Alistair Hinton, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

John Ogdon, although I didn’t realise this at the time as I’d taken no note of the performer of Chopin’s F minor Ballade to which I’d listened that catapulted me into the world of music and music-making.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

To begin with, Chopin (who still is) but the others are simply too many to mention; Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Schönberg and – and – and…

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

To try to find my own voice and work with it – very difficult…

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

That someone has actually asked for it in the first place! – that goes for both the challenges and the pleasures!

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

Knowing and appreciating the fabulous talents of people who can get inside my music just by reading it and working on it – this is also a great privilege.

Of which works are you most proud?

Sequentia Claviensis and Vocalise-Reminiscenza for piano, my third and fifth piano sonatas, my string quintet, my Szymanowski-Etiud for 18 wind instruments, my Concerto for 22 (wind) instruments)…

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Tonal, complex, Romantic, relatively uncompromising but not alienating…

How do you work?

Sometimes with immense ease and at other times with great difficulty; some works have just come together in front of my eyes, whereas others have taken years to get right.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Just too many to mention so I’d probably better not start trying!

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Getting a piece to work in the best way that it can, especially if it pleases performers.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Just listen to as much music of all kinds that you can, figure out from your own instincts and from that listening experience where you want to go next and never be afraid of hard work towards the end of finding your own way, whatever the cost.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Doing what I do now but better than I’ve ever done it and giving more pleasure to performers and listeners by reason of having done it better.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Working at what I do in the best way that I can and hoping that others get out of it what I try to put into it – and being with my life partner while so doing.

What is your most treasured possession?

My 1896 Steinway Model C piano as fully refurbished to the very last degree of perfection by that genius of piano restoration Malcolm McKeand.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Composing, enjoying the natural world around me and being with my life partner while doing both.

What is your present state of mind?

Thinking…

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