Simon Hester’s ‘Megabytes’

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Simon Hester is a prolific composer whose works include numerous chamber and orchestral pieces as well as music for the stage. Hester has written extensively for solo piano too.

That Hester is himself a fine pianist with a deep empathy for the instrument and its possibilities is clear in his piano writing, and not least in the ten character pieces which make up Megabytes I: The Private Life of Bugs.

Mischievous Whimsy

The collection is suitable for early advanced players (post-Grade 5 level), and would make an ideal anthology to dip into between grades.

The music is sometimes atonal but never stark; the dominant characteristic is the imaginative impressionism of music which ranges in mood from haunting evocation to mischievous whimsy.

The Private Life of Bugs comprises:

  • On the Trail of the Snail
  • Wednesday Night at the Flea Circus
  • Flutterance – The Butterfly
  • When Wasps Dance
  • Moths (Nocturne)
  • Work, March, Work, March – The Ants
  • Dreaming of Dragonflies
  • Beware, Scorpion
  • Annoyance – The Fly
  • Beetling About

All ten pieces are quirky and characterful, brimming with good-natured humour; they reveal Hester at the top of his game, both in terms of his understanding of the instrument, and through the outstanding quality of his musical imagination.

Ravishing Artistry

The quality of the score is representative of publisher Musica Ferrum on top form.

Each piece is not simply presented with carefully detailed notation and clear engraving, but accompanied by a cartoon illustration by Piero Pierini. Most of these brought a smile to my face, and a couple made me laugh aloud.

Pierini is also responsible for the ravishing cover illustration, which in itself is sure to make Megabytes I stand out in any music collection.

megabytes

These pieces construct a hugely impressive bridge between the parallel worlds of entertainment and art.

Listen for yourself – here’s Hester’s own recordings of the full collection (but note, the opening jazz isn’t from Megabytes I)


Closing Thoughts

For any teacher interested in introducing students to accessible contemporary classical music, or any player with sufficiently adventurous taste, I can think of few better collections to explore.

Megabytes 1 really is a brilliant and hugely creative collection, strongly recommended!


Also available • Andrew’s essential handbook:
How to Practise Music

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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is the author of HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC, published worldwide by Hal Leonard. He is a widely respected piano educator and published composer based on Milton Keynes UK.