Variations for String Orchestra

  back to [Concert index]

Written in 1980, these Variations represent the earliest of my concert music to exist in good recordings. It was managed by a trick: given the opportunity to compose an album of 'library music' (music available to TV and film companies to lease for their products) I grasped the chance to write a large work which I passed off to the company, Keith Prowse Music Ltd, as library music.
I received no commission fee but KPM paid for a studio and a crack orchestra which I conducted. Both parties benefitted: the library received some high quality music to offer to clients (which has earned me a small but significant amount in royalties over the years) while I achieved a terrific recording of a major work.

The players were the cream of the session world. The entire Gabrieli String Quartet were present, plus the Delmé Quartet, plus such luminaries as Marcia Crayford leading the second violins, Kenneth Essex leading the violas, Christopher van Kampen leading the cellos, and a double bass section of Robin McGee, Chris Laurence, Keith Marjoram and Mike Brittain.




I first met Christopher van Kampen in my first week as a Cambridge undergraduate, when as a cellist I auditioned
for him for the CUMS orchestra, whose cello section he led. I got in but was disgusted to find myself as far back as
the fourth desk. My interest in the cello was in any case fading as the double bass and jazz loomed ever larger in my
life, and after a term or two I stopped going. On leaving Cambridge Chris and I both found ourselves establishing
careers as string players in London, and I played with him first in the Nash Ensemble, then the Orchestra of St John's
Smith Square and finally the London Sinfonietta, of which he became principal cello. I took this photo of him on a trip
to the Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon where we both accompanied Ertha Kitt. Meanwhile as a composer and
arranger I was using Chris as my first call cellist on everything I did. His is the Bach you hear playing on my
arrangement of O Waly Waly for The King's Singers. His is the Borodin on my Adagio for Voices arrangements. And his
is the intense and lyrical solo cello playing on these Variations for String Orchestra. Chris died in 1997 of pancreatic
cancer, and I have since dedicated the String Variations to his memory.


Recorded at Roundhouse Studios, Chalk Farm, London, 1980.
Produced by Peter Cox.


This composition and recording are covered by copyright.