Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano
May 3rd, 1994, 12pm
Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham
Poeme: The God Marduk
September 18th, 1999, 7.30pm
St John's Church, Fulham
Voices Chamber Ensemble concert
Sacred Mass for Solo Violin
Abbeys and Churches in France
Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano
November 24th 2021
St Alphege Church, Solihull
MIT Chapel, Cambridge Massachusetts, the location of the American premiere of Mass for Solo Violin (Photo by Daderot)
An account by his wife and publisher, Cynthia Downes, posted on April 30th, 2018
Andrew wrote his Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano for a special concert in memory of Ernest Element, who had been a leading violinist of his generation.
Ernest founded and led the Element String Quartet. Andrew's uncle, Herbert Downes, who was principal viola player in the Philharmonia Orchestra, was violist in the quartet.
Andrew's inscription at the top of the score reads: "In memory of Ernest Element, a great musician and a lovely man".
Violinist, Roger Huckle, former pupil of Ernest Element, and pianist, John Bishop, two fine players who also had great respect and affection for Ernie, gave a wonderfully moving first performance of Andrew's unique and beautiful Sonata in the Adrian Boult Hall on 3rd May 1994. Roger played on a Guarnerius violin, which sounded absolutely wonderful in the Boult Hall. I will never forget the exquisite sound which Roger made.
Review of the concert:
Letters from pianist John Bishop following the premiere:
The overall style of the piece brings together idioms from around the world, with which Andrew had been concerned as he set up his new Department of Creative Studies at Birmingham Conservatoire and within it World Music. There is a melting together of English and Celtic styles with elements of Indian Ragas, and African and Indian rhythms in the fast multi-time passages.
Kolkata-born composer, John Mayer, who had been appointed by Andrew as Composer-in-Residence at Birmingham Conservatoire, liked the work so much that he performed it, with his wife Gillian as accompanist, in India, at the Kolkata School of Music, in the same month as the UK premiere.
Calcutta School of Music
John and Gillian Mayer in rehearsal
Left to right: Gillian Mayer, John Mayer, Andrew Downes after the Indian premiere
This Indian premiere took place during a visit to Kolkata and Burdwan which Andrew made with John and Gillian. Andrew and John Mayer organised this trip with a view to setting up links with Kolkata University and a BMus course in Indian Music at Birmingham Conservatoire.
Many people in the audience at the Kolkata School of Music congratulated Andrew on his Sonata and the Indian character which they detected in the music. Andrew uses the Lydian mode, which is similar to the Indian Raga Yaman.
During his stay in India, Andrew was asked to chair the 4th International Indian Music Congress in Kolkata. He had to give a speech at this, and also one before the performance of his Violin Sonata, which was recorded for broadcast in India.
Read Andrew's speech at the Indian premiere
Read Andrew's Diary of a Trip to India
Review of Indian premiere:
Following these wonderful UK and Indian premieres, Andrew and I have enjoyed excellent performances of the Sonata for Violin and Piano by other duos: Erich Gruenberg and Daniel Adni in the Adrian Boult Hall (1995); Alla Sharova and Gillian Mayer In the Church of St Lawrence Jewry-next-Guildhall, London (1996), the Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham (1996) and the Benslow Association (1997); James Coles with Yoko Arai at Park House, Cheltenham (1999); David Chadwick with Robert Markham in the Recital Hall of Birmingham Conservatoire and with Robert Birchall in St John's Church, Wolverhampton (2006); and many performances by both of our daughters, Anna and Paula.
Flyer for Erich Gruenberg's and Daniel Adni's 1995 performance of the Violin Sonata:
Birmingham Post review:
Letter from Erich to Andrew following the performance:
Programmes of performances by violinist Alla Sharova and pianist Gillian Mayer:
Programme for James Coles' and Yoko Arai's performance in 1999:
Here is a snippet from the opening of the Sonata, played by Anna with Tony Bridgewater in Carr's Lane Church, Birmingham, in 2013.
Anna had recorded the first movement with Duncan Honeybourne on a CD of the Central Composers' Alliance in 2001 and performed the whole Sonata with Duncan in Birmingham Cathedral in the same year.
Alla Sharova asked for another work for herself and Gillian to play in concerts, and Andrew came up with an unusual theme: The God Marduk (who was a mythical Babylonian God). The music depicts the awe inspiring aspect of this God and the playful nature he was said to have.
The duo premiered the work in the Voices Chamber Ensemble concert in St John's Church, Fulham, on 18th September 1999.
Programme with Andrew's notes for for a speech to introduce the work
Anna and Paula played this work in a concert entitled "Downes towards the Millennium", organised by Anna, in St John's church, Hagley, also in September 1999. Anna posted flyers in all the letter boxes of Hagley for this concert, which was to raise funds for St John's Church and Mary Stevens Hospice. She got a very good audience. Friends came and played. Anna, Paula and I performed in many of the items. Paula accompanied Anna in this new work, The God Marduk, which went very well.
Programmes and brochures for performances by Anna Downes of The God Marduk:
After the concert in Park House, Cheltenham, when James Coles played Andrew's Violin Sonata with Yoko Arai, James asked Andrew if he would compose some music for unaccompanied solo violin, for him to play in his recitals in abbeys and churches in France. Thus Andrew's Sacred Mass for Solo Violin was born. James recorded the work on CD entitled échos d'été.
Anna gave the American premiere of this work in the MIT chapel, Boston, Massachusetts, in a recital which she gave with Paula. Paula performed Andrew's Sacred Mass for Solo Voice in this recital.
MIT Chapel, Cambridge Massachusetts (Photo by Gunnar Klack)
We all had a lovely family time in Boston around this concert. Paula was at the time working in pastoral care at Harvard, where her husband, David, was working for his PhD. Andrew, Anna and I were visiting. As often happens, a concert came about on the trip and this recital was organised by Paula, as was another recent joint recital in Brecon Cathedral in August 2017, where they performed the 2 Solo Masses again.
Anna and Paula Downes outside Brecon Cathedral
Andrew and Cynthia Downes with two of their grandchildren, Oscar and Penny, after the concert, Pilgrims Tearooms, Brecon Cathedral
Programme for Anna Downes' performance of the Mass for Solo Violin, St Martin's Church, Bullring, Birmingham, 2013:
Poster for Anna Downes' performance of the Mass for Solo Violin, St Martin's Church, Bullring, Birmingham, 2014:
In 2021 Andrew composed his Sonata No.2 for Violin and Piano, especially for our daughter, Anna. I write about this work more fully in my blog pest entitled Works Composed during the Pandemic: 2020-21
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