Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Tim Krabbe and chess again

Fortunately for the curious among us, Dutch novelist (The Vanishing, among many others), screenwriter, cyclist and chess maestro TK is posting again on his English Chess Diary. Perusing the older pages I came across this one again - a particularly rich series taking in beautiful problems, wild positions, combinations and sacrifices, and plenty of human drama - like the minor tragedy of M. Zinar, the hidden chess composition wizard who was a Ukranian schoolteacher by day and died young in the 90s...

And I have managed not to lose to Charles after 49 half-moves, which is such an achievement that even if I chuck it all away (already managed to be a pawn and the exchange down!) it's worth noting. And it has been a more interesting game than the ones in which I lose material in the first 10 moves - both of us have had to do some head-scratching.

1. e4 c5
2. d4 cxd4
3. c3 dxc3
4. Nxc3 Nc6
5. Nf3 e6
6. Bc4 a6
7. Qe2 d6
8. 0-0 Qc7
9. Rd1 Be7
10. Bf4 Nf6
11. Rac1 0-0
12. e5?! dxe5
13. Nxe5 Nxe5?! (here, 13. ...Bd6 would have led to a quick win for Black)
14. Bxe5 Qa5
15. Rd4 b5
16. Bd3 b4
17. Rh4 g6 (getting quite fun now!)
18. Nd1 Bb7
19. Rc7 Qd5
20. f4 Rfd8
21. Bc2 Rd7
22. Ne3 Qxa2 (it's great the way that threats and counter-threats are building up...)
23. Rxb7 Rxb7
24. Qf3 Qa1+
25. Kf2 Raa7
26. hmm...

It could all go pear-shaped given how many pieces down I am and how loose the whole position it, but it's been fun while it lasted....


Our first four homegroup meetings are on the book of Jonah. A simple, delightful story, which even people outside the church in a thoroughly post-Christian world will have heard of ("and the whale"). Two particularly interesting points...

(1) In Jonah 2 we have a 'psalm', sung at some point during the three days&nights Jonah was in the fish - perhaps even right before he was spat out, as the transition between verses 10 and 11 allows if not implies. It bears comparison with Psalm 18 (of David), another Psalm of deliverance.

In David's Psalm the distress of being surrounded and hounded by human enemies is compared to th experience of [drowning] in deep waters (verse 16). Look at the descriptions of God's salvation, however... In David's Psalm they are rich metaphors, full of drama, requiring a whole digital studio for rendering them in convincing CGI (flying on cherubim, fire, coals, laying bare the seabed, reaching down from heaven, blasts of breath, etc) - in Jonah's Psalm they are almost absent. Instead we have the thoroughly prosaic notes in 1:17 and 2:11 regarding a fish gulping the prophet down and later vomiting him onto dry land. Jonah is definitely mocking Jonah here. Is it an angel, is a divine flame? No, it's a floating stomach.

(2) As pointed out to me on Sunday, when it comes to Jonah in the New Testament we have some awkward corners. What is "the sign of Jonah"? And why is Peter called Simon, son of John in John 1:42 but Simon, son of Jonah in Matthew 16:17.

I wonder whether it's something to do with the sign of Jonah itself. If the sign of Jonah includes in it the idea that repentant Gentiles will receive mercy denied to faithless Jews, then Jesus calling Peter 'son of Jonah' in Matthew 16 is a hint at his future ministry to Gentiles (which was not numerically significant compared to Paul's, but he was the apostle who welcomed Cornelius into the church). In other words, his Dad was called John.


Has now had its second homegoup meeting, and second celebration of the Lord's Supper! We (about 9 of us from Rock Baptist Church plus two from Teversham and four from the Philippines!) are gearing up to start Sunday worship at the beginning of September. Planting a new church is all very exciting, very nerve-wracking, more faffy than I imagined and risky to boot. But we are on the winning team, so no room for worries, just for prayer.

The school we are meeting in (weeks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9...) is 2 minutes from our house (woohoo!) and the chapel we are meeting in (weeks 2, 4, 6, 8...) is where Spurgeon preached his first sermon (nice).

