Photo: Composer Hilary Tann | photo by Javier Monjas
2020 VISIONS from the Fischer Duo celebrates the piano-cello group’s 50 years of performances together. The Duo is known for performing music from the likes of Beethoven alongside the works of emerging composers including Hilary Tann and her piece On Ear and Ear.
Today, Hilary is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her childhood interest in being a composer, and how the Welsh environment inspires her music…
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
There was never a time when I did not want to be a composer. I started writing when I was 6. My parents made sure that there was a piano in the house and I took to it immediately. My first epiphany was when I realized that all the notes of Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave Overture were actually available on the piano. Up until that time I’d assumed that orchestral notes were somehow different — and, of course they are in many ways.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to return to my first home in Wales to spend creative time. There is a Welsh word, “hiraeth,” that refers to the love of the land itself. Since I did not leave the United Kingdom until I was in my mid-twenties, this love of the Welsh landscape has remained with me all my life and has coloured much of my writing.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
Not unconnected with the response above, my “instant expertise” would be in performing the harp — either the Celtic harp, the concert harp, or both. I’ve had harp lessons and I’ve written for the harp, but my hands are more suited to the harp than to the piano (short little fingers), cello (ditto) and shakuhachi — instruments I’m already acquainted with.
What was your favorite moment on the album?
I’m cheating — my favorite moment on the album was when I first heard the Fischer Duo rehearsing On Ear and Ear at a summer session in Tanglewood. The musicianship, professionalism, humor, and understanding that the Fischer Duo brought to the score was incomparable, and we continued to hone in on the different aspects of the piece as the recording session neared. I am now delighted to have such musical friends and consider myself very privileged.
What does this album mean to you personally?
I love being chosen for this album with such other fine composers. I’ve known the work of William Bolcom for a long time and I think his opening work is masterful. I also like being a “composer among composers.” For many years, women composers had to struggle to be heard, and we were somewhat ghettoized into “women-only” concerts. This album has world-class performers and many different styles of writing. I’m very happy to be part of the mix.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
The piece is based on Gerhard Manley Hopkins’ poem The Sea and The Skylark. The two instruments contrast the flow of the tides with the freedom of the bird. I’d like the listener to feel free to imagine a walk along the Welsh cliffs with these two elements present. This is the way I composed the piece. However, some listeners might simply like to hear the work “as music.” Either way, I think they will hear echoes of Vaughan Williams’ Lark Ascending. On Ear and Ear is a visual landscape.
Explore Hilary’s Latest Release
2020 VISIONS is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.