Rees Allison — piano and harpsichord

Rees Allison, Piano

Founder and Co-Artistic Director

I was educated, in England, at the Royal Academy of Music and received my Ph.D., in the U.S., at Washington University, St. Louis. But if I had to single out any one teacher as an influence, it would be Christine Pembridge, my teacher during my last couple of years of high school. She was a poet at heart, and made artists of her students. It was not the rat race. I think she communicated, and made my own, the delight she felt in the music.

The Musical Offering was my idea. I founded the group in 1971. We started off as a five member group (piano, violin, cello, flute and oboe), and expanded to our current size about 1987. Expansion is probably the right word, since the underlying principle has remained the same — a dedication to chamber music that is not possible for people with full-time jobs, and a pragmatic spreading around of the work load.

I tend to enjoy most the standard repertoire, since that most often engages the piano strongly. However, the piano demands that you be a jack of all trades, and there is pleasure in that.

I enjoy a really strong and articulate piano part. Thus, works by Debussy (the Cello Sonata from spring 2002), Messiaen (the Quartet for the End of Time), Schubert, Bartok, and Brahms are all winners for me. This doesn’t mean, as a pianist, I have an urge to dominate; it is best, in fact, if the other players have strong parts too.

What does the Musical Offering offer that other musical groups cannot or do not? Four things, I think:

30-odd years of experience, first of all

Unusually diverse instrumentation

Players from various generations, and

Marty Dworkin (our invaluable chairman of the board)

Our experience enables us to trust one another, as players, intimately, and puts us at ease. We’re more and more confident that each of us will do the right thing at the right time. The generational differences are, I think, a healthy sign of life. The Offering has gone on for many generations, and will continue to do so way after we are all gone, regardless of what sociological or economic configurations we might come up with. I am sure of that! Marty Dworkin broadens everything that we do. He makes connections to his own worlds: academics, amateur musicians, paying audiences, intelligence, you name it.

I’m very excited about the new program. Since we went to the notion that programming should be done by one person (Basil Reeve), and should follow its own logic rather than politics, we have been doing really good stuff. Basil has an encyclopedic knowledge of the literature, and he aims for things that are strong, challenging, often rare, but always visceral and extremely interesting. Basil has always admired music that hits and has emotional integrity. I share his view. Not all musicians think that way.

Still, frankly, classical music is not for everybody, and never has been. But it is for many, and we need to make sure that they know about us. What doesn’t change is the quality of the music,, and the intrinsic openness of the human mind. So, we provide opportunities, or openings, for a broad range of musical experience. I did not particularly like classical stuff when I was very young, but you know it grows on you. And grows you, too.

3 Comments

  1. Forgive me for attempting to contact you through this page, but I believe we shared some time together when we were children. If you are who I think you are, we met at Hove “Crusaders” in Sussex and attempted building a wooden canoe at your home. Our idea was to spend some holidays together on a river somewhere unspecified. This never materialised, but I believe we went to “Crusader” camp together under the leadership of Douglas Combridge. I believe you went to Brighton and Hove Grammar School, whereas I went to Hove Grammar School before embarking on an Engineering career and Lecturing.
    If I am on the right planet, and you would like to make contact, you now have my email address.
    With best wishes, Michael

  2. I have just read the piece you wrote with regard to your piano teacher Christine Pembridge , it was heartening to read especially today of all days , you may well know already but Christine died last week in Brighton .
    It was not clear that your article was a tribute to Christine but I had just returned from her rather moving funeral today so your kind words of appreciation of Christine were rather heart warming and made me smile . Kind thanks Alex

  3. We entered the same music festivals together at Brighton and Worthing. Howard Blake was a friend of mine and Christine Pembridge was my teacher. I was there when you won a scholarship for Julliard.
    They always used to get your name wrong (the adjudicators) and called you Allison Rhys.
    I thought it was really good of you not to complain!
    I have lived in NJ for many years and still find this “foreign”.
    I remember, with affection, the years in Hove, the times I looked up to you as an example and the years
    I spent with Pemmy. I think those were the best years of my life.

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