Variations for Judith
On 18 June 2012, I had the honour to premiere a present: A set of variations on Bach’s ‘Bist Du bei mir’, the aria found in Anna Magdalena Bach’s Notebook. Written by composers of today, for someone who worked consistently to give the composers of today a worthy festival and a stage: Judith Serota, Spitalfields Festival’s Executive Director from 1988 – 2007.
The 11 variations are by 11 different composers, all of whom have had some personal and / or professional connection with Spitalfields: Richard Rodney Bennett, Michael Berkeley, Diana Burrell, Anthony Burton, Jonathan Dove, Stephen Johns, Peter Maxwell Davies, Thea Musgrave, Tarik O’Regan, Anthony Payne and Judith Weir.
Each respect the brevity of the aria, and are in many ways a very personal musical letter to Judith. There is however a huge variety of moods: some are quirky and humorous, others more sombre; some pay tribute to the acoustics of Shoreditch Church where the variations were first performed, others to the choral writing of Bach. Each one of them is a unique gem in a wonderful collection that commemorates Judith’s precious involvement with the organisation. When Judith asked me whether I would want to premiere these pieces, I did not hesitate one second!
The world premiere of Variations for Judith took place at Spitalfields Music Summer Festival on 18 June 2012 and further performances have included the Cheltenham Music, St Albans International Organ, Harrogate International festivals and Cambridge Summer Music. Variations for Judith is published by Chester Music Limited and available from NMC Recordings in digital format.
Variations for Judith is an ongoing project and further variations are expected as soon as 2015.
The new set of Variations will premier in January 2015 and will include the following composers:
Julian Grant, Simon Rowland Jones, Toby Young, Aaron Holloway, and Francis Potts.
“Despite the diverse compositional styles, each piece easily flows from one to the next, abetted by Melvyn Tan’s mellifluous and caring interpretations. A most enjoyable, enchanting 22 minutes of music, well worth downloading.”