

Apart from being a great singer, Iarla is also a good friend....

There is a video from a rehearsal of one of the songs in Limerick (2009)

http://www.muzu.tv/imeall/iarlaolionairdandgavinbryars-iarla-o-lionaird-and-gavin-bryars-live-on-imeall-music-video/188942?country=ie&locale=en

 

Posted by: Gavin | 3 February 2011 - 6:24pm

The Morrison Songbook sets texts by my long time collaborator Blake Morrison. Blake had written a number of poems intended to be set as madrigal texts for my First Book of Madrigals. Thirteen poems were used for that collection using those that were written from the male point of view. For a concert in London (November 2010) I re-wrote seven of these madrigals for tenor (John Potter) and members of my ensemble (James Woodrow, electric guitar; Morgan Goff, viola; Nick Cooper, cello; and myself on double bass). When we performed these songs again in Orléans some two months later, my other singer Anna Maria Friman was with us. She had taken time out from the ensemble when she was pregnant and came back after her twin boys were six months old. I decided to have two of the songs sung by her, which were not specifically male in orientation, and the others by John. These worked quite well and I remembered that, shortly after writing the madrigal poems, Blake had included them in his Selected Poems but alternated the male poems with female one. So I am now adding some of these other poems, for Anna, to give her six songs and John seven. The additional songs will be added later this year

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 22 January 2011 - 7:58pm

1. BCGBCD18 Mercy and Grand

A live recording of Opera North's Project' on the songs of Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan from the ensemble's final concerts in Leeds at the end of its 2008 tour.

 UK Release April 2 2012

 

2. BCGBCD19 

Recording in the Faroe Islands of two works for solo voices, choir and chamber orchestra,following a performance in Nordic House, Torshavn, plus a short piece for choir to be recorded in February 2012..

The pieces are: From Egil's Saga, written in 2004 for the Faroese bass Rúni Brattaberg setting texts in old Icelandic by Egil Skalgrimmson; Trondúr í Gøtu, commissioned for the unveling of a statue of the 10th century Faroese hero in 2008, for Rúni Brattaaberg and Eivør Pálsdóttir (who will sing the principle part in my new opera on Marilyn Monroe to be premiered in January 2013); and Hitt Blinda Li∂i∂ (The Company of the Blind) for choir, guitar and double bass, setting a poem by the 20h century Faroese poet Christian Matras. The chamber orchestra is the Faroese ensemble Aldubáran and the choir is Eystanljo∂

 

3. BCGBCD20

This is planned to be an orchestral album featuring a live recording from Holland of The War in Heaven, a big piece for soprano (Anja-Nina Bahrmann), counter tenor (Maarten Engeltjes), choir and orchestra, conducted by Brad Lubman. It was recorded by Netherlands radio in the Mukiekgebouw, Amsterdam. I am in discussion with Mainz Opera House about the possibility of adding to this the Epilogue from my third opera G, recorded Mainz, with solo bass Hans-Otto Weiss and conducted by Gernot Sahler

4. BCGBCD21 Anail Dé

A project with Irish singer Iarla O'Lionaird - section on "Other Ensembles" for more information on this work. http://www.gavinbryars.com/performance/other/anáil-dé

 

5. BCGBCD22 I Tatti Madrigals

Discussions are under way about recording, with Singer Pur, all the pieces that I have written as commissions for the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies, near Florence. These set texts by Petrach, Bronzino, Battiferri and Michelangelo Buonarotti il Giovane.

 

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 5 January 2011 - 10:43am

The new project with Edouard Lock looks to the Baroque and involves a reworking of music from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice, just as our previous collaboration, Amjad, took the Romantic ballet - Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty as its source. As Edouard has said, baroque musical structures tend to lend themselves well to contemporary dance and offer points to which contemporary choreography can attach itself, while avoiding period mannerisms. Our very first collaboration, 2 in 1995, had looked at a different area of the baroque, putting works by Rameau alongside music that I had written related to that music, scored for traditional and amplified harpsichords.

