As you will see from the list, my repertoire is not what you'd call conventional, and I'd like to draw your attention to a few composers who are of special interest to me.
The earliest of these is Jan Ladislav Dussek, who many people may know from his set of six sonatinas. Being made to learn these as a child is very often enough to put people off Dussek for life, however there are at least another thirty full scale piano sonatas containing, I believe, some of the most interesting and attractive music of the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Dussek anticipated many styles and composers, and was known to have influenced several major figures such as Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and later composers like Brahms, Dvorak and Smetana. His carefree and somewhat dissolute lifestyle could account for his fall into obscurity. Happily he's now being rehabilitated to some extent, and it's an ambition of mine to play, and perhaps record, all his sonatas.
On to the 20th century, and perhaps five composers stand out for me - Enescu, Poulenc, Martinu, Goossens and Williamson. Perhaps the thing that unites them is that they are all great communicators, their love of music, and perhaps humanity, comes through all the time. Poulenc and Martinu are well enough known, but the other three have yet to find the audience they deserve. Enescu wrote some of the most remarkable and unique music of this century, drawing his inspiration from the gypsy and folk music of his native Rumania. His Rumanian Rapsodies are perhaps the popular face of this style, and his piano music encompasses this popular Rumanian style as well as luscious late romanticism in the piano suites, and the distillation of his Rumanian style in the two piano sonatas. Music of both spellbinding luminosity and driving rhythmic vitality.
Goossens, of Belgian extraction but born and raised in England, is better known as one of the centuries great conductors. In a career of formidable productivity he spent more time promoting other peoples music at the expense of his own, which consequently fell into almost complete neglect. His style could be considered a cross between English pastoral and French impressionism; in fact an article in the thirties called Goossens one of the three great impressionist composers, along with Debussy and Ravel! Happily Goossens is experiencing a renaissance, partly due to the enterprising series of recordings on ABC Classics. My first disc of piano music came out last year, (ABC Classics 462 015-2) and a second, including the first recording of a one act ballet which I rediscovered a few years ago (L'Ecole en Crinoline) will be coming out next year.
Malcolm Williamson studied with Goossens for a short time in Australia, before coming to England in the fifties. His music ranges across several styles, from strict serialism to the simplest diatonic children's pieces. The unifying feature of all his work is lyricism, and even when he writes serial music, there is always a sense of lyricism, and even of tonality. He is a great humanist, and the fact that he has never been afraid to stand up to the establishment in support of causes that he believes in, whether it be tonality (unfashionable in the sixties), the repression of a minority culture, or simply intolerance of hypocrisy, has perhaps been the reason that he has not become as well known as he undoubtedly deserves to be. Every note that he writes comes from the heart, and results in music of great beauty and emotional power. My recording of his complete piano music will be available on ABC Classics in early '99.
A couple of my other favourites are Rudolf Escher - a Dutch impressionist who writes music of unique beauty, and Alberto Ginastera - fabulous Latin rhythms. My other great love is Brahms. Great composer, much played, but, in my opinion, very little understood. But I would say that wouldn't I...