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The music that made me

Composer of the Month Brian Hughes reflects on the pieces that have influenced his career.

My earliest classical music memory

That would be Czerny piano studies and Beethoven's Sonata in G, op49, No2  

(my party piece as a young pianist). 

The piece that inspired me to be a composer

This was Schubert's 9th Symphony - the opening horn motif is a pathway to a sea of miraculous melody and drama that seems to capture the essence of Schubert's brief life... all made more poignant since the composer never heard a note of the work in his lifetime.

West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim perform Schubert’s 9th Symphony at the BBC Proms 11 August 2024 ▶ info

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The piece(s) I wish I had written

There are many contenders for this! Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, full of invention and a rare glimpse of Bartok with a smile.

Ionisation by Edgar Varese. Thirteen percussion instruments including piano that transform precision and sheer colour into a six-minute extravaganza.

Four Sea interludes from Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten, so evocative and full of truly remarkable orchestral sonority.

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WNO's production of Peter Grimes runs from 5 April - 7 June 2025 ▶ info

My comfort music

Music is never a comfort to me; it is something that invigorates and makes life worth living.

The music that reignites my imagination

This would have to be The Graveyard scene from The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky. The drama of life and death, reminiscent of the game of chess played between the Knight and Death in Bergman's film 'The Seventh Seal' - there is here such mastery of English declamation, and the expression of human despair and satanic power.

Grange Festival Opera performs The Rake's Progress 23 June - 6 July 2024 ▶ info

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Igor Stravinsky by Pablo Picasso

The recording I would give as a gift

The old Amadeus recording of Mozart's String Quartet K 387 was amazing, but I would now choose the Ariel Quartet's recording of the piece which bubbles with exhilaration and joy, and has a fugal finale that would make Bach proud.

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The Amadeus Quartet

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