The Multitalented Peter Adcock

Following the release of my latest recording, I’ve decided to write a piece about my friend Peter Adcock, who is both the arranger and a performer on this track, but first here are some notes by Peter about his arrangement of Tomaso Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor – Opus 9 (Second Movement).

Peter Adcock (above)

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) – Adagio – Oboe Concerto in D Minor – Opus 9 (Second Movement)

“…In arranging Albinoni’s beautiful, timeless and soothing Adagio for the classic medium of trumpet and organ, my aim was to capture and enhance its old-world, ethereal spirit. Focusing on its quintessential Baroque-ness, I preserved all the original material (for multi-part string orchestra), adapting them idiomatically for the organ (with all the extra colours and effects it can produce with its different stops/registrations/sounds). Its regular pulsating beat, often allocated to the pedals (the lowest-sounding notes played by the organist’s feet), provide a foundation (almost like a heartbeat) for the song-like tune (duetting between the trumpet part and the organist’s right hand) and additional accompanying elements…“

Peter Adcock is a gifted musician who has travelled the world, but is based in Exeter (where he was born and brought up) – where I am also from. It’s a city and a place that he loves and considers to be his true home.

Peter and I met when I was around 13, and he was in his early 20s, when he used to accompany me in music exams and competitions. Over the years he has been very supportive of me, and we are still in touch most months.

As a child, Peter attended a variety of schools in Exeter, including Exeter School. Along the way he accumulated a wide range of different musical experiences, from instruments to voice, orchestras to choirs.

Music was always in his family. His father was an accountant (and cymbal-player in his school marching band), his mother was a nurse (and violinist and singer) and his brother is a farmer (and French-horn player). I’ve always enjoyed talking to Peter’s parents – there was always a connection, because they knew my grandparents. Peter used to do a lot of his teaching from their house, and it was fun going there. They have an old-fashioned disused British Telecom phone box (from Northern Ireland) on their driveway, which I thought was quite cool – and still do.

When Peter first accompanied me, when we played various pieces of music for trumpet and piano in the early 1990s, he already had loads of teaching experience. He played the piano to his nephew and taught him piano and singing from the age of two.

Peter himself began learning the piano at the age of six and it is still his main instrument. He mostly plays on a boudoir-grand piano and a Swedish-made Nord stage piano (in his view, the world’s leading and most realistic digital piano), but he also plays the flute, church organ, viola and cello.

He was drawn to all of these instruments because of their sound, range of colours, identifying characteristics, and the music available for them; by inspiring performers and performances (notably by Vladimir Horowitz, Claudio Arrau and Jean-Pierre Rampal); and by very good teachers. His first teacher was the popular Exeter-based  piano teacher, Margaret Drewery. The people he credits shaping his approach, technique and musical appreciation and understanding are Maurice Cole (foremost authority on playing the music of Bach; regular BBC Radio 3 performer; frequent BBC Proms concerto soloist; and the first pianist to record Bach’s music on LP) and Professor Alexander Kelly (head of keyboard studies at the Royal Academy of Music in London) for the piano. Anne Kimber (at Dartington College of Music) was his inspiration for the flute and Paul Morgan (long-time organist at Exeter Cathedral) for the organ.

He read music at Oxford University which he supplemented by taking regular private instrumental lessons.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Peter has always found, and still finds, that the harder he works and the more regularly and frequently he practises, the easier, more familiar and better everything becomes. I remember being really impressed upon finding out that as a teenager, he used to get up at 05:00 every morning and practice for three hours every single day. This inspired me to start putting in serious hours on the trumpet when I was at a similar age. I didn’t get up at 5am that often though, as this would not have gone down well with my family or neighbours!

In Peter’s spare time he loves experimental and traditional cooking, and dining out. He likes walking and bike riding, and travelling the world, exploring new cities and countries and their cultures and cuisine. He’s a keen reader of fiction and non-fiction, and alongside writing programme notes and teaching material, he enjoys writing poetry, reading and learning languages, especially French.

