peter dickinson

photo: Lucy Carlier/Gramophone


‘Conflicts, juxtapositions, attempted syntheses – Peter Dickinson’s work is full of them, all shook-up, all mixed-up, all jazzed up…yet always keenly imagined and meticulously reasoned and realised.'

Christopher Palmer – BBC Proms profile

'These works [three concertos] display Dickinson’s ability to write music that is at the same time approachable and challenging. His ability to fuse diverse musical styles is masterly. This is a fitting eightieth birthday tribute to a great composer, performer, teacher and writer.'

John France - Musicwebinternational

'As he celebrates his 80th birthday Dickinson can justly and proudly look back upon an oeuvre that no-one else has achieved - few composers can truthfully claim that.'

Richard Leigh Harris - Musical Opinion


‘Sibelius wrote to his friend, Rosa Newmarch, in 1911, “My Symphony IV is finished. It has twice been heard in concerts in Helsingfors. Although the work is by no means a concert item, it has brought me many friends.”
This neatly sums up the Piano Concerto by Peter Dickinson, if not the other two concertos on this enterprising CD, which I hope will bring him many friends. Certainly it won’t be for lack of solo prowess in these three works in which everyone, soloists and orchestras, work tirelessly to overcome the manifold difficulties set by the composer.
If Bartok’s Second Piano Concerto has conquered the world then this modern piano concerto deserves to do as well. Time will tell. True to this composer’s inclinations we hear his familiar disparity in style in each work from modernist outpourings to jazz inflected moments. Peter Maxwell Davies has done this with some of his works where astringency is suddenly interrupted with a foxtrot! He does it for effect. I think Dickinson just seems to be at home with writing in different styles in the same work and without blushing too!
The Violin Concerto has a more personable profile than the austere Piano Concerto, though there is not that much virtuosic writing to entice violinists to take up this work. The Organ Concerto is a mixture of low key stasis and high powered voltage. Dickinson again ploughs his own field with fertile invention.
None more so than in Merseyside Echoes where he enters Malcolm Arnold territory in which the great English composer is in one of his more complex moods.
I find Dickinson to be a curious composer but an interesting one. Do try this CD.’

Edward Clark, British Music Society, September e-News, 2015

Peter Dickinson is the British composer, writer and pianist. His music has been written for some of the leading international performers and is well represented on CD. There are four CDs on Albany: Piano Concerto/Outcry/Organ Concerto; Songcycles; Rags, Blues & Parodies; and Pianos, Voices and Brass. Two CDs came out on Naxos in 2009: Complete Solo Organ Works and Mass of the Apocalypse/Larkin’s Jazz/Five Forgeries etc. These were followed by Piano Music on Naxos in 2011; reissues of American Song and British Song, both with Meriel Dickinson, on Heritage; a recital with Ralph Holmes; Blue Clavichord; and his musical drama with Thomas Blackburn, The Judas Tree, was released in 2014 - all on Heritage.

Dickinson's 75th birthday in 2009 was marked by performances including the Blue Rose Variations for organ in the BBC Proms, played by David Titterington; Tiananmen 1989 for double choir and tubular bells, sung by Commotio under Matthew Berry in Oxford; the American Trio played by the Zalas Trio at the Wigmore Hall; Jennifer Bate played several organ pieces at the Fourth Annual Festival of New Organ Music and she has recorded his complete solo organ works.

Dickinson's 80th birthday was recognised with first recordings of his Violin Concerto (Chloe Hanslip) and Merseyside Echoes with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Clark Rundell - released on Heritage in 2014 along with the two keyboard concertos. There were performances in London, Manchester and Southwold; the Mass of the Apocalypse was in the Aldeburgh Festival; and several periodical articles and interviews appeared - Musical Opinion (October 2014) by Richard Leigh Harris; John France in Music Web International; International Record Review (November 2014) by Nigel Simeone; Stephen Banfield in Tempo (April 2015). 

As a performer he had a long career with his sister, the mezzo Meriel Dickinson. Apart from their advocacy of American and British repertoire - see American Song and British Song on Heritage - they pioneered programmes based on composers such as Erik Satie, Lord Berners and Charles Ives in festivals here and abroad and in broadcasts and recordings.

Dickinson’s books include The Music of Lennox Berkeley; Marigold: the Music of Billy Mayerl; Copland Connotations: Studies and Interviews; CageTalk: Dialogues with and about John Cage; Lord Berners: Composer, Writer, Painter; Samuel Barber Remembered: a Centenary Tribute; and Lennox Berkeley and Friends: Writings, Letters and Interviews; Peter Dickinson: Words and Music (forthcoming)

Dickinson is an Emeritus Professor of the University of Keele, where he set up the Music Department and its Centre for American Music in 1974, and of the University of London, where he was Professor at Goldsmiths College from 1991-97. He was Head of Music at the Institute of United States Studies, University of London, until 2004.

Dickinson is chair of the Bernarr Rainbow Trust, a charity set up in 1997 for the benefit of music education. He has edited and contributed to three major books of Rainbow's - Music in Educational Thought and Practice (2006); Four Centuries of Music Teaching Manuals 1518-1932 (2009); Bernarr Rainbow on Music: Memoirs and Selected Writings (2010); and Music Education in Crisis: the Bernarr Rainbow Lectures and other Assessments (2013).


© 2008-15 Peter Dickinson