John McCabe - composer and pianist

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Edward II reviews

Edward II reviews

Music: John McCabe
David Bintley

Costume Design: Jasper Conran
Set Design:
Peter J. Davison
Peter Mumford
Edward II

The music speaks overwhelmingly of dangerous force, with its darkly varied percussion and brilliantly menacing brass, and Bintley responds to this with compellingly vicious dance for Mortimer and his mob. Dressed by Jasper Conran in glittering black leather, they bridle and leap in militaristic formation, often banging their fists against the scenery to add their own macho clamour to the orchestra.
Judith Mackrell The Guardian 11 October 1997
  McCabe's music makes them [the characters] all graphically alive: he and Bintley have added a vital English ballet to the handful of modern evening-length works that deserve to endure.
Jann Parry The Observer 12 October 1997

 Edward II is a triumph, a ballet drama of sweeping and chilling scale that showers credit on everyone involved: on John McCabe, a magnificent incomprehensibly little-known composer; on Peter J. Davison and Jasper Conran, the designers; and on its superb performers, as well as on Bintley himself, who hits an epic range, from delicacy to brutishness.
Ismene Brown The Daily Telegraph 13 October 1997

The commissioned score by John McCabe surges turbulently with rich orchestration - even taking in an electric guitar - and rises to all the dramatic high spots.

David Dougill The Sunday Times 19 October 1997


Edward II, based on Marlowe's play... proves triumphantly that, in the right hands, the murkiest tale can make devastating dance... but it is John McCabe's score which tweaks the tension with the most consummate control. There is an unforgettable moment when naked Death stalks the stage to mark the outbreak of civil war, tracked by an insistent, dull thud of a bass brum. If this was compounded by my own terrified heartbeat I could not tell. David Bintley has set a challenging precedent for narrative ballet - not pretty, but very, very potent.
Jenny Gilbert The Independent on Sunday 19 October 1997

John McCabe's score for the ballet is not only a superb dramatic piece of music in its own right, but helps dance and narrative at every point. Peter J. Davison's sets and Jasper Conran's costumes blend with each other, with the music and with the dance in an excitingly unified work.
Nicholas Dromgoole The Sunday Telegraph 19 October 1997




The narrative pace and John McCabe's racing strings and angry drums zip along so that we can cut right to the chase... Within ten minutes we know who's who and what they are up to. It's a strong tale, told with conviction, danced with passion and staged with the greatest possible style.
Louise Levene The Independent 11 October 1997



The Birmingham Royal Ballet has cause for rejoicing. David Bintley's Edward II, in its British première, has the sweep and magnificence which befits this adaptation of Marlowe's play and it can only add further lustre to a company which continues to soar to the stars. Peter J. Davison's settings, Jasper Conran's costumes and John McCabe's sonorous score all stay in the mind after the curtain falls.
Richard Edmonds The Birmingham Post 11 October 1997






Commissioned by the Stuttgart Ballet, choreographer David Bintley, and first performed in Stuttgart on 15 April 1995, the British première of Edward II was given by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at Birmingham Hippodrome on 9 October 1997. Refer to the events page for future performances of McCabe ballets.