It scarcely seems six years to today’s date since the much-missed composer & pianist John McCabe died at the age of 75. Feb 13, 2021 | Ramblings | 5 comments http://www.johnmccabe.com/ https://www.classicalsource.com/cd/carl-nielsen-piano-music-played-by-john-mccabe-somm/ https://www.classicalsource.com/cd/edvard-grieg-stimmungen-slatter-played-by-john-mccabe-somm/ BARBIROLLI AND MODERN MUSIC: A PERSONAL MEMOIR – JOHN McCABE. John McCabe. Lyrita celebrates the centenary of Robert Simpson’s birth with BBC premiere recordings. 5 Comments Robert Matthew-Walker on February 13, 2021 at 10:24 am Is it six years already? It seems a lot less than that, but in that time – thanks to the dedication and energy of his beloved widow Monica – many previously unknown or long-unavailable recordings of John as pianist, and of his music, have appeared. I know there may be more to come, but each one has renewed and refreshed our memories of a truly fine musician, willing at all times to place his own considerable interpretative gifts as a pianist at the service of the widest possible range of music – from Haydn to Hindemith and John’s own contemporaries. I don’t think that John’s musicianship and creativity was as fully recognised during his lifetime as it deserved to be; today, of course, we are perhaps in a better position to consider the lasting qualities of his wholly exceptional great musical gifts. Thank you, John. Reply Andrew Keener on February 13, 2021 at 11:57 am No sooner had I written my recollection of Robert Simpson in your invaluable column, Colin, than I realised, thinking of John, how lucky I was to have TWO such human beings sitting in a composer’s chair at various times beside me at recording sessions. Although very different characters, they shared a humanity and complete freedom from affectation in matters musical. John’s musical tastes were perhaps more wide-ranging than Bob’s. This Liverpool-born lad was as happy to enthuse about the Beatles as about Haydn (all of whose sonatas he recorded), the symphonic repertoire as about Hammer Horror film scores, several of which he wrote. John was no snob. Professionally generous, I never heard him utter a single negative word about his composer colleagues, although his gentleness of expression might lead those who didn’t know him well to overlook the rigour of his intellect, the firmly-held opinions. He was also hugely prolific: there are practically no genres for which he didn’t write. One of the most memorable recordings of his music I was lucky to produce was that of his Fourth Symphony. Difficult sessions, to which he contributed advice with a characteristic calmness, thus keeping me calm as things seemed in danger of becoming chaotic. Like Bob Simpson, he was a scholarly and readable author. I’ll also remember him as a delightful companion in pub or restaurant, talking about music in an erudite yet approachable way which charmed my mother among the several others around the table after a masterly young David Pyatt had played John’s Horn Concerto ‘Rain Forest IV’ in Cardiff. Never taking himself too seriously (he christened his ballet ‘Edward II’ as ‘Eddie the Tooth’), he nevertheless took his art very seriously indeed. A lovely balance. And we have his widow Monica to keep the flame alive with a forthcoming biography. I am impatient! Reply MONICA McCABE on February 13, 2021 at 1:22 pm I am so touched by and grateful for these wonderful comments from Bob and Andrew. Also by Colin’s setting up this post in memory of John. I had previously emailed Colin with further comment for his column on Bob Simpson. However, I felt that it might be a little late for a comment to be sent there. Colin assured me that it was not, so here, slightly modified, is a comment which I called ‘Connections’. On Thursday conductor Tom Hammond did a Zoom broadcast on the music of Carl Nielsen, in which one of the works played was the Chaconne for piano, played by John. This made me next day get out the set of the complete piano music of Nielsen, which John and I recorded, nearly 50 years ago, and placed with Decca (now available as a double CD album on Somm). Bob and John shared a deep love of Nielsen. Bob brought his music into more general circulation in this country. John insisted on playing Nielsen’s Chaconne for his degree recital, against the wishes of the conservatoire, who wanted Chopin or someone equally well-known. John’s great piano teacher, Gordon Green, who taught many of the greatest British pianists of that period, learned the Chaconne especially, so he could teach John the work (although he already knew it). After playing the Chaconne, I listened to other great Nielsen piano works, the Suite, Op. 45, and the Theme with Variations. It is hard to say which is my favourite of these – probably the last one I listened to. Bob, in his book Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, calls the Chaconne and Theme with Variations ‘remarkable’, and the Suite ‘amazing’. All begin innocuously and rise to great and stormy climaxes. Quoting from Bob’s book about the Theme with Variations – ‘There is finely arched growth to a truly astounding climax that is like nothing else than a mighty iceberg, glittering and sparkling in the sun; this is a really new pianoforte style of startling power and grandeur.’ I urge any who don’t already know these pieces to listen to them. Now quoting from Tom Hammond, after Bob’s book was published, Nielsen’s daughters gifted to him a special gold pencil, which his wife had given to him and which he used thereafter to write his music. After Bob died, his wife Angela in turn gave the pencil to Matthew Taylor, who had done so much to get Bob’s music better known. Tom had once borrowed it from Matthew, and he sent me by email a photo of the pencil, lying on his (Tom’s) kitchen table. Last Wednesday I listened to a performance on CD of the premiere of Bob’s 11th Symphony, conducted by Matthew Taylor. And in the aftermath of John’s death, Matthew wrote his splendid 4th Symphony, in memory of John. I love all these connections, through the years, and together with the above, join also Bob Matthew-Walker, Andrew Keener (and Peter), Colin, and all the contributors to Colin’s Column. Reply Martin Anderson on February 13, 2021 at 7:57 pm As with many of the people posting here, John was a dear friend for several decades — and one of my favourite John stories does indeed go back almost 40 years. In 1982, maybe 15 or 20 minutes before the concert in which Solti was going to be giving the premiere of John’s Concerto for Orchestra, I was crossing the Festival Hall in one direction and bumped into John headed the other way. I asked him: ‘Are you going to be happy with this?’ And he answered: ‘Well, put it this way — if you don’t like it, it’s not his fault’. Reply pjl on February 18, 2021 at 2:25 am As a teenager I attended the premiere of his CHAGALL WINDOWS and Granada TV made a film about the piece (those were the days!) I then bought the LP…the undervalued James Loughran. We have a second recording on cd and much later I was able to hear it live again under Charles Groves in Guildford (our much-missed orchestra founded by Tod) and John kindly signed my programme from the Halle premiere and my score of his adorable Hartmann Variations which the Halle played several times including on the Last Night of their Proms…only 2 weeks but a concert a night for a music-mad teenager was bliss. Reply Submit a Comment Cancel replyYour email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *Comment Name * Email * Website Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.