Archive for November, 2019

Manchester Grammar School 2017. Anthony Goldstone’s alma mata. A wonderful, celebratory concert dedicated to the memory and sad loss of this supremely talented, forever modest pianist. His repertoire could only be described as eclectic. He once hand copied for me a simple beautiful piece by Manos Hadjidakis, “Conversations for a Little White Sea Shell”. I still play that piece from his manuscript and am always beguiled by its melodic appeal, simplicity and cultural nuance. Go on to include composers such as Messiaen, Mussorgsky, Mozart inter alia and you begin to understand just how diverse his tastes and repertoire were at a relatively early stage when his career was yet to burgeon.

Unfortunately in later life Tony became a victim of a late-diagnosed prostate cancer. Treatment was in vain. He passed on 2nd January 2017. The event was, in hindsight, hugely ironic for me. Within a few weeks I was informed that I also had an aggressive prostate cancer. I have chronicled my journey, my relationship with The Alien in previous posts.

The event was facilitated by the notable, seemingly indefatigable, recorderist John Turner and hosted by Tony’s widow Caroline Clemmow who chose to include in the programme and personally perform one of the piano pieces that I wrote and dedicated to Tony many years ago. It was a typically thoughtful gesture which meant so much to me. The programme, the exquisite performances, had concluded and the splendid refreshments were being demolished molto presto by performers and audience. John, plate in hand, engages me in conversation and unwittingly says something that not only ricocheted around my head – and still does – but was to become the inspiration of this project. His remarks were to the effect that my music would be performed more frequently if it wasn’t so incredibly difficult to play and that only a very few could even begin to publicly engage with the demands of my middle and higher order Non-Prescriptive music.

And, thinking about this, I had, with reservations, to agree. John had made a valid point. There is Mary Dullea, myself and a person who lives in Yorkshire who, when she is not able to sleep at night descends the stairs and spends 15 minutes or so realising a selected page of my High order format. She has taken quite naturally to my Non-Prescriptive methodologies. I am convinced that her being a contemporary free -thinking artist endows her with a suitable mindset which enables her to fluently accept and realise the challenges of my music.

Following this seminal conversation with John I made a huge decision to embark on a major project which was to be so different to my usual output. These 2 volumes, each consisting of 25 pieces, constitute a considerable seismic change to my previous recorded music. They are quite tonal, abound in melodic, hopefully attractive, ideas and all are quite short. Call it Craven Lite. I have become temporarily the Richard Clayderman of contemporary piano music. They are technically quite approachable. My intention being to reward any pianist with even modest standards of ability with almost immediate success. In both volumes there is a slowly increasing gradation of technical difficulty but there is very little that will be beyond the capabilities of those who, because of life’s vagaries and vicissitudes, have perhaps not achieved the levels of pianistic excellence they once promised themselves. Or for students who might wish to explore, to play pieces that are very different from the usual fare. For, importantly, all these pieces are presented in Low order format which might sound formidable but isn’t. What it means is that for each piece the parameters of tempo, dynamics, phrasing, pedalling and instructions re the articulation of the notes are omitted from the scores. Unlike most music this method of Non Prescription allows the performer a great freedom of interpretation. He/she is invited to engage with the music in such a way that he/she becomes part of the compositional process by being able to determine the outcome of any performance. Furthermore, the pianist may elect to vary these missing parameters (instructions) and, by doing so, can achieve any number of different outcomes. I have played most of these pieces to Caroline Clemmow, for years an Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examiner. Her enthusiastic verdict were that the pieces were “fit for purpose”.

Pieces for Pianists will be available both on CD and in printed downloadable format sometime in 2020. The ever- supportive superb Mary Dullea will be recording in late December at the Menuhin Hall, Surrey. When I first asked her if she would be prepared to commit to this quite divergent project she accepted without a moment’s hesitation before she had even looked at the scores.

It is my intention that the release of both the recordings, together with the music, will assist and inspire those pianists who wish to engage with Pieces for Pianists. The pieces played by one of the most foremost pianists who is noted for her interest in contemporary music can serve as a guide, a starting point. For Mary will be able to demonstrate just one way in which these pieces can be realised. And if conservative -minded pianists chose to imitate the recorded realisations, this cannot be such a bad thing to attempt to emulate the performances of Mary Dullea.

And that piece I wrote for Tony? As a gesture to both Tony and Caroline, I have decided to include it in Volume 1 of Pieces for Pianists. But now, in keeping with all the other pieces, it is offered without any instructions or guidance in respect to performance.

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