Judith Serota was Executive Director of the Spitalfields Festival in east London for nearly twenty years until late 2007. As a surprise leaving present to her, the then Artistic Director of the Festival, Diana Burrell, conceived the idea of assembling a set of piano pieces for her to play, and asked each of Spitalfields' former Artistic Directors to contribute a variation.
Note by Anthony Burton
Judith Serota was Executive Director of the Spitalfields Festival in east London for nearly twenty years until late 2007. As a surprise leaving present to her, the then Artistic Director of the Festival, Diana Burrell, conceived the idea of assembling a set of (easy to intermediate) piano pieces for her to play.
These were to be a set of variations. The theme, chosen by Chris Sayers (Guest Artistic Director Summer 1994), was Bist du bei mir, a song for voice and continuo in the second Clavierbüchlein or 'Little Keyboard Book' compiled for, and partly by, Bach's second wife Anna Magdalena. With its text beginning 'If thou art with me, then I go gladly to my rest', this was for many years assumed to be a devotional song by Bach himself. But it is now known to be an aria from the German opera Diomedes by Bach's contemporary Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, probably adapted by Bach. The theme was realised by the organist David Titterington.
The variations were written by the Artistic Directors with whom Judith had worked, who according to Festival policy were all composers - with the exception of two non-composer guest directors. In chronological order, they were Michael Berkeley and Anthony Payne (joint Artistic Directors 1995-1997), Judith Weir (joint Artistic Director in the same period and then sole Artistic Director 1998-2000), Stephen Johns (Guest Artistic Director Winter 2000), Anthony Burton (Guest Artistic Director Summer 2001), Jonathan Dove (Artistic Director 2001-2006) and Diana Burrell (Artistic Director 2006-2009). The resulting Klavierbüchlein für Judith Serota was first performed by Andrew Blankfield, a Spitalfields Music trustee, at Judith's leaving party on 30 November 2007 - to the astonishment and delight of its dedicatee.
Subsequently the project was accepted for publication by Music Sales Ltd, and has been enlarged by the addition of variations by several distinguished composers associated with the publishing houses of Chester and Novello - some of them with links to the Festival or to Judith Serota herself. They are, in alphabetical order, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Thea Musgrave and Tarik O'Regan. Melvyn Tan gave the first performance of the full set, in an order of his devising, on 18 June in the Spitalfields Music summer festival. It is being published this year - with some of the proceeds going, at the dedicatee's request, to Dimbleby Cancer Care - under the new title of Variations for Judith.
Melvyn Tan piano
Find out more about the project on the Variations for Judith website
1. GH Stölzel, Arr JS Bach, realised by David Titterington Theme: Bist du bei mir
2. Stephen Johns Spitalfields Echoes
3. Anthony Payne Loose Canon for Jude
4. Tarik O’Regan Diomedes
5. Judith Weir To Judith, from Judith
6. Anthony Burton Breaking Away
7. Richard Rodney Bennett Little Elegy
8. Diana Burrell Music for Judith
9. Thea Musgrave Prelude
10. Michael Berkeley Lullaby
11. Peter Maxwell Davies Bist du bei mir, oder… ?
12. Jonathan Dove Ist Bach bei mir
HIDDEN GEMS OF 2012: A SNAPSHOT OF OUR COMPOSING TIMES
'Each piece flows from one to the next, abetted by Tan's mellifluous and caring interpretations. A most enjoyable, enchanting 22 minutes of music, well worth downloading' Gramophone
‘Most characterful of these 11 variations are Anthony Payne’s ‘Loose Canon’, which presents melodic lines in conflicting keys to startling effect, and Richard Rodney Bennett’s touching and poignantly harmonised ‘Little Elegy’ BBC Music Magazine
‘The pieces are exquisitely played by Melvyn Tan.’ Shock of the New
All works were recorded on 21 May 2012 at The Menuhin Hall, Yehudi Menuhin School, Cobhan, Surrey.
Recording Engineer/ Producer: DAVID LEFEBER
(P) 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd
© 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd
Catalogue number: NMC DL3009
Release Date: 18 June 2012