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Studies in Poetry – Volume 5

Continuing the Studies in Poetry series that began with Volume 1 in 2000, Volume 5 is also a set of three highly contrasting pieces that are really concert etudes. Volume 5 was completed in 2022 and played in public for the first time by the composer in January, 2024. As always, each study pays tribute to one of the composer’s favourite books of poetry written in the English language. Although written as a set, each piece is designed to stand on its own. 46 pages.


It is perhaps worth pointing out that initially the composer imagined this set as consisting of just 4 volumes of 12 pieces in total. This overall design is primarily related to the centering of each piece on a different chromatic pitch that systematically moves up through the white notes by step, and then down the black keys by descending Perfect Fifths: C, D, E, F, G, A, B flat, E flat, A flat, D flat, G flat, and B. The isolation at home during COVID-19 protocols provided the composer with more than enough time and plenty of inspiration, to not only finish Volume 4, but to at least begin another anticipated set of 12 more studies by composing Volume 5 (which begins again with a pitch center of C but now moves up the white note keys by Perfect Fifths to start).


More information can be read about each individual study in the publication’s introductory notes found in the samples below. As implied in the comments already, the character of the music finds resonance in the title used for both the study/etude and the book of poetry. The name of the poet who wrote the book of poetry is provided in brackets.


No. 13 – Left-Handed (Jonathan Galassi)
No. 14 – Ripple Effect (Elaine Equi)
No. 15 – Grief Sequence (Pragreeta Sharma)


The very insightful review published in the magazine, International Piano, of all 5 volumes completed to date, by the Scottish pianist, Murray McLachlan, is worth quoting in the way that he captures the essence of the last piece of this set: “Several are quite substantial, almost outgrowing the titled of ‘study’, but at 365 bars long perhaps the Bach Chaconne-influenced ‘Grief Sequence’ (Etude No 15, after Prageeta Sharma) dwarfs all the others. This is a quasi-symphonic work – a moving essay in concentrated power, a tone poem without orchestra rather than a conventional étude. It was written during the isolated days of the COVID lockdowns and its powerfully austere characterisation reflects the loneliness of that time.”


Check out the glowing review of all five volumes of the Studies in Poetry series in International Piano – July/Aug 2023.