Bernard Hughes


for solo piano

duration: 10 minutes

Bagatelles for solo piano is a sequence of twelve short pieces lasting about eleven minutes. It can be performed as a single work, or the individual movements used as interstices in a recital programme.

Three pieces (1, 5 and 9) are studies, exploring aspects of advanced piano technique. Another three (4, 8 and 12) are re-workings or parodies of existing piano pieces by Debussy, Schubert and Field. Both the studies and the parodies can be performed as sequences in their own right.

Each of the twelve pieces has a single musical idea, briefly explored: cascading scales with perpetually shifting patterns of tones and semitones; canon; additive rhythmic procedures; a setting of a poem with the text removed. After the one idea, the piece ends and something entirely different happens.

There is also a visual, even theatrical element in their performance which is at the heart of the Bagatelles’ conception: the image of the pianist as he plays. Battling with frantically fast and rhythmically-complex double-octaves, fingers flying; a tiny fragment where each note is placed precisely; a piece with increasingly long pauses between flurries of notes; a finale which ripples and floats up to and off the top end of the keyboard.

The Bagatelles were written for the pianist Paul Lewis.

Bernard Hughes was born in London in 1974. He took a First in Music at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford, was awarded the MMus by Goldsmiths College, London and is currently studying for a PhD at Royal Holloway College. His composition teachers have included Philip Cashian and Param Vir.

Since 1998 Bernard Hughes has been Composer-in-Residence at The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, and has written several works for school ensembles, including the millennium anthem trumpets/singing/laudation. Other works for children include commissions from the New London Children’s Choir and St. Albans School.

Recent pieces include KOHKYPC for solo trombone and tape (2001), shortlisted by the British Trombone Society, and Mechaniks Bench (2002), shortlisted by COMA; forthcoming projects include a Mass for the Bedford Park Festival in 2003. Bernard Hughes has twice been shortlisted by spnm, for Flowers in 1997 and Bagatelles for solo piano in 2002; the latter is due to be performed by the pianist Paul Lewis in 2003.

Aside from music, Bernard Hughes won the Perrier Award for Best Newcomer at the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe, as part of the show Ben 'n' Arn’s Big Top, and has performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London, the Oxford Playhouse and the Canal Cafe theatre. Bernard is also a keen cricketer and ECB-qualified coach.

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