scores by Bernard Hughes

scores by Bernard Hughes

Event Calendar

October 2015


  • New carol publication

    Bernard Hughes’s carol Christmas Bells has been included in the new anthology En Bethlehem published by Cadenza Music.

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  • Music for Shakespeare comedy ‘Bill’

    Bernard has composed songs and background music for the film Bill, featuring the cast of Horrible Histories.

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  • St Magnus Festival performance

    A new chamber version of Bernard Hughes’s narrated family piece Bernard & Isabel will be premiered at the St Magnus Festival on 25 June 2015.

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  • Juice performance

    Bernard Hughes’s piece Does a Firm Perswasion that a Thing is So, Make it So? will receive another performance by the renowned experimental vocal trio Juice at 1.05pm on Wednesday 18 February 2015 at St Botolph-without-Bishopgate Church Hall,

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posted August 19, 2013

Noises off

If I was a conductor I would not rely on the applause at the end of a piece to gauge the success of a performance. Instead I would look to the more immediate feedback of how much coughing and restlessness there is during the music itself. Because there is always applause at the end and you can always put a spin on how enthusiastic it is. But there is no avoiding the evidence of distraction in an audience which coughs its way through the show.

Last night at the Proms (Sunday 18 August, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under Matthias Pintscher) I sat through an extraordinary barrage of coughing, which continued through most of the concert. And although it was clearly the fault of those unable or unwilling to control their throats, the thought did occur that it might be at least partly the responsibility of the performers to make the audience forget their laryngeal tickles through the quality of their music-making.

And indeed the quantity of the coughing was in correlation with the quality of the playing. It was worst during a slightly ragged reading of Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnole. It was little better during the London premiere of Pintscher’s own double trumpet concerto, which was arresting at the beginning and end, but spent too much of the time in between avoiding letting the trumpets sound like trumpets (however well the solo parts were played, by Tine Thing Helseth and Marco Blaauw). It was only in the second half of Stravinsky’s Firebird that things improved, despite some more wobbly moments. I was rather more aware of the padding in the score than I have been in better performances, but the last 10 minutes are impossible to resist, the orchestra rose to the challenge and the audience duly shut up.

Stand-up comedians are used to getting their feedback as they go: there are laughs or there aren’t, and no-one having delivered a set to awkward silence would be fooled into thinking themselves a success by a warm clap at the end. Likewise here; the audience noise told a truer story than the generous applause at the end. It wasn’t a bad concert, just not up there with the best, and failed to carry the hall with it. And it called mind Daniel Barenboim’s tribute to the Proms audience at the end of his well-received Ring cycle this year: ‘you have brought so much silence’. The conductor’s ultimate tribute.

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