Richard Harvey: Concerto Antico for Guitar & Piano [Printed Music]

In 1989 I was commissioned to write a large-scale work to be premiered at the Exeter Festival. When the festival’s director, Richard Gregson-Williams, told me that cartoonist Ralph Steadman (an idol of mine) and guitarist John Williams (a good friend I’d already worked with many times) would both be involved in the festival, it seemed like a good idea to get them on board for the project.

What developed from this was an “eco-oratorio” called Plague and the Moonflower, which caused some excitement. A year or two later, John asked me if the guitar solos from P&M could be extracted and joined up to make a concert piece for guitar and orchestra. I was delighted to be asked, of course, and as we were discussing this over a curry in St John’s Wood, we set about weighing up the options. In the end I said I would honestly prefer to create a new work from scratch. This was partly because John was looking for a substantial concert piece that would constitute almost half a programme. But I was also thinking ”I’ll only ever get one stab at writing a full length piece for a guitarist like John Williams, so why not start with a blank canvas?” I had originally called the work Concerto in Modo Antico, and it was John who suggested losing the “in modo” so it would trip off the tongue better. Completed in late 1994, Concerto Antico was recorded a few months later with John and the London Symphony Orchestra under the able baton of Paul Daniel. It has been performed many times since (usually with John taking the solo part) and has gradually gained fans and momentum, becoming a fixture in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame for the last five years.

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