The music is played live by a small ensemble, four players, directed by pianist Njo Kong Kie, who also directed Amjad. The other instruments are viola (Jennifer Thiessen, who also performed with Amjad), cello (Jean-Christophe Lizotte) and saxophones (Ida Toninato - who plays soprano, alto and tenor saxophones, though I am replacing the tenor with baritone sax, as this is Ida's preferred instrument - and mine!).

In addition to the dancers of La La La Human Steps there is also a guest soloist for a number of performances - Diana Vishneva, the great (arguably the greatest) Russian ballerina of our time.

 

It opened in Amsterdam, January 5th 2011, and elsewhere in Europe until mid-March. After that it will tour extensively throughout the world over the next couple of years. See Schott Calendar on my web site for details.

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 6 November 2010 - 9:01pm

Morrison Songbook Premiere

My First Book of Madrigals was written for the Hilliard Ensemble between 1998 and 2002. One of the disadvantages of writing such a work is that it is tied to a very specific configuration of voices. When I did an evening on Words and Music in Leeds with Blake Morrison, author of the poems which I set for the madrigals, I made an arrangement of one of these pieces - Just as the ash glow - for tenor (John Potter) and piano, and this gave a new life to the piece. I decided to see which of the madrigals cold work outside the Hilliard context and it seems to me that seven of the thirteen pieces are suitable for solo voice, and so I have made new versions of these songs for my ensemble to perform with John Potter at my only UK concert this year - at Kings Place, London, on November 6.

Blake is a good friend and one of my most valued collaborators. We made the concert piece Doctor Ox's Experiment (Epilogue) in 1988 as a pilot work for the opera Doctor Ox's Experiment and he provided the libretto for the opera itself (first performance 1998) as well as writing the libretto for G (Mainz 2002)

This is the full programme:

Laude Dolçe no. 1  (2007) for solo cello, electric guitar, double bass

Lauda 29 "O divina virgo flore" (2003) tenor, double bass

Lauda 4 "Oi me lasso" (2002) tenor, ensemble

Lauda 32 "Omne homo" (2005) tenor, ensemble

Lauda 39 "Magdalena degna da laudare" (2009) - tenor, ensemble

Three solos from Irish Madrigals (2004-2007) Petrarch, trans JM Synge

"He wishes he might die and follow Laura"

"The sight of Laura's house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost"

"He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her"

Lauda Dolçe no. 2 (2007) for solo viola, electric guitar, double bass

- interval -

Morrison Songbook (2010) Blake Morrison Premiere

"Web"

"Stormy"

"All the homely arts and crafts"

"Almond Tree"

"In April"

"The print of soles"

"Just As The Ash-Glow"

Lauda: The Flower of Friendship (2009) electric guitar, viola, cello and bass

 

John Potter (tenor); Morgan Goff (viola), Nick Cooper (cello); James Woodrow (electric guitar); Gavin Bryars (double bass)

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Gavin | 20 September 2010 - 6:13am

The recording that I made with Percussions Claviers de Lyon in May is released in UK and Ireland on September 20 2010 (digital release September 19 2010) - New York (BCGBCD17). This will be released in European countries by Codaex later in September along with the recording made by Vox Altera of my Second Book of Madrigals, plus the first of the Fourth Book, Al suon dell'acque scriva (BCGBCD16).

BCGBCD16 was released in UK and Ireland, and digitally, in July 2010. Both groups will be giving live performances of the works on these albums over the coming months.

Percussions Claviers de Lyon is performing the new piece I wrote for them (At Portage and Main) in Berlin (Konzerthaus, October 1st) and in Montreal (Salle Claude Champagne November 20th)

Posted by: Gavin | 17 July 2010 - 4:02pm

In 1992 I was appointed music juror for the Akademie Schlöss Solitude, an extraordinary place and an even more extraordinary concept. At the time I was there, 7 disciplines were covered within the Akademie and the Akademie director, Jean-Baptiste Joly, appointed a chairman - then Johannes Cladders - who selects, for each discipline, a juror whose task it is to select people to work and reside in the Akademie. Just as the chairman's choice of juror is not subject to question, so the individual juror's choice of guests is not subject to query or apeal. Of course everything is discussed with the director but, in the last analysis, the juror's decision stands, and it is the choices of the individual jurors (and the chairman) which determine the hugely varied character of the Akademie. The chairman is in place for four years, and the juror for two.

