I Thirst - Robin Walker (RVRCD66)
This disc represents music written over the last twenty years.
In the early 1980s I undertook two study-visits to India, to the far north to hear the music of the Buddhist Temples and to the south to experience the Hindu dance of Bharatanatyam. The rhythmic liberation I felt as a result of these visits is the most notable element of Dance/Still (1982), a chamber work in two parts which expresses concurrently a ritualised vitality and a religious stillness.
The organ work Dances with Chant and Chorales (1986) contrasts and enfolds the dynamism of dance with the formalised yearning of religious melody. As a chorister of York Minster in the 1960s I daily thrilled to the organ-playing of my first music master Francis Jackson, and have never forgotten his control of the Minster organ's Full Swell and it's power to evoke religious awe and solemnity.
Mr Gilbert dines at the Modern Hindu Hotel (1994) is one of ten pieces I have written for the Manchester recorder player John Turner. It celebrates the composer Anthony Gilbert's 60th birthday and recalls his experiences in a Bangalore hotel, where his Brahmin fellow-diners turned away from him in order to preserve caste while dining.
The organ piece Invention (1994) exposes and develops a number of musical objects within an aesthetic which pays homage to the great Romantic tradition of French organ music, particularly that of Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) whose compositional virtuosity is without parallel within this tradition.
The short string quartet I Thirst (1994) takes for its starting point one of the Seven Last Words of Christ from the Cross. Out of this context comes a ritual of solo melody, homophony and biting figuration whose desiccation is in due course quenched by waves of natural harmonics.
The pianola piece Halifax (1995) celebrates a great town in my native Yorkshire - its erstwhile carpet mills, its markets, the striking structure of Gilbert Scott's All Souls' Church - in a mechanical fantasy appropriate to this under-rated instrument. The pianola's natural ability to purify and objectify sound is in sympathy with my own aesthetic purpose, so far as reconstituting emotion in musical terms is concerned.
The piano piece At the Grave of William Baines (1999) was written for the centenary of the birth of this Yorkshire composer - born in Horbury 1899, died in York 1922. The passionate classicism of William Baines's music, predominately for the piano, is the guiding spirit of this work's response to his creative life and tragically early death. He was a composer who lived in his own reality, was solaced by Nature, and composed with a wild spirituality that always retained musical integrity.
His Master's Voice (2001) is a recorder and piano piece written for David Lumsdaine - my composition teacher of long standing - on his 70th birthday. Lumsdaine has provided the intellectual backbone for many young composers, and I owe him a great deal for his promptings and warnings, and also for being a spiritual liberator. The sonorities of the piece remind me of his own poetic inventions.
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