FEATURE: Composer Competition Winners

Andrey Rubtsov


You are an oboist and a conductor. How is it that you started composing?

I think I started as an amateur composer back in school. Then it got serious little by little but I never acquired a formal diploma as a composer unlike the diploma on my other activities. Composing became a serious source of income only recently.

Tell us a bit about your history as a composer.

I first started composing for instruments I know well, my first Concerto was for my instrument — oboe. I performed it myself. I played in woodwind quintet as well and a clarinetist persuaded me to compose for this ensemble. I was reluctant but than agreed; to this day ‘Three moods’ is my most performed composition. Then I became more daring — violin concerto, other concerti followed. Only recently I felt brave enough to composer a chamber symphony and, finally, an opera.

How did you find out about the competition?

I think one of my flutist friends suggested it might be a good idea for me.

What was your inspiration for writing the piece for the competition?

I really wanted it to be fun to play.  Generally writing music that is entertaining for musicians is my strong belief.  The title comes from a random podcast I listened to which talked about this concept in the industry where when they test new food products where they try a different amount of basic ingredients — like salt, fat and, most importantly, sugar, until they come up with an ideal combination — which is a "bliss point." I wanted to try to express how this moment would sound.


How did it feel to hear your work being performed at the Galway Flute Festival?


I am writing this from the Verbier Festival, which is also in Switzerland, so I can realize how beautiful it is to have a festival in such wonderful country. I am sure everybody had a lot of fun and I am happy to be a small part of it.


Bliss Point by Andrey Rubtsov


David Tickton


You are a flutist. How is it that you started composing?


I began working with the music Program ‘Finale’ when I was 40 years old. I had already played the flute for 20 years and I was performing and teaching. I felt the need, I think, as one of my teachers said, “to get into the kitchen.”


Tell us a bit about your history as a composer.


Before I began composing, I just copied music for a year. I started with Voxman’s Selected Duets For Two Flutes Volume I. I copied one duet a day. This helped me learn how to use ‘Finale.’

Also, I had read that painters often copied masterworks to learn their craft and thought this might be a good way to learn about composing. From just copying music, I learned a lot.

I then began doing an arrangement of the Mozart Flute Concerto in G for 3 flutes. Every time I changed a notes’ position in the chord in my arrangement from the original to make it more comfortable for the flutes, I went into a panic. Slowly I realized that nothing bad was going to happen, and that this was my job. In retrospect, I realized that it was in these choices, that I was developing the sensitivity that would later help me in my composing.

Then I began to compose. I would write down the date at the top of the page as the title, and then just wrote whatever I wanted. Some days I tried to write like Bach, and some days like Debussy.

A few years later I took some composing lessons. My teacher explained that it was often good to repeat the first idea, to give the audience the time to absorb and understand it. Also, that when I brought in new material I needed to do it gradually and carefully.

I was amazed. It was just like talking. You had to be thoughtful and paced, and you needed to develop your craft. It took practice, experimenting and experience to see whether you were coming across as you intended.


What was your inspiration for writing the piece for the competition?


When I hear James Galway’s sound, I feel it right in my heart and I feel nurtured. This is the quality I find the most rewarding in listening to music. I wanted to write something that expressed that feeling.  Also I had heard someone say that the aim of music was “to lift the spirit”. I liked that idea too. As I focused on “lifting the spirit” and on “nurturing” the piece began to form.

How did it feel to hear your work being performed at the Galway Flute Festival?

This was a complete shock. When the wonderful, excellent flutists at the Festival hit the first chord, I felt my whole body awaken and glisten! We spend so much time as flutists working on our sound, and suddenly I understood why. When the thoughtful intentions of one player blend with the thoughtful intentions of other players, something miraculous happens.  Some call it love - Some call it beauty. I think it is our humanity.


Tango and Romp by David Tickton


Katrina Penman

You are a flutist. How is it that you started composing?

