Mark Padmore & Morgan Szymanski Première Stephen McNeff

Morgan Szmanski and Stephen McNeff ©Thérèse Wassily Saba

Morgan Szymanski and Stephen McNeff ©Thérèse Wassily Saba

Morgan Szymanski has been collaborating with both Mexican and British composers to write new repertoire for the guitar, both solo and in ensemble, for a number of years. The works of two of these British composers, Alec Roth (b. 1948) and Stephen McNeff (b. 1951), were heard at this Wigmore Hall recital on 12 September 2016, where Morgan Szymanski accompanied the tenor Mark Padmore, in the première of Stephen McNeff’s Eden Rock, commissioned for them by the BBC.

Eden Rock is cycle of four songs which sets the poems of the Cornish poet Charles Causley (1917–2003): Elizabethan Sailor’s Song, A Certain Man, Fauré and Eden Rock. The poem Eden Rock is an elegy to the poet’s parents (They are waiting for me somewhere beyond Eden Rock … I had not thought that it would be like this); it is not McNeff’s first work inspired by the poem Eden Rock. From 2005–2008, when he was Composer in Residence for the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, he wrote the three-part Secret Destinations (2005) dedicated to Charles Causley: 1 – Rushing the Stone Horizon; 2 – Sfumato; 3 – Eden Rock. Stephen McNeff specialises in writing opera and music for the theatre and voice. There is a ease of writing for both the voice and the guitar in McNeff’s expressive Eden Rock for tenor and guitar, which enhances this moving poetry, which makes one crave repeated listenings.

Also on the programme of this excellent Wigmore Hall recital, which is still available to listen to on the BBC Radio 3 website, was another piece written especially for Mark Padmore and Morgan Szymanski by the British composer Alec Roth called My Lute and I. This cycle of nine songs is a setting of poems by Thomas Wyatt (1503–1542), who was a Tudor lutenist as well as a poet; he served as an ambassador for Henry VIII and was rumoured to have had an affair with Anne Boleyn. His poetry wasn’t published until after his death and his music has been completely lost. My Lute and I looks a little back to past centuries for its inspiration, capturing the lyricism, atmosphere and sentiment of the time but with an exciting contemporary rhythmic feel. Szymanski and Padmore recorded My Lute and I in 2013 on their Sometimes I Sing album for Signum Classics (SIGCD332).

Alec Roth’s list of works written for and dedicated to Morgan Szymanski includes: Cat Dances (2002), The Unicorn in the Garden for (2003: written for his Wigmore Hall debut), Canción de la Luna (2005: premièred Wigmore Hall, 8 February 2005), Invocation (2005: premièred Wigmore Hall, 11 October 2005), and has also written the four-movement Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra (2010) for him.


Stephen McNeff’s first work for Morgan Szymanski was written for him and the percussion duo O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell) called Los Ambulantes (2008: premièred 10 March 2008 at Wigmore Hall). Since then he has also written works for Morgan Szymanski and his ensemble called Mahaca (violin, cello, double bass, accordion and two percussionists), such as The Inevitable End of the Affair which was premièred at the Purcell Room in April 2010. There is also a three-movement work for solo guitar called Tres angelitos mexicanos: Tequila, Sangrita, Cerveza which he has recorded on his Nuevo Mundo album.

Morgan Szymanski was born in Mexico City and after his early studies at the National Music School in Mexico, he studied at the Edinburgh Music School; his father is Mexican (of Polish decent) and his mother is Scottish. For more details about Morgan Szymanski and his Sarabande Records, visit his website.

© 2016 Thérèse Wassily Saba

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