David Earl

photo: David Earl


Having written steadily during his teenage and student years, David Earl officially launched himself as a composer at a Wigmore Hall recital in 1977, playing Piano Suite No 1 Mosaics. This work was followed by a Piano Concerto and his first commission - an hour-long score for Peter Darrell and The Scottish Ballet inspired by Colette's famous novel Chéri. The ballet was premiered in September 1980 at the Edinburgh Festival with Galina Samsova and Patrick Bissell dancing the lead roles (photo, below). Philip Prowse was the designer. Chéri has received many subsequent performances, including those in a version for chamber ensemble for touring to small venues. It was given a new production by The Hong Kong Ballet in 1989.

photo: Cheri  
Piano Concerto No 1 was premiered in March 1980 in Cape Town with Christian Badea conducting the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra.

Two further ballet scores were subsequently commissioned by the CAPAB Ballet in Cape Town. In 1982, with designs by Peter Cazalet and based on Rebecca West's novel, The Return of the Soldier (photo, below) was choreographed by Veronica Paeper, with the main roles created by Eduard Greyling and Cantinka van Vlaanderen. In 1985 the same team were involved in Abelard and Heloise - the score incorporating choral sections into the orchestration.

photo: The Return of the Soldier  
Between 1982 and 1986 David was involved in several projects for television. P'Tang Yang Kipperbang, directed by Michael Apted with a script by Jack Rosenthal, was shown during the opening week of Channel Four. A second film, Arthur's Hallowed Ground, was directed by veteran cinematographer Freddie Young. Following these came a six-part series The Price, directed by Peter Smith with whom David worked on other independent projects.

In 1986 David and Melanie Horne were the soloists in a Two-Piano Concerto which was performed by the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra under Enrique Garcia Asensio, the work being inspired by the legend of Castor and Pollux. The following year saw the completion of a choral symphony - Trumpets from the Steep - a setting for soprano, chorus and orchestra of Wordsworth's Intimation of Immortality.

photo: David Earl & Tasmin Little

Piano Suite No 2 Gargoyles, based on the baroque dance suites, and Caryatids - Three Intermezzi made their appearance in 1990, as did the Violin Concerto which was premiered in June of that year with The Bardi Orchestra under Andrew Constantine, with Tasmin Little as soloist (photo, left).

photo: David Earl, Andre Prokovsky & Others In February 1991, a full-length ballet based on Shakespeare's Macbeth was premiered by Ballet de Santiago in Chile, with choreography by Andre Prokovsky (photo, right: 2nd from right) and designs by Robin Don. Edgardo Hartley and Sara Nieto created the roles of Macbeth and his wife.

1993 saw the first performances of three new works - Oxymorons: 24 Preludes for Piano, performed at that years Grahamstown Festival in South Africa; Man's Medley - a setting of George Herbert poetry for soprano, chorus and orchestra (commissioned by The Charnwood Choral Society in Loughborough); and Sonata No 1 for Violin and Piano - especially commissioned for Tasmin Little and performed by her and Martin Roscoe.

In 1995, a setting of Queen Victoria's Highland Journal, a dance-theatre project commissioned by The Scottish Arts Council, was given its first performance in Glasgow. Piano Suite No 3 Mandalas, inspired by Buddhist iconography, received its first performance the following year.

Two works for cello appeared in 1998 - a Sonata for Cello and Piano, and a Cello Concerto. The latter was given its first performance by Alexander Chaushian with The Birmingham Sinfonia under Andrew Constantine.

In recent years David has completed a Trumpet Concerto (2005), a Second Piano Concerto (2007), a Double Violin Concerto (2011), and Island Owl - a song cycle for soloists, children's choir and orchestra (2010). Chamber works include a Piano Quintet, Clarinet Trio and String Quartet.

In July 2012 a setting of Rupert Brooke's The Old Vicarage, Grantchester for baritone, chorus and orchestra, commissioned by Dame Mary Archer to mark the poem's centenary, was given its first performance in Cambridge. Nicholas Mogg was the soloist, with Graham Ross conducting the Cambridge University Chamber Orchestra, with members of the choirs of Clare and Gonville and Caius Colleges.

Recent first performances include the Clarinet Concerto, premiered in October 2013 in Durban, South Africa, with Maria du Toit and the KwaZulu Natal Philharmonic under Arjan Tien; and the University of Cape Town Wind Ensemble's first performance of The Wineland Suite conducted by Alex Fokkens in May 2014. (This work is also available fully orchestrated.) The piano pieces Old Roses, Barcarolle and Song Without Words have been performed and recorded by Renée Reznek.

