All his life John McCabe was in love with music. This love began at the very start of his life. He purchased copies of Haydn and Beethoven scores with his pocket money, and as his life was drawing to a close he was fascinated to hear the music of a Scottish early composer, Robert Carver, of whom he had hitherto known little. John’s love was for the art of music, and for his joy in the created sounds. It was not self-seeking, even though, as with any composer, he had an imperative drive to express himself in music. For this reason he was as happy to listen to the successful work of other composers as to succeed himself, and as a pianist he was able to take part in and promote the music of others. Above everything he fought to extend knowledge of the repertoire, so that such wonderful music as Haydn’s keyboard sonatas and Nielsen’s solo piano music did not lie neglected in dusty corners, for lack of a champion. He gave performances, including first, second and more performances, of such composers as Hoddinott, Richard Rodney Bennett, Maw, Mathias, Joubert, Anthony Gilbert, Tippett, Hugh Wood, Gerard Schurmann, Edward Gregson, and many others. He gave magnificent performances of Bax, while loving and appreciating Webern. Nor did he neglect to take interest in the work of the rising generation of composers, such as Emily Howard, Martin Ellerby, Matthew Taylor and James Francis Brown. And he paid tribute to the work of his composition teacher, Thomas Pitfield.
It is in recognition of this generous and wide-ranging devotion to the art of music that John Turner has gathered together this set of compositions in John’s memory, composed in 2016, a tribute he would have been touched and proud to receive. Other tributes to John, in the form of choral, organ and piano pieces have also been written, set up by George Vass, which logistics would not allow to be included in this collection, but which I hope will one day be recorded. The works on this Divine Art CD are by Peter Dickinson, John Joubert, Edward Gregson, Robert Saxton, Howard Skempton, Elis Pehkonen, Robin Walker, Malcolm Lipkin, William Marshall, Martin Ellerby, Rob Keeley, James Francis Brown, Gerard Schurmann, Anthony Gilbert, Christopher Gunning, David Matthews, Raymond Warren, Emily Howard and Gary Carpenter. They are performed by Linda Merrick (clarinet), John Turner (recorders), Alistair Vennart (viola) and Peter Lawson (piano), on Divine Art CD dda 25166, available February 2018. The CD cover is of an original oil-painting of John by Angela Palmer.
© Monica McCabe 2018