I studied the violin seriously in my childhood and adolescence and was a part-time professional violinist for several years. I nearly went into it full-time, but choose applied mathematics instead. Mathematics is wonderful, and important for the scientific understanding of the real world around us -- and affluent human societies recognize that importance, to some extent -- whereas the same societies largely deny, in reality, the importance of music and musical creativity and other artistic creativity, despite the lip service paid. No individual can be blamed for this; it's the way our affluent societies and the forces shaping them have evolved, up to now. (There are far worse things, such as people-patenting.) But the consequence remains that even the most talented musicians' lives tend to be pretty tough, especially if they try to preserve any loyalty to the music itself -- to preserve any personal and artistic integrity. Norman Lebrecht's book When the Music Stops says much of what's relevant. So there it was: I went for mathematics.
I had a wonderful time with music in my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood, performing and composing. I was leader of the New Zealand National Youth Orchestra just after its foundation and subsequently, after moving to Cambridge, UK, participated in some world-class performances there in the mid-1960s -- for instance of Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire -- by the group of young artists that went on to form the core of the London Sinfonietta. I studied the violin with one of its greatest teachers, Nannie Jamieson, and on a part-time basis was a member of a professional chamber group, the De Freville Trio, for several years in the 1970s. Recordings of the Ravel and Schubert B flat trios survive from those years, with Ruth McIntyre (née Hecht) as pianist and, respectively, Naomi Butterworth and the late Christopher van Kampen as cellist.
Johanna Crighton's invitation, last year, to help create a musical memorial to David Crighton was enough to bring me temporarily out of retirement as a musician despite other pressures. If you knew the Crightons you would know why. It was an extraordinary honour, and something that touched Ruth and me very deeply. On top of that, there was another strong pull. The concert was to take place, and did take place, in Cambridge University's beautiful West Road Concert Hall. Not only does that hall have a wonderful acoustic both for listening and for recording but, for Ruth and me, it also has personal and poignant associations with the Crightons and their special love of music.
We'll always remember, from the early 1990s, the three extraordinary solo recitals played there by the great Russian pianist Tatiana Nikolaeva, whom we had never heard playing live before. She gave thrilling and deeply illuminating performances of the Bach Goldberg Variations and the complete Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues. The recitals took place solely because the Crightons made them take place. More than anything I had ever heard before, Nikolaeva's playing brought home to me the depth and power of the inner game of music, a game that joins heaven and earth when love is great enough. For me and I suspect for Ruth also -- she hesitates to talk about such things -- it was part of a musical re-awakening that eventually made our own memorial concert and recording possible. And that was not all the Crightons did. They enticed Ruth into playing two of the great Mozart piano concertos at Jesus College, just after David was elected Master. I have never heard such inspired playing of those concertos (K 414 and K 271). For me, Ruth's playing once again joined heaven and earth.