I was deeply saddened to learn that the wonderful composer Marcus Blunt passed away on 21 July after a long illness bravely borne. Marcus has left us with a significant body of well-crafted, considered music that shows him to have a distinctive voice. Deeply inspired by Scriabin, he cultivated and refined his own harmonic language, basing many of his mature works on an ascending series of pitches.  This can be heard not only in the wonderful third piano sonata ‘The Life force’ (a work performed by Kathryn Stott and John Lenehan amongst others) as well as in the wonderful Piano Concerto, kindly dedicated to me, and which was recorded six years ago for Divine Art with Manchester Camerata.

Here is the slow movement:

Born in Birmingham in 1947, Marcus studied composition at Aberystwyth. After graduating in 1970 he had numerous occupations (including work at Forsyth’s in Manchester) before settling in Derby from 1976 as a woodwind tutor.  Always supported with total dedication and love by his devoted wife Maureen, the couple chose to settle in Dumfries-shire after 1990. The move to Scotland proved extremely fruitful as Marcus’s creativity moved forward apace. There were numerous new works, commissions, and creative projects, with Dumfries Music Club appointing him composer in residence from 1997.

It was a great pleasure and privilege to work with Marcus on his music, not only on the piano concerto, but also on a recording with his complete solo music, as well as for several concerts too. Marcus was fond of using music initials as the basis for creativity.  Here is his Fantasy on the name MURRAyMCLaCHLan:

Away from piano music Marcus’s work has been performed by artists including the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and the Joachim Piano Trio. His music has travelled to Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, India, Italy, Japan, and the Netherlands. In July 2002 he was a featured composer at the Victoria International Arts Festival, Gozo (Malta), with seven performances and a pre-concert talk, all broadcast on local radio. 

Marcus’s music may be contemporary, but it is always accessible, seeming to rise from the romantic tradition- with a touch of the mystical.  Orchestration in his commercially recorded symphony and bassoon concerto (beautifully performed by Lesley Wilson) show a beguiling sensitivity for exquisite colours and ethereal, luminous textures. There is often finely crafted counter-point and often admirable clarity and restraint. Marcus knew what he needed to say and refrained from indulgence and over-inflation.  He was never a composer who outstayed his welcome. In his music the influences extend widely from Scarlatti to Scriabin. His music reflects his love of life and people.  

As a friend and colleague Marcus will be deeply missed.  I always appreciated his quiet serenity, warmth, loyalty, sense of hope and positivity, and his stoical resolve to continue working and living with integrity and good humour.  Sending love and warmest thoughts to dear Maureen at this sad time.  Here is a touching short film and performance from saxophonist Amy Dickson made only a few years back in which Marcus is interviewed:

Written by Murray McLachlan