- for piano solo
This recording of March Wind was made by the pianist Duncan Honeybourne in 1996. The recording was made at the Wey Valley School on the new grand piano [26.vi.96] for the CD of my music made to raise money for the ME Association [as it was then called - now it is Chronic Fatigue....]. I was moved to support this charity by the plight of another wonderful local musician who has done so much to support me by commissioning & performing new works - Peter Oakes. March Wind was composed when I was at UCW Aberystwyth, and I performed it at one of the Monday lunchtime concerts. I remember failing to recapitulate into the coda properly, playing the entire composition from the start two or three times over before, thankfully, choosing the right bars to play to conclude the piece. What a nightmare! With my fragile technique - one which benefited enormously from the inspired teaching of the legendary Geoffrey Buckley - it was some time before I mustered up the courage to perform publicly again.
Whilst at Aberystwyth I performed some wonderful music under Geoffrey's encouraging guidance: the Waldstein sonata [though I always struggled with the glissandi octave passages in the final movement]; Schumann's 2nd sonata [f sharp minor]; Bartok Mikrokosmos Books V and VI; Lennox Berkeley Preludes; the third, single movement sonata by Prokofiev; Grieg's Holberg Suite - which I performed in the Great Hall; Faschingswank aus Wien [Schumann] with the fantastic intermezzo. I played the first movement as part of an end of year assessment; Schubert op.90 Impromptus; the 5th English Suite by Bach; various Ireland pieces, such as the London Pieces; and he helped me play my own works in preparation for the composers' forum which was held regularly throughout my time as a student.
We learned about fugue writing with Prof. Parrott, with a Monday morning 9.00 o'clock lecture. I can remember on at least one occasion being in a helpless state of giggles in one such lecture, along with the entire class of undergraduates. It was just about containable unless asked a direct question by the Prof. Then it all burst out in embarrassingly uncontrollable guffaws....But my love of fugue and counterpoint stemmed from these classes, alongside the Bach Preludes & Fugues I was given to learn each week by the then Mrs Buckley who was my teacher for a term. She was quietly responsible for forcing me to work enormously hard to get my fledgeling technique up to an acceptable standard. I remember climbing into the music department [in the old castle building on the seafront by the pier] through a downstairs loo window [I think....] so that I could practice in the lecture room on the huge Steinwey grand. The place was reputedly haunted, and there were frequent 'noises'... like in most old buildings. I played to hide the silences and improve my technique. After Christmas in my first year she transferred me to Geoffrey, which in my eyes was a reward for my efforts. Actually it is more likely that she was disgusted by my finger-nails, bitten to the quick by my nervous fear and just occasionally bleeding.... But at least I don't smoke, drink or worse.
At Weymouth College later I organised many concerts, and came to know Geoffrey as a good friend through his frequent visits to give solo and concerto performances. I directed all the later Mozart piano concertos with him as soloist, as well as Beethoven [no's 1, 4 & 5] and Rachmaninov no.2. I introduced Duncan to Geoffrey, and, through my other Welsh connections, to the cellist Sharon McKinley, with whom he performed very many recitals. I too directed Sharon and my 'Quidlibet Sinfonia' in a performance of the Dvorak cello concerto [in St George's, Fordington].
March Wind was inspired by a poem by Phyllis Taylor. I met her in Llandudno when I was visiting the Franciscan outpost there. She was absolutely thrilled with the piece, and surprised at the speed with which it was composed [three days]:
Give me the lash of March's maddest blusters,
Sou'westerly - the brimming stream a-race;
The alder bushes fringed with catkin clusters,
Flurries of hail that sting my glowing face;
Then sunset; clouds wind-driven; Venus gleaming,
And creak of storm-tossed boughs to lull my dreaming.