I started experimenting with composing shortly after starting to learn the flute at age 8, and was encouraged by wonderful teachers, firstly my flute teacher Helen Duffy, then my high school music teacher Sheila Cornall, who helped me to get my music performed by other students, and arranged for me to take lessons with Dr Timothy Bowers from the Royal Academy of Music in London. Later, while attending the RCM, I also took a composition option, although I was focusing mainly on my playing at that time. As well as composing, I now also arrange a lot of music, much of which is written for my wind quintet, Quinteto Respira, for theatrical projects, and for the children’s orchestral project “In Crescendo” at the Centro Cultural Miguel Delibes in Valladolid, where I live. My compositions for flute ensembles have also been played by the Portuguese flute association (AFLAUP) at their meetings in Porto and Guimaraes, since I was a prizewinner in their composition competition in 2016. Recent performances by advanced students include the Castilla y León flute meeting in 2018. Although most of my compositions are for flute or for other wind instruments, I also like writing for strings, and for piano and harp.

What was your inspiration for writing the piece for the competition?

My inspiration was the music that I associate with Sir James Galway and the way that he has touched and inspired so many flute players and flute lovers throughout his career. For me it was also a personal journey which I enjoyed enormously. I began with themes I remembered from cassettes of his that I was given as a child, mainly by my parents, to which I listened to over and over. My mum also took me to Sir James’s sixtieth birthday concert at the Barbican in London, which was a really memorable occasion. The opening theme of my piece is Moon on the Ruined Castle from the Song of the Seashore album, which was given to me when I was about nine years old by Penny, a family friend who cultivated my love of classical music during rides in her car. This theme overlaps with subtle motifs from Annie’s Song, followed by a lively section that includes material from Brian Boru followed by the Pink Panther and Flight of the Bumblebee, then combining themes from Badinerie and Carmen with a Irish jig, which to me was emblematic of Sir James’s lively sense of humour. The jig I chose is the traditional “Irish Washerwoman” which is one that we play all the time in the Celtic music group I belong to. The final section combines the unforgettable melody of Danny boy with phrases from Gounod’s Ave Maria. I chose the Ave Maria in celebration of Sir James’s birthday, since the day of his birthday is 8th December (which happens to be the same day as mine), and is the day on which the Immaculate Conception is celebrated, both in Spain where I live, and in Italy where I first met Sir James in person. The piece ends by returning again to the music of the Moon on the Ruined Castle, thus coming full circle, as Sir James is doing by passing on his wealth of knowledge to the students at his festival. I chose the title Flautknight in deference to Sir James, the Knight of the Flute, with a nod to the times in which we now live and the popularity of a certain computer game with a similar sounding name.

How did it feel to hear your work being performed at the Galway Flute Festival?

For me it was an incredible experience. It was a privilege to be able to attend the morning rehearsal and meet the five wonderful flutists who were playing my piece in person, and to listen to them and be able to contribute to the rehearsal. It is the first time that my music has been performed by professionals of this outstanding international level, and it was exciting to see how quickly they picked up on the ideas that were written into the music. I was also able to learn by observing what things I had not communicated so well through my writing, and therefore how I could improve in the future.

The concert was a really exciting event, with Sir James in the very front row! It was a privilege to be able to meet him again and to talk with him after the concert, when he shared stories with us about his father and brother, and his own musical beginnings. The festival is held in a beautiful location on Lake Lucerne so it was a pleasure to travel there. I can certainly see why the Galways love that area and have made it their home and the location for their festival. I was also able to attend one of Sir James’s masterclasses, which brought me back to my days as a flute student in Milan. It was fantastic to be able to attend the festival and to meet new people and reconnect with flutists I had met on previous occasions.  I would like to thank the Flute View, Viviana, Barbara and Andrea, so much for organizing the competition and the performance of my piece, and to Elisabet and Aslihan for performing with them. You are all simply wonderful!


Flautknight by Katrina Penman

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