Barbara, you have had a fascinating life and lived in many different countries. Could you tell us a bit more about how you began your musical career?
I was born in Beirut, brought up in San Francisco and Singapore and currently live in Germany. At the age of 13, I was accepted as a full-time student at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. I remember that all the students were at least 10 years older than I! After a brief spell in London, I embarked on a concert career, primarily as a harpsichordist and organist, before returning to the piano.
What inspired you to change from a concert career to composing?
I played concerts with a cellist which encouraged me to compose encores for our programmes and started composing pieces for my piano pupils and my own children. My breakthrough into the world of publishing came when Breitkopf & Härtel published six of my piano books and Editions Musica Ferrum London (EMF) published ‘Rendezvous with Midnight – 12+1 Nocturnes for Teens’, which became popular.
You have also produced some wonderful books and pieces with UK composer Alison Mathews. Could you tell us a bit more about this collaboration and the inspiration behind these pieces?
Yes, Alison and I have worked together for years, finding we have different but complementary styles of composing. We published ‘Capturing the Spirit of Christmas – 12 carols arranged for solo piano’ and the secular ‘Capturing the Joy of Winter – 16 pieces for solo piano’ through EMF. The carols and winter-themed folk tunes were collected from around the world and bring a choice of traditional and new, atmospheric works in a lyrical and contemporary style. We had lots of fun with these pieces and turned some into duets, which are available on My Music Resource. Alison and I both share a love of art, and self published our book ‘Piano Paintings – 16 Solos for Art Lovers’. We are so pleased to offer these individual pieces on My Music Resource!
As well as writing piano pieces you also compose for other instruments.
I have published a large number of collections for piano, but also for strings, woodwind, horn and voice. The published books are available at Amazon, Sheet Music Plus, J.W. Pepper and Blackrock Music but I have selected several individual pieces which are now on offer at My Music Resource.
How would you characterise your compositional style?
Eclectic! Frequently my pieces are like film music for the cinema in the student’s mind (my pupils occasionally tell me detailed descriptions of what’s going on in the piece!) Sometimes contemporary lyric-romantic; sometimes with a bit of aggressive rock rhythm. I think on the whole, harmony and rhythm play a bigger role than melody in my piano works.
Do you have a particular work that you are most proud of?
Sometimes – not often! I play through some of my pieces and ask myself ‘What?? Did I write that? It’s good!’ My ‘Koi Pond’ from Piano Paintings is such a piece. I like how the murky water of the pond and the movement of the fish are described, with a very slight nuance of Asian tonality, appropriate to Koi.
Finally, do you have a favourite composer?
Beethoven and Schubert!