Composer and broadcaster Michael Berkeley (aka Lord Berkeley of Knighton) will be visiting Aberdeen University this week (29-30/10) for a two day visit. Michael will be giving tutorials and a lecture as well as attending a concert of his works (and some by his father) given by the University Contemporary Music Group (of which I am the director). I will be discussing some of these works with Michael during the concert.
November marks the beginning of a busy end to the year with four premieres in the next two months and several regional premieres as well. The month begins with the premiere of my new organ work Epitaph (2014) given by Roger Williams as part of the Sound Festival at the King’s College Chapel in Aberdeen on the 4th. The 10th and 11th has back to back performances of Evening Service (2009) firstly by the Girls’s Choir and Lay Clerks of Ely Cathedral, then by the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge, both conducted by Sarah MacDonald. The month finishes with the premiere of Threnos (2014) my new work for choir and cello, performed by the University Chamber Choir, conducted by Paul Mealor again in the King’s College Chapel at 19.30 on the 24th.
There are many works from the twentieth-century which, perhaps, should not have seen the light of day; perhaps they should have been resigned to the composer’s bottom drawer, substandard and reserved for the executer to decide their fate when future royalties were more important than posthumous reputation. A list of these works would be substantial and exhaustive, a hundred and one pieces sullying the names of many good composers. Some composers would, in fact, have very little to show for a life’s work if they were more discerning with their bottom drawer. However there are a few pieces for which the opposite is definitely true, when a work is far too good to be consigned to a drawer for any length of time, whatever the aesthetic judgement of the composer – Frank Martin’s Mass for Double Choir is undoubtedly one of those.
It is hard to believe that this work, written in the 1920s, would sit in Martin’s drawer for nearly forty years until after heavy persuasion he released it for publication and performance in 1963. A work of such searing beauty and luminescence should surely have not sat in a drawer gathering dust along with faded sketches for tuba concerti and comic operas (or whatever else composers keep in the bottom drawer) whilst the world was crying out for more sacred masterpieces to rival Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms and Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater. Why did he choose to exile his only unaccompanied choral work for so long?
This Sunday (31/08/2014) will see another performance of my Morning Service (Te Deum and Jubilate, 2010-11) given by the St Paul’s Cathedral based female choir Aurora Nova. The performance will take place at the Matins service at 10.15 and will be conducted by Patrick Craig.
Another good review of Phillip Cooke, Choral Music, this time in the current issue of The Gramophone: ‘Cooke is able to compose distinctive settings of familiar liturgical texts’ and ‘excellent performances with some beautifully sustained pianissimos‘. Splendid! PAC
I’ve finally got round to putting up some recently composed pieces. They are as follows: Epitaph – an organ work for Roger Williams that will be performed in November, Exsultet – another organ work premiered at the LFCCM in May this year, Praeludium – for organ pedals, premiered by Ed Jones at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen in July, Third Service [Ely Cathedral] – a setting of the evening canticles which will be premiered by Ely Cathedral Girl’s Choir early next year and Threnos – a work for choir and cello which will be premiered by the Aberdeen University Chamber Choir in November. There are various recordings and YouTube videos that I’ve put up, though many of these have been superseded by the CD release. More to follow soon. PAC
The good reviews of the CD, Phillip Cooke, Choral Music, continue in the current issue of Organists’ Review. The best bits are ‘this is an impressive collection of choral pieces’ and (my favourite) ‘a fine disc of music by a significant new vocice’. Very kind. PAC
There was another good review of Phillip Cooke, Choral Music in the current edition of International Record Review. The wide ranging review refers to an ‘excellent disc’, the Jubilate being ‘very succesful’ and The Hazel Wood being ‘expertly scored for organ and brass quintet’. My favourite line is ‘By now the picture is emerging of a composer who, perhaps deliberately avoids the excessive sweetness to be found in the works of many contemporary choral composers…’. I guess so! PAC
Organist Ed Jones will give the premiere of my piece for pedals only Praeludium (2013) at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen this Saturday (19 July) in a recital inlcuding works by Bach and Vivaldi. Ed will also give another performance of my early organ work Elegy (2003) at Ely Cathedral during evensong on Friday 08 August. PAC