Renowned classical guitarist Raymond Burley shares with us his experience of getting to know Stephen’s Guitar Concerto No. 1 and finally performing it earlier this year.
“On Saturday 28th April I had the pleasure of performing Stephen Dodgson’s Concerto No.1 in Manchester with the Amaretti Chamber Orchestra conducted on this occasion by Alex Robinson. The Dodgson was coupled with Corelli’s Concerto Grosso Op.6, No. 4, Sibelius’s Valse Triste Op. 44 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 39.
Stephen originally gave me a copy of the guitar part many years ago. It had long been one of my favourite concertos so when the orchestral parts became available I had no hesitation in putting the work forward when the Amaretti asked me to appear with them.
In the past I’ve also played Stephen’s Duo Concertante and Dialogues with harpsichord and solo pieces: Partita No.1 and Fantasy Divisions. I also played Partita No. 2 at Wigmore Hall a week after John Williams premiered it at the same venue.
I first met Stephen around 1975 shortly after he heard my performance of his Duo Concertante on BBC Radio 3 with my harpsichordist partner Stephen Bell. Shortly after that he wrote Dialogues for us – this was premiered at Wigmore Hall. Around this time Stephen gave me the guitar part of his Concerto No.1.
Stephen’s concerto took a while to grow on me; but I had a copy of John Williams’ wonderful 1968 recording which I played repeatedly.
Stephen’s Concerto No.1 is modern but very appealing – melodic without being ingratiating. The orchestral writing is beautiful but still allows the guitar to cut through. (I played the Amaretti concert without amplification as I prefer to do.)
There were many positive comments at the April concert from members of the orchestra and audience. It was evidently enjoyed by all. As it had taken me a while to appreciate the concerto I was encouraged by the immediate enthusiasm for the work.
Since Stephen gave me the guitar part all that time ago, I’ve played Rodrigo, Arnold, Villa-Lobos, Giuliani and others. But as much as I like the concertos by Rodrigo et al, I find Stephen’s work more interesting and concise. I was itching to play it but the opportunity never arose.
Last year I had access to the orchestral parts and the Amaretti requested a ‘modern concerto’ for the Manchester concert so I was delighted when they agreed to do Stephen’s concerto and I finally got to play this wonderful piece.”