Soon we may even have our own website, and then we'll truly have arrived ;-)

Thursday, 16 August 2007

and again

A susprisingly quick victory this time...

1. P76 P34

2. P75 P44

3. P36 R42

4. R78 R72

5. S68 S62

6. K48 S32

7. K38 S33

8. S48 G(6)52

9. S77 P84

10. S86 G32

11. S95 P85

12. P74!? the sleeve is extended recklessly

12. … Px74

13. B55 S73

14. S84 S82

15. S83+ Sx83

16. Bx91+ N73

17. +B81 R62

18. +B71 P14 (not wanting the draw after …R92)

19. +Bx62ch. Kx62

20. S33 G31

21. L’76 S’72

22. Lx74 S42

23. G(4)58 P45

24. Lx73+ch. Sx73

25. N’66 B’92 (very much on the defensive now…)

26. N77 S(7)84

27. N65 P64

28. R’91 P’33

29. Nx33+ch. Sx33

30. P’74 S(7)84

31. Rx92+ch. Sx92

32. B’73ch. Sx73 (white must accept the double major piece sacrifice)

33. Px73+ch. K51

34. +P82 L’61

35. +Px92 P35

36. Px35 R’89

37. P’79 P65 (desperately probing for weaknesses…)

38. R71+ N’25

39. S’72 K41

40. Sx61= G51

41. L’52 Px65

42. Lx51+ch. Sx51

43. S24 Px67+

44. Gx67 R88+ch.

45. G78 (this is almost impregnable, Gold on pawn)

45. … P’37ch.

46. Nx37 Nx37+ch.

47. Sx37 +R89

48. G’43 …and after throwing all its pieces at my king, 1-0

Shogi at last!

I seem to be returning to form on shogi, even from my sick-bed (fourth day with no voice, lots of mucus, general pain... [cue violins])

This afternoon, as Black, I beat the computer on 1-kyu!

















































































































































































Wednesday, 15 August 2007

oh dear

This one really made me chuckle!

Somewhat more encouraging reversals

Walls continues with a further pertinent observation…

‘Nevertheless, now, when the British Empire has almost disappeared, the center of gravity for the Christian faith has shifted to the southern continents. Nigeria and Kenya and Zaire – perhaps even India – are probably now more “central” to the Christian faith than Britian is. And those countries all have a Christian history of their own, in which the missionary period is only an episode.’

More gaps in my knowledge - so many books, so little time...

Strange reversals

It is a great irony that over the last couple of hundred years, some Christians and some Muslims have made it easier for people to convert to the other faith.

Speaking of the expansion of the Muslim Fulani Empire, the destruction of the Old Oyo Empire that led to the Yoruba wars, and the subsequent influx of Egba people into the coastal regions of Nigeria in the early 19th century, Ajayi contends that ‘[i]ndirectly therefore the last advance that Islam made to the south prepared the way for the advance inland of the influences of Christian Europe.’

[J. F. Ade Ajayi, Christian missions in Nigeria, 1841-1891: the making of a new élite (London: Longmans, 1965), p. 23.]


‘Curiously enough, under the British empire, and as a direct result of British policy, Islam received indefinitely more converts than the jihads had ever brought it. It is also true that the British Raj assisted in this respect by Christian missions, produced the conditions for a reformation and revitalization of Hindu faith. In the end, is it possible that the other faiths of the world, more than Christianity, will prove to be the real beneficiaries of the Imperial period?’

[Andrew F. Walls, ‘British Missions’, in Missionary ideologies in the imperialist era, 1880-1920, eds Torben Christensen and William R. Hutchison (Århus, Denmark: Aros, 1982), pp. 159-65, p. 165].

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

under the aforementioned inspiration of Dave Gorman

I am now a googlewhack. If you look at this post I expect you'll be able to guess which two words, when put into google, come up with just a single website, namely this blog.

