"Roger Scruton has written an opera. Enough of Art and Imagination, enough of The Aesthetics of Music. It was time for the real thing." Hilary Finch, The Times (6/5/98).
Composition was something I took up during the 1990s. What I know about composition has been self-taught, with early guidance from my friend, David Matthews. I have composed at times when I have found writing hard or at times when my writing has been so badly received that I haven't wanted to continue working on it. My opera 'The Minister' was my first 'escape into music', but it became a very fulfilling project in itself and has led to a handful of public performances the most recent in St Andrews in 2010.
My most recent composition, written at a time of comparitive leisure, rather than strife, resulted in the setting of Three Lorca Songs.These were performed in a concert in the Netherlands. The singer was the soprano, Kristina Bitenc, accompanied by Jeroen Sarphati, and the performance was recorded in a concert at the Gronigen Peter the Great Festival (in memory of the Dutch composer Peter Schat), in the summer of 2009. The songs formed part of a concert dedicated to songs composed by philosophers, the other songs performed were by Nietzsche and Adorno.
These three songs set poems by the Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who disappeared, almost certainly murdered by the Nationalist forces, during the Spanish civil war. The first, Casida de la rosa, describes the serene detachment of a rose, which will not return the poet's glance, since its gaze is fixed on eternity. (A casida, from Arabic qasîda, is an old form of ode.) The second, Canción de jinete (Song of the Rider), describes a little black horse, carrying its dead rider through the night, under the 'black moon of highwaymen'. There is a smell of knife wounds, a jangling of spurs against the horse's flank, and finally a cry, as the horse arrives beside the distant camp-fire. The third, Despedida (Farewell), is a dying request: 'If I die, leave the balcony open'. It evokes the scene below the balcony where the sick person lies: a child eating oranges and the smell of new-mown hay.
"Roger Scruton has written an opera. Enough of Art and Imagination, enough of The Aesthetics of Music. It was time for the real thing. Scruton had an Idea, failed to interest any composer in it, and so, with characteristic determination, rolled up his sleeves and got on with it. The Minister, a one-acter about a politician who exchanges love for power and meets his nemesis, has been performed twice in Prague, but its English [public] premiere took place on May Day . . . Its six scenes unfold in hauntings and in masks: the Britten of Curlew River and The Turn of the Screw is irresistibly invoked. But Scruton, whose music is tonal and you've guessed it - partial to the odd leitmotif, is a diligent and sometimes daring pupil. A single dinner party at which the Minister's masked guests, Sir Henry and Lady Milhouse, are revealed (or imagined in his psyche) as former abandoned lovers, yields some robust and eloquent solo writing, fluently if conservatively folded into and out of ensemble. And these centrepieces are framed by ministerial soliloquies with a view to the sea; the 16 piece band, conducted by Jonathan Williams, enjoys its fleeting, shimmering echoes of Cosi fan tutte. Scruton's libretto deals trenchantly with social tittle-tattle, guilt, forgiveness; and his score responds with a passing Elgarian ache, a heady Straussian waltz, dislocated by dissonance and dry rhythm. . . for most of its 60 minutes The Minister is a disarmingly unpretentious and often artful piece of writing." Hilary Finch, The Times (6/5/98)
"It's a shortish piece - six scenes played continuously - for four singers and chamber orchestra strengthened by keyboard and timpani, helpfully called 'Lot 18' and deftly conducted by Jonathan Williams. References abound - crisis-point Greek drama, the masks of Noh plays, Eliotian cocktail parties. The music too, as one should have expected is tonal, melodic, indeed conventional, with sombre lower strings, keyboard and timpani to mark emotional climaxes, falling phrases of the central concept of 'forgiveness', and several Britten allusions. Richard Hughes, in what might be called the Ian Richardson part, agonises convincingly; Miranda Rogers and Tim Armstrong-Taylor are moving as the ditched mistress Olga and betrayed homosexual William, and Sarah Wright has the enigmatic other-worldliness as the catalytic servant. The ensemles are well-written and the powerful last scene is in highest romantic mode. So those who came to scoff remained to praise." Jeannine Alton, The Oxford Times, (8/5/98)