Peter Adcock relaxing under a tree.

He recalls playing in numerous concerts around the world; most memorably on the piano and organ in a church in Mosman, Sydney (his first concert in Australia); and the flute and organ in Buckfast Abbey in Devon, with its unique wallowing resonance and otherworldly atmosphere. He remembers a Mozart piano concerto in Honiton, also in Devon, when he forgot his concert shoes, so played in socks and skidded across the stage when coming on. [I must confess, I have also done one or two concerts in my black socks.] Peter also conducted a choral concert in Venice in the dark, as there was no electricity in the famous Baroque church.

He’s played in all sorts of ensembles  – chamber orchestras, full symphony orchestras, chamber choirs, full choruses, myriad instrumental and vocal duos, piano trios, piano quartets, piano quintets, and a plethora of wind ensembles and bands – preferring the intimacy and synergy most achievable in piano trios (for piano, violin and cello) and inherent in the wide-ranging and deeply expressive repertoire written for them.

He is good at managing groups of people, particularly when he coaches singers and directs and accompanies choirs. I think this is because of his ability to take in large amounts of information and store, articulate and apply it, all with friendly and bubbly charm.

Organising concerts is another note to his keyboard. Watching him promote his own events, and in many cases playing in these, made an early impression on me and has helped me in my own concert ventures.

It’s not just classical orchestral work. Peter has recorded piano pieces for the soundtracks of international computer games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon. He’s transcribed and arranged music for orchestras and events such as the BAFTAs. He’s also a fully qualified chartered accountant, which is a very useful skill for a freelance musician. In the future, Peter says he’d like to learn to play the theremin (a quirky electronic instrument which you might have heard on science fiction soundtracks) and also Eigenharp, which is a brand of electronic instruments made by Eigenlabs, a company based in Devon. The instrument is a highly flexible and portable controller, with the sound being actually generated in the software it drives.

Peter says his most memorable live performances include Croatian pianist icon Ivo Pogorelich playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition at the City of Birmingham Symphony Hall. He also experienced Sir Simon Rattle’s first and last concerts (Mahler symphonies) at this venue, with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and Jan Lisiecki, outstanding new-generation Canadian-Polish pianist, who he heard in Düsseldorf and Cologne. He heard inspirational 20th-century musical legends pianist Sir Clifford Curzon and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich (separately) in Exeter Cathedral, as part of the annual Exeter Festival – he sold programmes and was rewarded by free tickets to the concerts.

He has many favourite recordings. He especially loves repeatedly listening to Maurice Cole’s Bach on the piano, Jean-Pierre Rampal’s Mozart flute concertos, Anne Sofie von Otter’s Mahler songs and Claudio Arrau’s wealth of all-consuming and inspirational piano solos.

Peter’s hands (above).

After leaving university, Peter decided that Exeter was his ideal southwest UK base, with a good range of musicians, choirs, orchestras, pupils and audiences keen for good classical music education, experiences and performances. It’s a beautiful and varied part of the UK.

Peter has enjoyed working with a number of brass players, mostly from Exeter. These include Crispian Steele-Perkins , in many concerts surveying the history of the trumpet; Katy Woolley, now principal horn of Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam – and me.

Peter is accompanying me on the organ on my new album of brass and trumpet music. We are playing two baroque arrangements by my former trumpet teacher John Miller. As well as these, Peter has arranged the earlier mentioned Adagio from Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor – Opus 9 (Second Movement), performed on organ and piccolo trumpet. I think the arrangement works very well. We recorded it in Shaldon church near Teignmouth on the south Devon coast back in the summer of 2018. It was an enjoyable afternoon session, with just Peter and my album producer Adam Goldsmith. It was refreshing to be able to walk out of the church on our breaks and breathe in the salty breeze as it moved across the Teign estuary.

I am proud to be performing with Peter on my upcoming album and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all of his help over the years.