Strictly speaking, according to the criteria used on DG's hilarious bet, it's not valid, because neither word appears in the dictionary used by google. But the poverty of that dictionary need not stand in my way. Each word is in current use and may be found on thousands of websites relating to Christian eschatology or music theory. So there. I don't care if the official googlewhack website doesn't agree with me - I demand my moment of satisfaction!

to explain that name...

in the dim and distant past the Cambridge University staff and student e-mail service was what you might call functional - using courier as a font, no frills, and limited character allowance in personal nicknames or aliases. So, my good friend Richard Brash tried to call himself "Prof Richard Brash", with the amusing result you see below. With characteristic understatement, I was "The Maestro"...

Monday, 13 August 2007

Prof Richard Bras

The new father has returned to the blogosphere! Some quality thoughts on a verse that is one of my favourites as well. I enjoy it because of its setting. The threefold attack on Christ by successive waves of the establishment intelligensia, just before they have him killed.

To the first question (is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?) Jesus gives a 'proper' response, which is to say that he accepts the question as valid and uses it as a springboard for a cutting response about covenant fidelity to YHWH. After all, YHWH's image is much more prominent and important than any mere Caesar's is!

To the second, from the Saducees, he takes an 'orthodox' Jewish line, as it were. The response is just plain rude - no fancy work. Direct and to the point.

The third - well, look at that one yourself...

God means business: Obadiah then and now (2)

Following a hefty recap, and brandishing the maps and timelines requested by the congregation last week, I launched into Obadiah 15-21...

In verse 15 Obadiah's prophecy takes on a grander flavour...

The day of the LORD

* is near
* is for all nations
* involves perfectly fair justice
* you need to be on Mount Zion to be safe then
* God will rule

The fourth point was the longest - it involved a test case of OT prophetic interpretation, following David Field's lead, putting Obadiah in the context of apostolic usage of Amos 9 (which Obadiah expands on) and Joel 2 (which quotes Obadiah regarding deliverance on Mount Zion). This leads us to see the fulfilment of these prophecies (including those regarding land) in Christ and in the renewal of Israel by the incorporating of Gentiles through the mission of the church.

Some technical hitches (!) and I have now lost my voice, which does not bode well for a talk I have to deliver tomorrow, but I am grateful to God for getting me through my first OT 'mini-series' in a way which was helpful to me and to at least some of the listeners.

Need to think more about specific works that help us to find Christ in the Old Testament, as it were, as a good question by Al revealed... He recommended Motyer, Look to the Rock, which I ought to get hold of ASAP.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

chess and childishness

Slow as ever to take advantage of the benefits of technology and proper searching on the Internet, I have only just come across this excellent website ( of top-notch games, playable in a PGN viewer that seems to be built into the webpage.

Best of all so far to my infantile tastes are the King's Gambit adventures of Finnish GM Heikki Westerinen (and I shouldn't say it, as it's rather patronising, but I so love Finnish names!) who certainly doesn't worry about material, king position or being in any way sensible as he blazes around the board having a lot of fun. I wasn't brave enough to play 3. Nc3 or Bc4 in real games (following the advice of Joe Gallagher, I always played 3. Nf3), but it's nice to find someone post-1900 who is. This one is very nice indeed.

I also like his sartorial style (see the bottom of the profiles page...)

Friday, 10 August 2007

a whole new world

An ex-Anglican Orthodox Christian writes on Pentecostal and other Independent responses to witchcraft in South Africa. You learn something new every day (though I have to confess that the novelty of neo-paganism was not a secret - yes it was all made up in the 1930s and 40s...)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Sons of Korah

are a wonderful Australian band who sing the Psalms to an international blend of folky, jazzy, jiggy and ballady music. We have all of their CDs - and the £ is still pretty strong against the $AUS so now is a good time to lay in supplies of their excellent work.

On the Psalms SoK have this to say...

