The Solway Canal
This album represents my entire output of piano music! Until I was asked by Ralph van Raat to write a concerto for piano – The Solway Canal – I had no music for piano solo apart from a piano version of the solo harpsichord piece After Handel’s Vesper, and some short variations on a lauda theme that i wrote for the Victoria Piano Summer School in Canada some years ago. After writing the concerto for Ralph, however, I went back to the set of variations and re-wrote them, adding more, to make it Ramble on Cortona. Cortona is the town in Italy where the manuscripts of the 13th century laude originate, a source of vocal music that I have worked on for a number of years. This piece is a “ramble” on this material, taking the term employed by Percy Grainger for works which might otherwise be called “paraphrase” or “fantasy” (his Ramble on Love, taking material from Der Rosenkavalier, is a masterpiece). The Solway Canal takes its title from one of two sonnets by the late Edwin Morgan, a Scottish poet whose work I have already set extensively. This allows me to include a men’s choir in the piece (Busoni’s Piano Concerto has a chorus in the last movement). Both The Solway Canal and Ramble on Cortona are dedicated to Ralph van Raat.
The presence of a male chorus within the concerto represents a kind of homage to Busoni, a composer whom I have always admired and whose piano concerto has one in the last movement. As it happens I used a chorus of Russian bass voices in my recent double bass concerto so there is precedence within my own work too. Of course if there are voices then there are words and my choice of the poetry of the great Scottish poet Edwin Morgan alludes to my work with male choirs – I have set six of his “Sonnets from Scotland” already, three of them for the Estonian National Male Choir. The two sonnets The Solway Canal and A Place of Many Waters are heard in their entirety in the piece, and the first gives a subtitle to the concerto, just as Kukol’nik’s “Farewell to St Petersburg” gives a subtitle to the double bass concerto.
Otto Tausk, conductor (track 3)
Capella Amsterdam (track 3)
Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic
Ramble on Cortona
The Solway Canal