During my time there I developed many friendships and professional relationships which endure to this day, with Jean-Baptiste, with the fine art juror Jean-Hubert Martin (with whom I worked in Oiron) and especially with, then, design juror Pia Quarzo Cerina.

 

20 Years of Akademie Schloss Solitude

This year the Akademie Schloss Solitude celebrates its twentieth anniversary with a series of events and projects - taking into account the various activities realized since 1990. Since its foundation, more than 150 fellows in the field of music - most of them composers - have been residents and supported by the Akademie. The concert on July 17 2010 focused on Solitude composers during the festival "Der Sommer in Stuttgart 2010" organized by the Staatsoper, Musik der Jahrhunderte, the SWR and the Akademie Schloss Solitude taking place from July 16 to 18, 2010.

For the Akademie's anniversary evening at the Theaterhaus, the festival organizers - Christine Fischer, Hans-Peter Jahn, Xavier Zuber and Jean-Baptiste Joly - planned four concerts in four different rooms; each with a different ensemble constellation featuring short compositions by as many former composition fellows as possible. The "Tristan Chord" functions as the connection between the individual contributions. This is the instrumentation:

Concert 1: Music theater for up to five performers (optional: cello, trombone, piano, harpsichord, percussion 1 & 2, trumpet, guitar, up to two actors)

Concert 2: A cappella compositions for »Neue Vocalsolisten«

Concert 3: Compositions for two percussionists

Concert 4: Compositions for two grand pianos

Each invited composer selects one concert and composes approximately 120 seconds for the respective instrumentation. As a rule of the game, each composition should begin and end with the Tristan Chord (B-F, D#-G# or Eb-Ab), thus separating the individual compositions for the listener during the concert.

 

For this event I wrote The "Solitude" Madrigal, setting a short sonnet - in effect a kind of half-sonnet - by Petrarch ("Nova angelleta" Rime Spare 106).

 

The event seems to have been a great success and I copy below the message that I received from Jean-Baptiste Joly immediately afterwards.

 

Dear Gavin,

Almost 10 am in Stuttgart, waking up after a long and beautiful evening you are the first (who wasn't in the concert) whom I can write what a great great success it was! The 45 pieces where a unique moment of music and happiness. Among the composers involved more than 20 joined, the audience (over 200 people) was sitting in the middle of a large concert hall with five stages around, two for the singers (who were moving around the space during the evening), one for the Ensemble Ascolta, one for the two piano-players (one of them was Sven Kiebler who you selected when you were our juror), one stage for the two percussionists with tons of equipment and an infinity of sounds. We had asked a young Brazilian stage-director to organize the whole evening, the setting, the order of the pieces: Marcelo Gama made it in a perfect way, finding the right way to move from one piece to another with light, finding always perfect bridges between the pieces. Your piece was performed by the Neue Vocalsolisten quite at the beginning of the concert (fourth piece). The concert began outside with a Salute to Solitude by a Russian composer, then a kind of brass music to accompany the audience into the concert hall, when everybody was sitting the next piece was by Rolf Riem (two pianos), then yours. We were so happy to meet again Ian Willcock (who you also selected) who came with his two daughters, Molly now 18 years old was a few months old when he came to Solitude. After two and a half hours of music the musicians got huge and long, long clappings, flowers for everybody, hugs etc.

A great gift to Solitude made by the composers, the interpreters, all the artists who contributed.

Thank you so much, dear Gavin for having been a part of it. 

Kindest regards to you and your family

 Jean-Baptiste

 

Posted by: Gavin | 2 June 2010 - 11:12am

The new issue of Mojo Magazine is edited by Tom Waits and includes a cover CD which contains his choice of music which has influenced him. This CD includes the single version of Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet which Tom and I made in 1993. 

