Being asked to make a radio programme on Faure’s only string quartet – his last work, written at almost 80, rekindled my fascination (obsession?) with this amazing and under-appreciated composer. The image of him as a charming but superficial composer is just about as perfectly wrong as it could be.
Recently, I’ve been completely drawn into the strange and haunting world of his later Nocturnes, for piano solo. Last year I put together with Michael Hurley a performance of five of them, interleaved with dark, soul-searching poetry from Manley Hopkins, Tennyson, Hardy, Rossetti and Arnold – we performed it in Robinson College chapel in near-darkness amidst pools of candle-light, at 10pm on a Monday evening in November, and to our amazement, got a full house. Now I’m putting on the programme again in the lovely space of Emmanuel UR Church as part of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival. I’m thrilled to be performing alongside two wonderful readers: Robin Kirkpatrick and Rebecca Stott.
I love contemporary dance, and have long wanted to collaborate on a new dance piece. So now I’m very excited to be doing just that. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing a piece with choreographer Susie Crow, from Ballet in Small Spaces, and the excellent dancers of Cambridge Contemporary Dance. The inspiration for our piece is the second part of Dante’s Divine Comedy: Purgatory. We’re still looking for a title – the word purgatory itself has a fusty sound and doesn’t exactly make the heart leap… – but the ideas, of persistence, movement, striving, transformation, redemption, certainly have great resonance today as much as ever.
The piece will be performed in Robinson College on Saturday April 25th as part of an exciting new collaborative venture imaginatively put together by Robin Kirkpatrick, a great Dante enthusiast and a distinguished poet and translator. The whole evening will comprise a multitude of new pieces drawing together film-makers, actors, musicians, dancers, composers, poets, choreographers, painters and sculptors. Our piece will trace a spiralling and rising progression which music and dance will literally work their way across a wide lateral space, in a process of catharsis and fulfilment.