Four Piano Solos



Shades of Solace

The initial impetus for Shades of Solace (1998) came from a powerful black and white photograph of the New York skyline taken in the 1940s. The piece conveys the bustle and dynamism of this great city, although the hints of Scott Joplin’s piano rag, Solace, introduce a note of nostalgia and reflection.

Vespers in Venice

The idea of Vespers in Venice (1997) came from Turner’s visionary landscape Approach to Venice, in which there is a wonderful range of colours and shades. On the right of this extraordinary painting is the pale gold of fading day and on the left, the beginnings of nightfall. You can just see the thin outline of Venice, with St Mark’s Cathedral and the Campanile on the horizon. The opening fanfare of Monteverdi’s Vespers (written for the glowing acoustic of St Mark’s) and the far-off bells of Venice can be heard in the blurred texture of the piano writing.


The simple, thoughtful Pavane (1999) was written in tender memory of my godfather, Arthur Crow, a distinguished Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford. The presence of the old French song Vive Henri Quatre which Tchaikovsky uses in the final moments of his ballet The Sleeping Beauty, affectionately acknowledges Arthur’s deep love of ballet and music, two of his many passions.


Topsalteerie (1999) pays tribute to James Scott Skinner, a remarkable Scottish fiddler who worked in the Aberdeenshire area around 1900. Known as the ‘King of Strathspey’, Skinner wrote over six hundred pieces, including some particularly virtuosic ones. Skinner’s Cradle Song is, however, simple and was written in response to watching a mother nurse her feverish child back to life. In Tapsalteerie Skinner’s Cradle Song threads through the slow, dream-like opening and appears later as feverish fiddle playing. Taken from the sick child’s perspective, Skinner’s poignant tune has been turned topsy-turvy or, as the Scots say, ‘tapsalteerie’. This work was commissioned by the Strathdee Music Club.

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