They are the supreme biblical portrayal of the spiritual life in all its facets and dynamics. They speak powerfully to a postmodern world that is generally more interested in what the biblical faith looks like from the inside than its abstract doctrinal expression. And for the church today the psalms present a compelling challenge to the often one-dimensional and romanticized spirituality that we find it so hard to move beyond. The psalms portray a rich, multifaceted and real spirituality. They speak powerfully to those who are well acquainted both with the sting of a cursed world and the sweetness of God’s love and grace in Jesus Christ. The psalms were originally written as songs and they were intended to be used. They have a role in the spiritual life and they perform this role as songs. The best way to meditate on God’s word is to use music and indeed this was one of dominant original purposes of the psalms.

Much of the time their songs are only Psalm portions - but that's a lot better than no Psalms at all. Sadly they are not great for congregational singing, either - but it's this kind of work that should help to bring the Psalms back into Protestant worship and into evangelical services. I hope and pray that their music develops and that they inspire others to take this further... Meanwhile, the devotional potential of really getting into this stuff is huge.

under the inspiration of Dave Gorman

I thought I'd get a couple of things off my chest. (1) Having been amillennial in eschatology for most of my life, I've been recently tempted by postmillennialism. Its basic optimism in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ is attractive. And it is alive to subtle literary-theological reading of prophecy and apocalyptic, and to preterism, which in small doses is inherently plausible, to my mind. (2) I love the unsettling driving power of the hemiola in Brahms and Dvorak, especially. But it also pops up subtly in the minor Ravel Valse in the style of Borodin, to great effect.

Monday, 6 August 2007

in the post today...

University of Leicester

Faculty of the Social Sciences

It is hereby certified that

James Michael Williams

was awarded the


in Management

on the sixth day of July 2007

Robert Burgess
(Registrar and Secretary)

Who would have thought it!? (I had quite forgotten about it, given that I completed the work last September...) Still, I do feel quite chuffed.

"Boris Johnson would destroy London's unity"

said somebody with an OBE who is black and who has suffered as a result of racist violence. Yet that hardly justifies the comment being the front page "news" article of Saturday's Guardian! How is that news!? If someone wrote this in the Kiddiminster Weeky Advertiser would you be impressed... 'A hostile opinion to the mayoral candidacy of Mr B Johnson, Con., was expressed yesterday... blah, blah...' Come on Guardian, you can do better than front-page ad hominem. It's not as if the article actually said very much beyond that except to quote bits of Johnson's journalism out of context. If we were looking for a balanced look at the candidates we might have expected some comments on Livingstone's bloopers, but in any case we weren't - we were looking for NEWS on the front page of a respectable NEWSpaper!

God means business: Obadiah then and now (1)

Following a provocative suggestion from David Field about modern-day 'brothers' of the people of God, I began with a quotation about Orthodox persecution of Protestants (Russian, but cf. Armenia, Ethiopia, Greece, etc), and then introduced the liberal media as dependent brother to the church. [The small evening congregation at Rock Baptist last night were generously indulgent with that!]

All this was a preamble to Obadiah 1-14...

* Judgement is real, coming, and terrible (1-6)
* Trust in God (3-9)
* Love your neighbour (10-14)

Since the Edomites were destroyed as predicted, we know that God means business. He will exalt his people even as they humble themselves and are humiliated by enemies (including enemies who really should know better).

Christ himself came to live the full life of obedience - loving God and neighbour - and by his power we too can escape being Edomites and live as true Israelites.

With thanks to DF for making his fabulous study guide on Obadiah available online. A mine of useful information and rich suggestions for those wishing to preach from the shortest book in the Old Testament!

in search of a title

I know there's a clever title out there somewhere waiting for me to stumble upon it.

The music is decided already, though - works in the style of (or in deep homage to) other composers...

Debussy [Czerny], Dr Gradus ad Parnassum and No. 1 (pour les 'cinq doigts') from the Douze Etudes.

Grieg [Gade], Lyric Pieces, Op. 57, No. 2, 'Gade'.

Howells [Finzi], 'Finzi's Rest' from Howells' Clavicord.

Schumann, 'Chopin' and 'Paganini' from Carnaval, Op. 9.

Barber [Field], Nocturne, Op. 33.

