The idea for this set of piano pieces initially came from writing one as a 60th birthday present (I shall not mention which one!). Having written one Baroque-titled piece, I gradually added more, until a whole suite of Baroque dances was completed. The stimulus of writing a modern set of pieces based on Baroque models (in my case a mixture of the English and French Suites of Bach) is nothing new of course. Many twentieth-century composers were inspired by the rigours of devising new ways of looking at Baroque dances, and in the process brought new life to the forms (in the case of Schoenberg’s Piano Suite of 1925, actually liberating his new method of 12-note composition from theory into practice).
For my part, the challenge was to write a set of pieces for the piano which would be technically suitable for both young and mature pianists, whilst still responding to the compositional demands of creating interesting material, mainly organised through contrapuntal means (often just two-part counterpoint, as in Bourrée 1 or the Gigue), but sometimes through harmonic means (as in the Sarabande or Gavotte). In addition, the more personal nature of the genesis of the album resulted in each piece, or dance, being dedicated to a particular friend. Whilst their pianistic skills might vary quite considerably, they all share a great love of music – something which unites us all.
The pieces in An Album for my Friends can either be played individually, or as a full/partial set. The work is structured as follows:
- Paul’s Prelude
- Adam’s Allemance
- Clare’s Courante
- Stefan’s Sarabande
- Gaynor’s Gavotte
- Brian’s Bourrée (Bourrée 1)
- Bethan’s Bourrée (Bourrée 2)
- Maggie’s Minuet
- Gavin’s Gigue
- Phil’s Postlude
These striking pieces often incorporate contrapuntal writing alongside their homage to the dance forms of an earlier time, their delicious pianism adding to their immediacy and charisma.
Pianodao, October 2020
Stylistically the set is a real gem, and each individual item is so much more than a merely clever pastiche ….. To all intents and purposes, it’s a modern-day ‘Enigma Variations’, dedicated ‘to (his) friends pictured within’, but minus the ‘enigmatic theme as such.
Philip R Buttall, MusicWeb International, October 2020
Who could fail to be charmed by the witty yet affectionate basis on which the music is constructed …? The refreshing lucidity and clarity of the writing complements the richness and diversity of expression contained within the neo-Baroque suite structure.
Murray McLachlan, International Piano, October 2020
…. the tiny, impish ‘Brian’s Bourrée’, is heard twice, either side of ‘Bethan’s Bourrée’; … Elsewhere, ‘Clare’s Courante’ is charming and elegant, the music enriched by Baroque-style decoration. I also liked the cool, graceful ‘Stefan’s Sarabande’; to my ears this bears a debt to Ravel. ‘Gavin’s Gigue’ is dexterous, fast and merry. This is a sparkling set of miniatures which I really enjoyed. Murray McLachlan plays them delightfully and it was a very good idea to open the programme with this collection as it affords an excellent entrée to Gregson’s music.
John Quinn, MusicWeb International, March 2021
The nostalgic An Album for my Friends (2011) with which the album starts, is perfectly positioned to draw you in; eleven immaculately honed miniature homages.
Mark Tanner, Piano Professional, April 2021