200 PIECES goes live – Monday 19 December
Throughout 2022, Britain’s oldest conservatoire, the Royal Academy of Music,
celebrated its bicentenary on a colossal scale. Of the myriad projects launched by the
Academy for this occasion, perhaps the most far-sighted is the introduction of 200
new works, written by an eclectic collection of composers. Of the 200 works
commissioned, 32 are for piano solo including two composed by Philip Cashian, Head
of Composition and Contemporary Music at the Academy and mastermind behind the
project and one by Joanna MacGregor, who holds the Dame Myra Hess Chair of Piano
at the Academy.
Guest lecturer and former Academy alumni, Eleanor Alberga’s Cwicseolfor was
premièred by Isata Kanneh-Mason at the Barbican Centre on 10 October and will be
repeated at the Academy on 3 November. Taking its name from the Old English
spelling of “quicksilver” or mercury, Eleanor Alberga commented: “As a child, I
remember being fascinated with watching mercury in a container: how it didn’t adhere to
anything and moved and changed direction rapidly. There was also an almost
unbelievable brilliance on the surface of this stuff.” The i described the work as
Pieces for piano still to be heard at the Academy are from graduates Craig Armstrong
(24 November); Ryan Latimer (25 November); and Sophy Polevaya (25 November).
The 200 PIECES project will culminate with an unparalleled free online resource for
contemporary music featuring a score and recording by a student at the Academy, for
each of the 200 pieces. Remarkably, all 34 of the principal instruments taught at the
Academy have been written for by the 200 composers including pieces for
euphonium, bass drum, and clarinet and electronics.
Philip Cashian’s only stipulation for the project was that each piece should be written
for unaccompanied instrument or voice. No stylistic criteria determined the selection
of composers; hence the result is a diverse range of output which moves towards a
more representational image of the current landscape of contemporary music.
Demonstrating the broad spectrum of compositional input into the project are pieces
by: Sally Beamish, Alex Hawkins, Rubens Askenar, Roxanna Panufnik, Claudia Molitor,
Philip Herbert, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Shruthi Rajasekar, Tod Machover, Felipe Lara
and Laurence Crane.
The development of the project into its full-scale stems from the recent discovery of a
work for unaccompanied violin by the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, who had been a
Visiting Professor at the Academy since 2005. A Last Post Card from Sanday, as it was

named, was the first of the 200 PIECES to be premièred at the Academy. Maxwell-
Davies’ student and alumni of the Academy, James B. Wilson, composed Turner’s

Ships for the project, premièred by Yana Khvan on 28 June 2022. Wilson has won
numerous awards and was the first composer to be commissioned by the Chineke!
With the origin of the project starting with Maxwell Davies, the Academy
acknowledges his legacy, as well as other members of New Manchester Music,
nicknamed The Manchester School, such as Alexander Goehr and the late Harrison
Birtwistle who also taught composition at the Academy. In the 1950s, these composers
adopted a rebellious, Mancunian attitude to music, causing a considerable change in
the development of British music from the English Pastoralism of Vaughan Williams
and others in the first half of the twentieth century.
Of the many purposes that 200 PIECES might serve in the future, it endeavours to

stand as a virtual monument commemorating both the continuation of a forward-
looking ethos and a free platform for young composers and performers.