Friday, 24 August 2018

Composer of the month: Robin Holloway

Steve Crowther: Can you tell us something of your background? 
Robin Holloway: Both of my parents trained as artists and loved music, though untrained. I sang in the local church choir (Balham), had piano lessons and was a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral.
SC: Can you describe your new work to us?
RH: The new piece is a response the (Late Music) commission to write a short piano-number taken from any piano-original by Claude Debussy, for the centenary of his death. My choice is a little-known morceau D’un cahier d’esquisses launched out from into several new places before homing in on where it began.
SC:Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
RH: I do write at the piano – though also sketching when out and about, or confined to queues, boring meetings, interesting lectures, or insomnia. But I can’t describe the “compositional process”!

Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
RH: When I know the performer(s) I of course have the character, gift, nature, sound etc in mind. But I’m also looking general dissemination after the particular: I have written lots of music with no-one specific in mind.
SC:How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
RH: Very multifarious, eclectic, protean!
SC:What motivates you to compose? 
RH: There’s something I want to say, to express, communicate, share, give.
SC:Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
RH: Birtwistle, Goehr; Norgard; Del Tredici; Weir; Benjamin; Andriessen; Abrahamsen …
SC:If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
RH: I’d love most of all to try to discover what makes Schubert tick – but fear he’d not be able to understand or reply!
SC:Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
RH: (out of many thousands!) – Bach St Matthew Passion, Haydn Seasons, MozartFigaro, Beethoven C#-minor String Quartet, Schubert Winterreise, Schumann Liederkreiss Op 39, Wagner Tristan und Isolde, Brahms Trio for clarinet, cello and piano, SchönbergFive Orchestral Pieces, Debussy Jeux, Berg Violin Concerto, Stravinsky The Fairy’s Kiss. The one I couldn,t be without is Bruckner’s 9thSymphony.
SC:…and a book?
RH: Nostromo by Conrad, Ulysses by Joyce
SC:…a film?
RH:La règle du jeu by Jean Renoir
SC:… and a luxury item?
RH: A gorgeous book reproducing the entire output of Piero della Francesca.

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