Ravel [Borodin], A la maniere de Borodine: Valse

PDQ Bach [you name it], Prelude and Fugues from The Short-Tempered Clavier.

Samuel Barber Op Posth

At the back of the excellent Schirmer Edition (1993) of Barber's Complete Piano Music is a bonus work in Eb minor, the 'Interlude I'. What a charming piece - quite unlike his other music, it eschews ostentatious discords in favour of playing gently with the extremes of the piano compass. There's a rousing middle section to keep the adolescent within happy, too.

People of the Book? Kind of...

John Barton, People of the Book? The Authority of the Bible in Christianity, 2nd edn (London: SPCK, 1993) has very little time for the likes of me! (Well... not quite true, as his tone is often gracious, and he sometimes even compliments 'fundamentalists' for their piety.) He is very concerned to undermine modern biblicism, and in this second edition also to bring out a constructive alternative. There are good things to plunder is this book - it is very erudite, eloquent and insightful - but overall I think he's wrong. Most of the time he falls for the fallacy of the excluded middle, but he is also fond of stating things as if they were arguments in favour of his position, when in fact they are not...

The arrival of Jesus, and of the new work God accomplished through him, draws its significance from the knowledge of God that already existed in Israel, and would be meaningless without it. (33)

Anyone would think, from the number of times Barton makes this claim in the early chapters of the work, Barton that he imagined it is a special insight of his own. But the ‘fundamentalists’ he criticises would say exactly the same thing. It is possible that there are some Dispensationalists, somewhere in America, who would in practice chop up salvation history in such a way as to undermine their assent to Barton's claim. But the conservative circles I move in would not do so. Nor would the even more thoroughly Reformed around the world. It is hardly the culminating blow of an argument against ‘fundamentalist’ handling of the Bible.

Bizarrely, Barton frequently couples it with a very strong anti-supersecessionist assertion. On page 33, he continues, Jesus’ God is the God of Israel, and that means not only of ancient Israel, but of Judaism. Christians who are antisemitic are cutting themselves off from their own roots, making Christianity into a new religion divorced from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the God of the Jews. For Barton to claim that to deny the religious validity of modern Judaism is the same as antisemitism, with all the unsavoury and evil associations of that word, is highly irresponsible. He does not even argue this point he merely asserts it by juxtaposition.

Now, whether or not there is any continuing significance to Judaism and precisely what that significance is is hardly an uncontroversial point among those Barton labels ‘fundamentalists’ (of course it has historical, personal, sociological and cultural significance - the question is of its theological status). It would seem to me, however, that a strong case can be made that modern Judaism is essentially a creation of anti-Christian rabbis, and bears very little resemblance to Barton’s ‘God of Israel’. If we want to get all ethnic about it, then the first followers of Jesus (later, ‘Christians’) were all Jews, and many theologians have convincingly argued that ‘the church’ is true Israel. [Perhaps the best-known of these writers today is the Bishop of Durham, Tom Wright, and I don't think he's signed up to antisemitism yet.] God’s plans have matured, and since the faithful remnant within Israel constitute true Israel – a common theme in later OT prophecy – that faithful remnant who embraced the maturing of God’s plans in the coming of the Messiah (ie. those who were later called ‘Christians’, first Jews and then Gentiles) are the theologically significant ones. Real ‘Judaism’ is now real ‘Christianity’, just as the faith of Abraham matured into the faith of Mosaic Judiasm as God’s revelation proceeded…

As regards Barton’s central thesis, the falsity of a ‘ fundamentalism that comes closest to adopting in Christianity theory of scripture like the majority Islamic view of the Qur'an – supernaturally inspired in origin, inerrant in content, oracular in function’ (1), I shall doubtless have more to say in future posts.

Note: for a taster on the typology of Jesus as Israel, see this post. And especially note who Leithart is dependent on: the Anglican theologian Austin Farrer, John Barton's old tutor and hero! Perhaps this is too obscure to be irony, but...

