Edward Rushton Piano Removal 2 (2012)
For piano quartet
Piano Removal 2 harks back to the programme music I enjoyed writing at around the time of my first two Schubert Ensemble commissions, L’An Mil (for piano quintet, 1999) and Game/No Game (for piano trio, 2000). The Ensemble asked me to compose something with a Scottish theme. I was reading Claire Harman’s biography of Robert Louis Stevenson (Robert Louis Stevenson - A Biography; London, Harper Perennial, 2005) and was struck by this episode from towards the end of his life: having settled in the South Seas with his family and entourage of indigenous servants, Stevenson must have been dissatisfied with the quality of their home music-making (he enjoyed playing the penny whistle), so in 1891 he sent for his old piano to be shipped over from Edinburgh. Apparently it arrived “in tolerably good tune” and Stevenson’s step-daughter Belle was required to hammer upon it to accompany the clarinet, banjo, flute and guitar - as well as Stevenson’s own favoured instrument - already in the family’s possession. The title refers not only to the action of uprooting and transporting a piano across the globe, but also to my 1995 piece, Piano Removal, which featured 15 instruments but no piano.
Piano Removal 2 is divided into five parts, played without a break, and follows this design:
Part 1 - Robert Louis Stevenson has settled in Vailima on the South Sea Island of Upolu. It's raining and his household is raucously singing bellicose songs.
Part 2 - Dream or imaginary journey across the globe to Scotland...
Part 3 - ...where it's raining.
Part 4 - Stevenson's piano is removed from Edinburgh and transported across the globe to Vailima...
Part 5 - ...where it arrives a little out of tune; the household celebrates with a noisy knees-up
© Edward Rushton
Piano Removal 2 was commissioned by the Schubert Ensemble of London for their 30th anniversary season with generous funding from The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the PRS for Music Foundation and The Schubert Ensemble Trust. It was first performed at Kings Place, London on 9th March 2013.