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Music Room


I began composing music on the piano when I was five … funny little pieces written in pencil on staves that I drew with a ruler. I wrote pieces for the family but feel I only started thinking seriously about the sound world I was creating once I took up the violin aged twelve. When at school, I composed a solo violin sonata that I performed in the chapel at Charterhouse. Perhaps this is the first composition that merits any attention. The original sheet music is in the music room.

Since then, some of my greatest enjoyment has been in playing, performing, conducting and teaching music. When I began teaching klezmer workshops from 1987 onwards, the powerful folk idiom seemed to affect my 'classical' upbringing and led to the other works that lie in the room: the Three Discourses (commissioned by the Performing Rights Society) that I wrote for Ros Hawley (clarinet) and Mike Kahan (violin) and a series of string quartets.

Music Room Composer CV String Quartets Solo Violin Sonata Klezmer Scrapbook Other Work Three Discourses for Clarinet and Violin
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String Quartets

Between 2003 and 2010, for reasons that I still do not understand, I felt driven to write ten string quartets. I had written one quartet previously when still at school – three of whose movements we performed at a concert. But, since then, I had rarely played in a string quartet. In Nottingham, I had participated in an ad hoc string quartet that seemed to cohere extraordinarily well – despite (or maybe because) each of the players was so different. But even when playing in that quartet, I felt no inclination to compose.

It is possible that it was the discovery of Catherine, a professional violinist half sister, that triggered me into writing the first quartet. In that piece, there are many references to earlier musical ideas that I recalled as if wanting to share them with someone who had always been there but never present. The completion of the first quartet felt as if it had breached some sort of dam through which other quartet ideas and sounds gushed. Quartets two, three, four and five were strongly influenced by klezmer. Quartets six, seven, eight and nine seem to me to be expressing themselves in a different language. After we returned to live in Sheffield in 2009, I found myself playing and teaching klezmer again and composed a tenth quartet that returns to that idiom.  None of them have actually been performed although number five was played through by Catherine, Alain (her professional violinist husband) and a cellist friend of theirs with me playing the viola part. It remains my favourite. Click here to view sheet music and hear a midi sound version