It was whilst I was studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London in the late 1980’s that we were actively encouraged to compose music for the guitar, especially by my special tutor Hans Werner Henze, himself a composer who had written substantial and ground-breaking music for this instrument, that is mostly associated with lyrical and romantic pieces by Spanish composers such as Fernando Sor and Francisco Tarrega. And it is all-too-easy to slip into writing in “the Spanish idiom” when writing for the instrument, since those composers knew the instrument inside out. And this was one of the reasons why I believe we were encouraged to write for the guitar – to stamp our own ideas on the instrument and bend it to our specific creative needs, rather than let it shape what we wrote for it.
All three pieces in this album are really, in some ways, tributes to other composers, only one of whom wrote anything for the guitar itself. Despite the title Dreamtime, which conjures up images of Australian aboriginals and their world of spiritual beliefs, this piece is in fact a capriccio on a fragment of a keyboard composition by Georg Friedrich Handel, which is taken apart and put together again in various new formations in an almost Cubist manner. The second piece, Andante, was inspired by a short piece for glass harmonica by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with which I was fascinated at the time. I had recently met Alfred Schnittke, and I was exploring the idea of whether style and period were symbiotic, and if it is possible to evoke the style of a previous era without getting bogged down in plagiarism. Copying anything is a meaningless activity, of course, since the original is not only always better, but it has the advantage of sincerity. The Rose Cross is a tribute to the great French-Algerian composer Maurice Ohana, whose work I was introduced to by a South African guitarist called Rob Beer. Ohana wrote Tiento, one of the 20th century classics for guitar, and the Rose Cross was composed in his eternal memory.
Duration: ca. 15′ | Pages: 12 | Year: 1990-92