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Hidden Treasure (from 20th July)

British Piano Music of the last 100 years - the longest solo recital I've ever given! Like all the best pastimes, it was a game of two halves. There were four works by living composers, three of whom were in the audience, which was a great honour for me. These three works were world premieres, and one composer is a student of mine (piano, not composition, needless to say!) so all in all it was a grand night.

Nicholas Britton (b.1979) Piano Sonata: a piece in two movements

The first movement of this work, written when the composer was just 17, recalls sonata form (exposition-development-recapitulation), the mainstay of art music from Haydn to Brahms and beyond. The distant, non-committal first theme is replaced by a second, cool and aloof. The middle section erupts into Bacchic revelry – but all the music ideas in this tightly-knit work are based on those of the exposition, including those of the coda, which comes to a weary resting point. The second movement is a rondo (ABACAD…) woven from the same tension between energy and resignation. In the light of this, it is up to each individual listener to interpret the ambiguous ending, which descends from E to E through a series of perfect fourths.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) Three-Fours (Valse Suite), Op. 71, Nos 1, 5 & 3

His songs and smaller instrumental works were all the rage in the early part of the century, but all went quiet until Classic FM rediscovered and popularised Coleridge-Taylor’s violin concerto a few years ago. His father, from Sierra Leone, had faced insurmountable prejudice in starting his medical career in England, but young Samuel was perhaps too successful: extensive concert tours and a professorship at Trinity College London contributed to his early death from exhaustion. This set of waltzes reveals the hand of a fine pianist with a real gift for melody. The first is very ambiguous in mood and tonality until the helter-skelter final few lines. A majestic E flat major is the key of the fifth, a broad romance. The third, in D minor, full of insistent repetition, somehow manages to be fast, angry and noble all at the same time. Its middle section is constructed out of leaping chords and is perhaps the only part of the Suite actually suitable for dancing.

Mark Roberts (b.1990) Dreaming

This is tonight’s second work by a 17-year old composer. Mark is a student at Hills Rd VI Form College in Cambridge and as his piano teacher I was lucky enough to see it take shape earlier in the year. After a gentle, impressionistic introduction (Freely flowing: “mist”) the main theme is stated in F minor over a moving accompaniment (Flowing, warm; “stirring”) and re-stated by the left hand at half speed (Relaxed, expressive; “moving”). After some rhapsodic passages reminiscent of the late romantics, the theme returns in quiet triumph in F major. The work has a moody jazz inflection throughout and is bursting with juicy harmony in sixths and sevenths.

Herbert Howells (1892-1983) Howells’ Clavichord

Between 1941 and 1961 Howells wrote two large books of pieces ‘for clavichord or piano’, each one dedicated to a different musical friend and all in the style of the English keyboard anthologies of the Elizabethan Age. Although Britain is not the first place you think of in connection with piano music (and some of tonight’s pieces were hard to track down) there is a distinguished tradition of keyboard writing from the Tudor period onwards worth further exploration. Goff’s Fireside is for the clavichord maker Thomas Goff. Dyson’s Delight, silky and smooth, has nothing to do with vacuum cleaners, but is dedicated to the composer Sir George Dyson. Sir Ernest Bullock, organist of Westminster Abbey is honoured in the frenetic EB’s Fanfarando, and my selection closes with Ralph’s Pavane, which is very much in the style of Vaughan Williams himself.

Eric Coates (1886-1957) London Suite

This is simple, unpretentious light music at its best, and it is unmistakeably English. It was composed in 1933 by the man best known for his “Dambusters” March, who, like Coleridge-Taylor, was the son of a doctor. The opening Tarantella (Covent Garden) drives forward through the busy, colourful market. Westminster is a chordal meditation, occasionally reminiscent of Elgar, who was a great champion of Coates’ music. Listen out for the bells at the end, which are in fact native to a church in Cambridge, and were only imported into London! The third movement of the suite, Knightsbridge (March), became popular as the theme tune to BBC radio’s ‘In Town Tonight’. Please feel free to sing along or dance in the aisle.

