A big thankyou to everyone who contributed to the 28 April 2018 two harpsichords concert: the performers, the composers, our hosts Daniela Bechly and the Pimlott Foundation, Liz Leatherdale for all her help with publicity, and last but not least all the audience members who made it out to Great Horkesley on a rainy day!
Tickets are now on sale here for CNM’s upcoming concert of new works for two harpsichords, performed by the Knights-Tidhar duo (pictured). The concert is at 3pm on Saturday 28 April 2018, at the Old House Barn, Old House Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester CO6 4EQ, UK; ticket price £8/£6 concessions. More information on the concert can be found here.
We are delighted to announce the results of CNM’s call for scores for two harpsichords, which attracted 27 entries in a fabulous range of styles from composers around the world. Having worked through all of these, Francis Knights and Dan Tidhar have chosen to perform the works listed below at an April afternoon concert in the beautiful setting of the Pimlott Foundation‘s Old Barn in Great Horkesley.
These pieces have been selected as they are well-suited to the specific sound and playing technique of the harpsichord (rather than the modern piano), are technically feasible on the available instruments, and are of suitable duration and level of complexity to be well realisable within the available rehearsal time:
A prelude and two fugues – Mark Bellis
A thousand pines, one moon (movement 1) – Ivan Božicevic
Conversations – Theresa Chapman
daybook – D. Edward Davis
Elements – Janet Oates
Spring Rounds: Agon – Randall Snyder
Looking back – José Jesus de Azevedo Souza
Dap dap da da dap – Peter Thorne
Passacaglia – Low water – Stephen Watkins
Tarantella – Ian Wilson
Counterfeit – Rasmus Zwicki
3pm, Saturday 28 April 2018 at the Old House Barn, Old House Road, Great Horkesley, Colchester CO6 4EQ, UK; tickets £8/£6 concessions, available from Eventbrite.
Mark Bellis studied at Cardiff, Durham and Cambridge Universities with Dr David Wynne, David Lumsdaine & John Casken. In 1985 he was awarded a PhD in Composition from Durham University. He has had performances at the Purcell Room, London, and on Radio 3. He composed a large-scale orchestral work for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and more recently, much choral music. Since 2005, Mark has been Course Leader for the BA Music programme at Colchester Institute, Essex.
Ivan Božicevic (* 1961) is a composer, organist, pianist, arranger and jazz musician in Split, Croatia. His output encompasses orchestral, chamber, choral and soloistic works, as well as electronic compositions. He is interested in a variety of genres (early and baroque, electronic, jazz, world music) and the possibility of “cross-fertilizations“ between those genres, always aiming for the stylistic amalgamation on a deeper level. http://www.ivanbozicevic.com
Theresa Chapman is a Colchester-based Piano Teacher, and also works as a Music Tutor for Essex Music Services. She holds both a B.Mus degree from the University of Cape Town and an Honours degree in Music from Stellenbosch University.
D. Edward Davis writes music that engages with the sounds of the environment, exploring processes, patterns, and systems inspired by nature. He is currently based in Connecticut, USA, where he is a Practitioner-in-Residence at the University of New Haven. sound.warmsilence.org
Janet Oates has a PhD in composition from Royal Holloway, University of London, and is active in various composers’ and contemporary music groups around London. She also sings (early and contemporary music), teaches and conducts.
Randall Snyder was born in Chicago in 1944 and attended University of Wisconsin earning a DMA degree in 1973. He has taught at colleges in Illinois, Wisconsin and for several years at the University of Nebraska. He currently is a free lance musician living in Lincoln, NE. and adjunct professor at Peru State College.
José Jesus de Azevedo Souza studied in England at the Purcell School with a scholarship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. He then studied at the Trinity College of Music and the University of Sheffield. His music has since been extensively performed in Europe, Asia and the United States as well as recorded on Sarton Records and Dux.
Peter Thorne has been composing music since the age of about 12. He read music at Oxford and the UEA, where he took a master’s degree. Over the years he has written in many different styles and genres but most recently he has been writing for wind instruments and piano. Peter’s music often features influences from various kinds of jazz and pop and is often colourful and rhythmic.
Stephen Watkins studied trombone, piano and recorder as well as composing at the Guildhall School of Music. Currently he is involved in writing large scale pieces for recorder orchestra. His own composition style very much reflects the wide range of music styles. He is published by houses in Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, USA and at last UK!
