Thomas McIntosh Composer
Composition has been primarily a personal interest for Thomas McIntosh. Much of his early work was for church services and of a practical nature. He has recently revised his Six Motets for the Nativity Season, originally composed four decades ago. Also suitable for programmes around Christmas is his set of piano variations on Joy to the World.
He has also made orchestral arrangements of George Antheil’s Valentine Waltzes, originally composed for solo piano. His Rag Suite is an arrangement for strings of four well known Rags by various composers. For Opera Anglia he edited the Overture to The Royal Shepherd” by the 18th Century English composer George Rush, a work which was subsequently recorded by the London City Chamber Orchestra with McIntosh conducting.
In 2005 McIntosh was asked to write a Piano Concerto on Japanese folk songs, and his Variations on Japanese Folk Songs for Piano and Orchestra (2005) received its first performance in Tokyo at the Mitaka Concert Hall, Japan, and in the UK with the London City Chamber Orchestra, Eri Higashide, piano, and Wolfgang Wappler, conductor. The Concerto’s movements are all titles of folk songs: Castle Ruins – Child Bride – Beach Along the Ocean – Cherry Blossom – Naryama Mountain – Tokyo River at Cherry Blossom Season – Rain in Kommakura. Commenting on this work, McIntosh said “Over fifteen years of traveling to Japan, studying its language and culture, and sampling its fantastic cuisine, I have heard the Japanese sing their folk songs on many occasions. Many songs are very sad and slow, and I have taken liberties in this work for piano and orchestra with the instrumental writing. The seven songs are set forth with constant interplay between the solo instrument and the orchestra, and I have used the resulting orchestral ‘colour’ to evoke mood and emotion”.
At the beginning of 2007 McIntosh began work on a Concerto for Piano (four hands) and Orchestra, which received its UK premiere in the 29th International East Anglian Summer Music Festival with the Spanish pianists Sofia Cabruja and Carlos Llama, the London City Chamber Orchestra and the composer conducting. Its continental premiere took place in August 2007 at the closing concert of the 7th Sant Pere de Rodes festival near Barcelona, and the performance was recorded live and will be released on Minstrel Records shortly. The Concerto for Piano (Four Hands) and Orchestra (2007) is cast in three movements: Allegro moderato – Adagio – Presto.
About this latest composition, McIntosh writes:The writing of the Concerto for Piano (FourHands) and Orchestra took place in the period between Christmas/New Year 2007 and Easter 2007 and was written after discussions with Carlos Lama and Sofia Cabruja, when I was in Girona and Barcelona giving piano concerts in 2006. Probably because of the sonorities of the instrument and the preponderance of sound in the middle register, four hands at the piano can sound extremely lumpish and sluggish. I hope I have avoided that danger. The work is cast in three movements, quite conventional, and I have used ‘wrong note’ harmony extensively. Because I am a pianist, the writing reflects my hands and ear for piano sound. I was, however, influenced by the playing of the Lama/Cabruja team, and I hope it is reflected in the instrumental writing. The first movement is a sonata/allegro form, the second an atmospheric mood piece employing tubular bells extensively, and the third a presto which alludes to the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke and uses visual effects. The highest praise I can receive is a good laugh from the audience at the conclusion of the piece.