R. Caroline Bosanquet (b.1940) Suite for Piano 2006

Caroline Bosanquet, who hails from Bangor, was Senior Lecturer at Anglia Polytechnic University for more than 30 years. Having studied piano and cello at the Royal Academy of music she built her career on the cello and has published numerous pieces for her instrument, several articles and a book, The Secret Life of Cello Strings. This suite was completed last year, with minor revisions earlier this week.! It is a series of miniatures designed to explore the different moods and techniques of the piano, almost as if the instrument were a paintbox. There is wonderful attention to detail in the Prelude: A Short Conversation, which soon gives way to a Wild Dance. The solemn Sarabande, which plays on the blend of major and minor flavours, is the emotional centre of the work. Counterpoint is the hallmark of The Chase. The two hands race round after each other in ever decreasing circles, occasionally stopping to enjoy some thumping, an extended lyrical moment and some of the conversation from the first piece before vanishing off into the distance.

Dorothy Pilling (1910?-2000?) Vignettes

A former student of the composer at the Royal School of Music in Manchester, wrote that she was ‘an iron-haired, ramrod-stiff battleaxe with an encyclopaedic knowledge of harmony and the history of western classical music. She brooked neither argument from, nor discussion with her students. Her lectures on history and “musical appreciation” were mercilessly tedious but laden with factual info for anybody who could stay awake for long enough to listen. This unapproachable old boot would do absolutely anything for any student who plucked up the courage to approach her; nothing was too much trouble.’ What a tribute! Another student of hers was a relative of mine, who kindly gave me this autographed score, which languished in the cupboard until I rediscovered it on my quest for British piano music. The set opens with an Idyll, something of a ‘salon’ piece, enlivened by surprising harmonies and a splendid canon in the slower middle section in which the left hand echoes the melody of the right as it climbs to the climax. Mirages is altogether more serious, almost ponderous if not given a light touch. Promenade brings some humour to the proceedings by invoking the bustling, yet terribly genteel world of Jeeves & Wooster and Lord Peter Wimsey. But these works date from 1957, not 1927. Was Pilling striving to recapture the England that had passed away?

Edmund Bloxam (b.1983) Melodien 1

The composer writes… Melody is something that dominates all of music. This piece is some reflections upon what melody actually is. It shifts in and out of focus through a variety of means, sometimes through spacing in time, sometimes spacing in harmony, sometimes simply space. Its final appearance, now as a complete entity, acts like an ‘Ode to Joy’, but finds its own simplicity and closed position in time like a restrictive jacket, so it aggressively throws it off and embraces multifarious sound. Edmund is finishing a Masters degree in Composition at Bristol University and has given several concerts here in Cambridge of new music mingled with the piano works of Edvard Grieg.

Edward Elgar (1857-1934) In Smyrna & Skizze

These are rare pianistic gems from a composer much better known for his bombastic marches and sumptuous orchestral writing. Skizze was published in 1903 in an obscure German periodical, dedicated to a great champion of Elgar’s music on the continent, Professor Julius Buths. Never standing still, it is a perfectly formed miniature, sharing the advanced harmonic language of Elgar’s largest work, The Apostles, which was completed in the same year. In Smyrna followed in 1905, inspired by a visit to a Turkish mosque made during an intoxicating Mediterranean cruise. Although coloured by ‘oriental’ touches, it is unmistakeably the product of Edwardian England.

Richard Addinsell (1904-1977) Warsaw Concerto

The film Dangerous Moonlight, about a Polish pianist/pilot who joins the RAF during the Second World War, was a patriotic romance that suited the needs and mood of audiences of 1941. The centrepiece of its score has stood the test of time rather more successfully. Its enduring popularity lies in the fundamental quality of the material such that it transcends mere pastiche. It actually feels more Russian than Polish – Rachmaninov, not Chopin – but I’m not complaining as it’s a joy to perform. The arrangement for solo piano (from the original piano/orchestral version) is by Henry Geehl and dates from 1942, by which time the work was so popular that it had been released in nine instrumental versions, including organ and piano accordion. Hmm…