 

http://cover.mojo4music.com/Item.aspx?pageNo=1813&year=2010

Posted by: Gavin | 1 March 2010 - 8:44am

Ralph van Raat writes:

On February 19th, 2010, the moment had finally come, to which the Borletti-Buitoni Trust and I had looked forward for four years: the première of Gavin Bryars' Piano Concerto 'The Solway Canal', a co-commission of the BBT and the Dutch radio. I clearly remember the very first visit to Gavin's place in Leicester almost half a decade ago, together with David Hoskins and Graham Johnston, in which we laid out our very first ideas. Already at that time, I definitely felt a pleasant artistic and personal 'click' with Gavin. Now, Four years later, that feeling proved to be correct.

It had been a busy and intense time, both shortly before and during the week of the rehearsals for the piece. As Gavin works meticulously and very detailed, it was only after last Christmas that I received the first notes. It struck me that Gavin had fulfilled all expectations - the piano was treated purely as a melodic instrument. Quite a difference with most contemporary composers, who in the twentieth century value the instrument for its percussive qualities in the first place! Although the piano part did not look directly as a traditional virtuoso type of music, I was immediately challenged by how to make a keyed instrument such as the piano, without possibilities for portamento playing, pure legato playing or vibrato, sound like a stringed instrument. On top of that, as with music such as by Mozart, it seemed that every note became very intense, in the context of its sparsity.

Gradually I received more pages, and it was clear that the piano part remained as intense the full 28 minutes. No large outbursts of notes, but the role of a guide, leading the orchestra and the choir into new territories of sound colours, landscapes, all passing by in a floating way, as if in a dream. Indeed the poetry by the Scot Edwin Morgan, sung by the male choir, added to this almost unreal feeling by its mystical descriptions of foggy natural scenes. The slow pace of the piece contributed to its static, almost processional-like character.

At the first rehearsal, which was without the choir, the beauty of the notes which I found on the pages, turned out to be as beautiful when actually sounding. Although the piece indeed had a very tonal feel, it was far from consonant at times - something which became clear especially because of the absence of the choir. There were even sections where the strings would create a seemingly disjointed tapestry of unrelated singing sound, mildly chaotic, reminding of the works by Charles Ives, or perhaps even Xennakis. However, the incredibly soft dynamics at those spots somehow concealed its radicalism, especially after the choir joined. In the end, within the context of the piece, it seemed to sound just in another world of the subconscious, hardly to be noticed, but silently being very present.

With the première on Friday, Gavin joined our rehearsal on Thursday. He had a busy day - having to get up at 3.30 AM to be in Holland at 9.45 AM, with a full day schedule ahead. His presence at the rehearsal made a lot of difference - a few tips of advice, such as having more sense of rubato playing in the piece, suddenly brought it into a new daylight for me, and for the orchestra. It very much contributed to its dream-like, floating atmosphere.

(Rehearsal at Hilversum, February 18 2010)

After the rehearsal, Gavin and I quickly jumped in my car to drive to the concert hall of the Conservatory of Amsterdam, where we would record his piano duo piece "My First Homage" for CD. This recording will ultimately be joined, amongst others of his piano works, by the Concerto. Some intense hours later we were finished, which meant that Gavin and I had to rush to another part of the building, where he would give a lecture for the composition students of the conservatory. The two hours that followed brought a unique light on the metier of composition, and gave a deep insight into Gavin's musical world and ideas. The day was closed by a dinner together, which was a good opportunity to wind down, gain new energy for the next day and even think of future plans.

(Recording My First Homage, Amsterdam, February 19th 2010)

That Friday was the big moment. In the well-occupied concert hall of Utrecht, Gavin's Concerto sounded for the first time, in presence of the composer, Susan Rivers from the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, and Sarah Osborn from music publisher Schott. I think that this was the best performance since the rehearsals, as the adrenaline of all musicians made it more intense. Luckily there was a live radio broadcast, which made it possible for me to immediately listen it back afterwards, to conclude which spots or aspects of the piece could still be improved for the concert the next day. However, this performance generally went well and quite a large portion of the audience gave a standing ovation to Gavin and the musicians. A little party belongs to a first performance, and this was organized, making Susan, Sarah, Gavin, I and many others drink a good glass of wine (and Diet Coke) afterwards!

