Salem was the unusual location for my latest world premiere, in the charming Hamilton Hall (pictured) one of several hundred beautiful c1800 houses in the Chestnut Street District. This one has a huge sprung floor (for ballroom dancing) covering a whole upper storey, in which our concert with Boston Artists Ensemble took place. Note also the period American flag with fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. Now, without looking it up, how many stripes does it have these days?
My new work, Three Chorales for cello and piano was personally commissioned by BAE’s cellist Jonathan Miller, who makes a noble, dark sound on his famous cello, the ‘Paganini-Piatti Gofriller’. Casually during a rehearsal, Jonathan pointed out that his cello had been owned in the early twentieth century by the English cellist Felix Salmond, and that therefore this very instrument had given the premiere of the Elgar Cello Concerto (as well as the Elgar String Quartet and Piano Quintet.) What an astonishing thing to learn while my own premiere was being prepared! Elgar-ologists will know that the cello concerto premiere was a bit of a disaster, with Albert Coates hogging the rehearsal time with the LSO which Elgar himself needed. But I’m glad to say this was not the case in Salem, with a carefully prepared first performance from Jonathan and pianist Randall Hodgkinson which I very much enjoyed, an unusual feat where my own new works are concerned.