Thursday, April 10, 2003


It would be fair to say that I'm not immediately game to neo-Romanticism in contemporary composed music -- not least because cod classicism and warmed-over ninetheenth century themes can be the death of daring and imagination. But it is hard not to see the charm in Robert Hugill's music. As the late Malcolm Williamson observed of his 'Memorare', "to write simply yet subtly is not easy." Hugill's liturgical work is well crafted. He tackles brave themes (AIDS, the relationship between women and the church, death and bereavement), is interested in plainchant and has an ear for colour and instrumentation. Hugill can be easy, but not lazy, on the ear. When it comes to the prospect of being cast away on my Desert Island I'll always take Birtwistle's 'Earth Dances' with me rather than Hugill's wonderfully florid opera 'Garrett' (about a shy giraffe with an identity problem, predictably enough!)... but there are many mansions in the house of music and I remain glad that this is so. The fact that Hugill is self-taught and has encouraged both amateur and professional musicians is also important.

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