(Gavin Bryars and Ralph van Raat, Utrecht; behind, Susan Rivers; to left, radio producer Robert Nasveld)

On Saturday, we did the second performance. This time I had heard the recording, and the conductor and I looked at some spots to once more rehearse before the concert. It was quite important to do this, as this performance was to be recorded live for CD. It certainly had still improved upon the previous performance, and the great acoustics at the concert hall in Amsterdam helped the balance between piano and orchestra a lot. After the performance, audiences again were very enthusiastic. It was a great honour for me that this time, David Hoskins and Graham Johnston from the BBT had come all the way from the UK, especially for this occasion. The day was concluded with a very nice dinner in Amsterdam with Gavin, David and Graham with their partners, and my girlfriend, closing off a period of four years in which a seed had grown into a full-grown organism.

I think the Piano Concerto by Gavin Bryars takes on a unique place in piano concerto literature. First of all, because it has a rather uncommon orchestration of piano solo, orchestra and choir. Second, because the piano takes on a role which is quite radical: virtuosity is not anymore defined by playing as many notes as possible, but by another element which I think is, at times, overlooked by musicians and composers: that of complete 'control' over the instrument. Control, in my opinion, not only means being able to control technically difficult passages, but also means being able to play just a few notes as one wishes, i.e. with the right colour, tone, intention and dynamics. I think the concerto is challenging, because one cannot hide himself or herself in technical display. Here it comes down to playing relatively few notes in such a way, that they start to mean something, and that they move people. Gavin asks for an intrinsic way of music making, which is averse from musical acrobatics. Especially nowadays, in which very flashy television and radio make many people used to needing just very short attention spans, this piece forms an interesting counterpart, which we generally are not used to anymore.

The reactions of reviewers to this work have been very different and opposite. In general, I think this can be interpreted as a positive sign, as most radical works in the past have generated the most extreme reactions. Some newspapers praised its gripping melodic lines and the dream-like qualities; others have turned down its melodiousness, calling it simple and comparing it to 19th-century music. I personally think that especially the latter reaction is caused by a misunderstanding. It seems almost a Pavlov-like effect that whenever a composer nowadays chooses to use consonance as a basis for his tone language, a (denouncing) comparison is made with the old masters. It also happens to other composers, such as John Tavener or Arvo Pärt. This notion of comparison may be valid when listened to in a superficial way; after all, indeed the same tools (consonances) are used. However, when listened to with a more open attitude and especially open ears, one can discover that although consonances are used, they are used in a completely different way and with a different intention than the traditional composers did, two centuries ago. In this post-modern period, composers have about three centuries of music to absorb, and it is hard to reason why they would have to deny most of the roots of Western musical history, based on tonality. We are still enjoying Beethoven, Liszt, Strauss and Mahler, why suddenly turn down the new lyricism as an expression of aspects of today's world? I very much think that Gavin's music is music of our own time, of our present-day feelings and experiences. He uses both known and new sounds to express his own message, and to evoke the mystical world of the contemporary poetry. Although seemingly accused of being old-fashioned by some, I think his choice of style is very radical nowadays, in that very sense.

Additionally, indeed one could object to the piano not having a traditionally significant role. However, it is as interesting and valid, in my opinion, to see another approach to music, different to what is usually expected. Personally, I am in favour of any style - whether it be Boulezian, Cageian, or Chopin - as long as a musical work has its own meaning. It makes the world of music very rich to have it all available!

I am very happy that the Borletti-Buitoni Trust has supported the birth of the work, and that they continue supporting traditional music, new music, established artists and upcoming artists. It is the hard work of people such as Susan, David and Debra, and all the others who are associated with it, which keeps the spirit of classical and newly composed classical music alive. For sure, The Solway Canal will give me the great opportunity to play with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, who immediately expressed their interest in the piece. Also, the cooperation with Gavin will continue in the future, as new projects are talked about. I am honoured that, besides the Concerto, the composer has actually dedicated his newest piano solo work to me, and also this work is a great lyrical counterpart to other great works in an oppositely 'complex' style. Long live the Borletti-Buitoni Trust, long live the many musical flavours and moods available today, and long live music itself!

 

 

Ralph van Raat

2010