The winner of the recent Open Piano Competition in London was Valentin Bogolubov. In his final prize-winning recital he included a couple of pieces from my White Book 2 – Night Journey to Cordoba, and The Sadness of the King. It’s possible to hear the detailed and imaginative performances he gave of these pieces here . Valentin will be playing these pieces again in April in Toronto. At the same concert he will also give the first piano performance of Ay!
Ay! is a Spanish exclamation that denotes surprise or pain; one hears it in the cries of flamenco singers. It also features in the early poetry of Lorca, some of which I used for my choral piece Graphic of the Petenera where it’s normally translated as ‘Oh’. The piano piece, which is slow and melancholic, fuses a tango rhythm with elements of modal Spanish harmony.
It’s taken a few years for Ay! to find its way onto the piano as it was originally written at the request of Serbian harpsichordist Smilja Isakovic, and given its first performance by her at the National Library in Belgrade. After that it sat on a shelf for a while until the recording sessions for my CD Undiscovered Islands. The original plan had been to include on the disk, and it was beautifully played by Mark Tanner during the sessions at St George’s Bristol. However, once the recordings were done we discovered that there was too much music for the CD and something had to be left out! Given that most of the other pieces were grouped together in sets then Ay! was the logical choice as the one to put aside.
French harpsichordist Hélène Diot – who will soon be playing Admiring Yoro Waterfall in Paris – recently sent me a recording of Ay!, which is the first time I’d heard it on the harpsichord as I didn’t get to its premiere in Belgrade. It’s fascinating to hear the music on both the harpsichord and the piano; you can listen to Hélène’s recording here