Prelude for Anne by Robert Bekkers

Robert Bekkers wrote the solo guitar work “Prelude for Anne” shortly after meeting Anne Ku in Amsterdam in 2001.

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When I changed the generic title of the mp3 file to “Prelude in d” while preparing the last blog post, the file list automatically reordered alphabetically in itunes. Just above the newly renamed file was “Prelude for Anne.”

Listening to it brought back memories of my early days with Robert Bekkers, who wrote and played the guitar solo piece for me.

Prelude for Anne by Robert Bekkers (mp3)

It was the first time anyone had composed a work dedicated to me. I am pretty sure of that. I was not only flattered but genuinely taken by it. I suppose it’s like receiving a love letter, a love poem, or a gift that is totally original and unique. Such is the gift of music — a composition written for a person and dedicated to that person.

Robert Bekkers in London, April 2001
Robert Bekkers in London, April 2001

Shortly after I met Robert in Amsterdam, I organized a small house concert in my home in London in April 2001 in which Robert played several solo pieces. I cannot remember for sure if he included this prelude as I did not mention it in my blog. Nor did I list it in the subsequent house concerts.

Somehow I do recall a premiere and several performances. But when and where?

Would this blog post jog his memory? Or inspire him to find the sheet music?

Farewell to Stromness solo guitar for nostalgia

The recording of Farewell to Stromness as interpreted by Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers brings nostalgia and beauty.

One late evening in Utrecht, Netherlands, I came upon the guitar duo arrangement for Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Farewell to Stromness.” I was searching for “Mark Francis” the guitarist and composer who had contributed two piano duets to my Call for Scores. Another guitarist by the same name had arranged the Stromness piece from piano to guitar duo.

The music was captivating from the moment I played it online. Strikingly moving and timeless, I daresay.

That I had written a review of a concert of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in Amsterdam made the composer’s work even more significant to me. The guitar duo version was so beautiful and instantly addictive that I had to find the solo guitar version for Robert Bekkers to play.

Listening to Farewell to Stromness takes me on a sentimental journey to the past. It’s one of those pieces that will always put me at rest.

I wanted desperately to play it tonight. But I was not able to find free sheet music to download. I could order the sheet music if I can’t find it in the libraries. Or I can simply take the guitar solo version and reverse engineer it to the original piano solo version.

As it approaches full moon and the 10th anniversary of 9-11, I am filled with nostalgia. How else to express that fateful event which changed my life 10 years ago in New York City?

Below is the recording Robert e-mailed me from Boston.

Farewell to Stromness by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, played and recorded by Robert Bekkers (mp3)

If you are curious about the background to the music and the location of Stromness, check out the video. There are also piano, guitar quartet, and solo harp versions on Youtube.

Panoramic preview in Paleochora, Crete

Any mention of the Greek islands conjures up unforgettable images of clear blue skies, deep Mediterranean waters, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches. Half a lifetime later, I return to Greece once again, no longer alone but with a Dutch guitarist, an American photographer, and an American film maker to the largest of all Greek islands: Crete. Joining us from Belgium is a Norwegian artist, also curious and brave enough to make something creative in the one week we have together. The theme of this year’s project is WIND. What can you do with an acoustic classical guitar without amplification?

Any mention of the Greek islands conjures up unforgettable images of clear blue skies,  deep Mediterranean waters, and sunbathing on the sandy beaches. That was my memory of Mykonos, Naxos, and Corfu when I first ventured here as a college student.

Half a lifetime later, I return to Greece once again, no longer alone but with a Dutch guitarist, an American photographer, and an American film maker to the largest of all Greek islands: Crete. Joining us from Belgium is a Norwegian artist, also curious and brave enough to create something in the one week we have together for a possible exhibition in a museum in Brugges early next year.

Panoramic view from top of Paleochora Crete
Panoramic view from top of Paleochora Crete

Months ago when we as a duo first decided to participate in the Levka Ori project, we had sought in vain to find a venue with a piano in the ancient village of Paleochora, sometimes spelled Paleohora. Without it, any concert (if at all) would be solo guitar. And so I left my music behind in Utrecht but brought my laptop to record this journey and enjoy the last days of summer with the 2,000 inhabitants of this peninsular paradise.

On Saturday 22 August 2009, Fernand, the founder of the Levka Ori project in its 14th continuous year, introduced us to several high altitude areas in this southwestern part of Crete. We scaled various mountain tops to embrace the breathtaking panoramic views and test the acoustics only to be blown away by the strong and deafening Cretan wind. [For current conditions of temperature, wind direction and speed, check the real-time updates.]

The theme of this year’s project is WIND. What can you do with an acoustic classical guitar without amplification? We brainstormed numerous ideas: concert for guitar and wind, mosaic of guitar with wind, the wind playing the guitar, and fantasia for guitar with wind. While the other participants walked around the “Magnesia” site formulating their plans for the rest of the week, the guitarist walked from stone to stone, peak to peak, experimenting with his guitar and that fierce and unpredictable entity called the Cretan wind.

By late afternoon, we conceded that it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to compete against the wind. We drove downhill and stopped at a lone Cretan church for a rest.

Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete
Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete

While inhaling the 360-degree view from this plateau, I heard the beautiful sound of solo guitar floating from the church. I posed for a memory and joined the others in the small white-washed building.

Anne Ku next to church above Paleochora, Crete
Anne Ku next to church above Paleochora, Crete

The romantic sound of nylon strings plucked against wood free from the wind welcomed us into that small space. Natural light acted as spot lights on the old mosaic floor. The guitarist stopped. He was only experimenting with chords and harmonics.

“Please play something I like,” I requested.

Outside the wind continued its roar. But inside the clean space of the Cretan church, I enjoyed a private concert of solo guitar.

Robert Bekkers in a Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete
Robert Bekkers in a Cretan church above Paleochora, Crete