Ian Wilson is a music graduate of Durham University, where he received composition lessons from Robert Casken, and is currently a secondary head teacher. An album, called ‘Come and Rejoice in Jesus’, containing songs written for his church, is available on iTunes. The Dunblane Chamber Orchestra performed his ‘Three Songs from A Shropshire Lad’ in May 2012. ‘The Sleep’, a setting of an Elizabeth Barrett-Browning poem, was performed by members of CNM in June.
Rasmus Zwicki is Danish born composer currently residing in London, where he studies with Laurence Crane at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. His music is stylistically multilingual, often mixing the specific elements of various musical genres and traditions that best communicate the core ideas of a particular work. http://rasmuszwicki.com
Several useful points for composers to consider came out of our recent workshop of new music for two harpsichords:
- Who wants it?
There is no significant professional market for new music for historical instruments. No-one (currently) makes a living from principally performing new pieces full time.
In the professional context, a new work usually appears as an added extra – perhaps as a commission inserted into an otherwise baroque programme. This immediately reduces the ongoing scope for any new work requiring a special set-up, tuning or equipment beyond that available for a baroque recital.
Very little new music for two harpsichords has made it into the repertoire, and even the solo contemporary repertoire (more than ten thousand pieces) contains few that are well known by players (the three virtuoso works by Ligeti are a good example, on grounds of their outstanding quality).
- First impressions count
Avoid putting the performer off by a work’s presentation before they’ve had a chance to form an opinion on the music itself.
- Scores should normally be in portrait orientation. Landscape scores cause problems in filing and binding, especially if performers are playing from print-outs in a ring-binder (which they often are).
- Use 6mm minimum staff size, and be aware of page turning issues.
- Enharmonics: accidentals must be expressed in the most straightforwardly understandable way possible. Unnecessary barriers to understanding may put performers off. Don’t only rely upon the Sibelius plug-in to make the most appropriate enharmonic choices.
- A score must give the right instructions for a human performer to achieve the desired result – avoid littering it with markings which appear solely to facilitate Sibelius playback.
- Clarity is critical. If a performer has to spend too much time deciphering unnecessary obscurity on a first reading, they may not bother with a second one. See also Dylan Christopher’s useful article on this topic.
- Consider the performer
Bear in mind the comfort zone of harpsichordists. The harpsichord is not the piano, and someone who has chosen to play it has by definition not set out to reproduce pianistic effects and techniques. One particular bugbear is left-hand octaves – common on the modern piano, but less comfortable (although sometimes quite effective) for a harpsichordist.
It’s worth remembering that the usual baroque repertoire of harpsichordists tends to a limited range of key signatures. Anything beyond three-four sharps/flats will be rather less familiar for a harpsichordist than, for example, a pianist or organist.
- Consider the instrument
Perhaps fewer than a quarter of existing harpsichords are double manual, and those instruments tend to live in institutions, concert venues, or are owned by baroque professionals. Composing a piece specifically for two-manual instruments therefore cuts out most of the amateur market.
For compositional purposes it is best to assume a single manual, GG-d3 compass (see wikipedia article for info on ranges) with two 8′ stops and buff. These are widely available, and access to a full-size professional five-octave double manual harpsichord should be regarded as a bonus not a norm.
Real instruments vary so much that it is usually best not to specify particular stops. Give instead a dynamic marking, or a mood or tone colour which the performer can then implement appropriately with what is available, given the voicing, tone, acoustics etc.
- Consider the context
Why two instruments – what is added that can’t be done with one? Is it a dialogue between two voices, a soloist-accompanist scenario, or perhaps a competition between the two players? Does it allow for a particular expanded formal structure or certain types of repetition-dialogue?
Also, what is the piece for? Is it a virtuoso set-piece to sit within a public Bach recital, or a ‘social’ piece for harpsichord-owning friends to play in private? Is is an encore utilising the somewhat-neglected humorous aspect of the harpsichord, or an experimental ‘paper piece’ designed for coursework submission?
These all feed into rehearsal time constraints. If, for example, a complex piece will take as long to learn as several simpler works, it’s unlikely to be feasible for a recital involving a lot of new material. It would be far more likely to appear as a single new item in a programme of known repertoire.
On Sunday 15 Oct, Francis Knights and Dan Tidhar are presenting a workshop of new works and works in progress for two harpsichords, at 4pm in Fitzwilliam College Auditorium, Storey’s Way, Cambridge. The session will include music by Mark Bellis, Colin Blundell, Philip Joy, Jenni Pinnock, Stephen Watkins, Ian Wilson and others.
Prior to this, at 2pm in the same venue, there will be a recital of contemporary American music for two harpsichords by composers including Robert Baksa, Earle Brown, Mark Janello and Edwin McLean. Entry to both workshop and concert is free.