Within the last few years David has completed two full-length operas: Mary and the Conqueror in which Alexander the Great and Mary Renault meet in the afterlife; and Strange Ghost, composed to mark the centenary of the death of Rupert Brooke. Both have libretti by the Cape Town playwright Juliet Jenkin. The latter opera was premiered in Cambridge in December 2015, directed by Dionysios Kyropoulos, and conducted by Dominic Peckham with James Schouten in the title role. See www.RupertBrookeOpera.com

2017's recitals in the UK, Germany, and South Africa included the premiere of Piano Suite No 4 Darshanas.

List of Compositions

(visit the performer page for news of upcoming performances of David's compositions)

(* Score available for purchase - details)

Scores and prices
Score availableWork
*Piano Suite No 1 Mosaics (1977)
Piano Concerto No 1 (1977-78)
Ballet in one act: Chéri (1978)
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace - setting of St Francis of Assisi for SATB (1979)
Ballet in one act: Return of the Soldier (1980-81)
*Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra (1983)
Ballet in one act: Abelard and Heloise (1983)
Ballet in one act: The Nightingale and the Rose (1983)
Incidental music for Dance of the Defectors (Lot's Wife) (1983-84)
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills - Psalm 121 for soprano and piano (1984)
Opera in two acts: Hamlet (1984)
*Violin Concerto (1985)
*Piano Suite No 2 Gargoyles (1986-89)
Choral Symphony Trumpets from the Steep (1987)
Opera in two acts: The Go-Between (1991)
Ballet in two acts: Macbeth (1991)
3 Intermezzi for Piano Caryatids (1991)
*Sonata No 1 for Violin and Piano (1991)
*24 Preludes for Piano Oxymorons (1993)
Man's Medley - choral and orchestral settings of George Herbert (1993)
*Cello Concerto (1994)
Highland Journal - dance/theatre score with piano, tenor roles (1995)
*Piano Suite No 3 Mandalas (1996)
*To a Nobleman in Kyoto - settings of Kukai for baritone and piano (1997)
*Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano (1997)
*Sonata No 1 for Cello and Piano (1998)
Invocation to Manjughosa - Violin and Piano (2002)
Theme and Variations - transcription for piano of the 4th movement from Tchaikovsky's Suite No 3 Op 55 (2002)
*Trumpet Concerto (2005)
*Piano Concerto No 2 (2006)
*Praise the Lord for all our parents (SATB with organ; also SATB with orchestra) (2008)
*Old Roses for solo piano (2008)
*Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano (2008)
*Quintet for Piano and Strings (2008)
*Wind and Wings for Wind Trio and Harp (2009)
*Sonata for Oboe and Piano (2009)
*Sonatina for Piano (2009)
*Ode to Memory for string quartet, clarinet, flute and harp (2009)
*Island Owl - Songs for children of all ages for vocal soloists, chorus and orchestra (2010)
*String Quartet (2010)
*Nocturne for Cello and Piano (2010)
*Chios Rhapsody for solo piano (2010)
*Jonathan's Grace Notes - four easy pieces for piano (2010)
*Ode on a Grecian Urn (Keats) - for soprano and piano (2010)
*The Fairy Garden - five easy pieces for flute and piano (2011)
*Double Violin Concerto (2011)
*The Ungathered Blossom of Quiet - a Rupert Brooke song cycle for tenor and piano (2011)
*Sonata No 2 for Cello and Piano (2011)
*Encore - variations on "Chopsticks" for solo piano (2012)
*The Old Vicarage, Grantchester (Rupert Brooke) for baritone, chorus and orchestra (2012)
*From hearts that live in grace - waltzes for piano (2012)
*Scenes from Childhood - 9 pieces for piano solo (2012)
*Clarinet Concerto (2013)
*Scenes from a South African Childhood - 9 pieces for solo piano (2013)
Mary and the Conqueror - an opera in 2 acts (2013)
*Sonata for Viola and Piano (2014)
*The Wineland Suite - for woodwind, brass and percussion (2014)
*Quintet for Cor Anglais and Strings (2014)
*Barcarolle for solo piano (2014)
*Song without words for solo piano (2014)
*Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (2015)
Strange Ghost - an opera in 2 acts (2015)
*Viola Concerto (2016)
*Duo Sonata for Viola and Double Bass (2016)
*Piano Suite No 4 Darshanas (2016)
The Truly Great - Stephen Spender's poem set for tenor and piano/chorus and orchestra (2018)
Sangharakshita Poems - a cycle of 8 songs for baritone and piano (2018)

Last updated April 2018