JOY was written for and commissioned by the pianist James Lisney and his multi-talented young daughter, Joy. My relationship with James dates back to when I wrote Anatomy of Passion at his and Alexander Baillie’s request. Since then I have written a number of compositions that involve him either as a soloist (Meden Agan) or as accompanist (Imagine the Mountain for violin and piano with Paul Barritt). I was prompted to write JOY after a revelatory performance of Chopin’s challenging Sonata for cello and piano, and Lutoslawky’s Grave, leaving the impression that they both feel at home in the classical and contemporary idiom.

It wasn’t difficult to conjure up a title or a subject for this work after seeing and hearing the pair at work. Of course, joy should be at the root of every work of art, especially in our privileged part of the world. To pull it off, however, requires a state of mind that sets free the child in the composer whilst facing the menace of dangers that threaten the very conditions of privilege and civilisation. It seems joy and happiness have to be wrested from the pressures of opportunism, greed and short-sightedness. Art has become a commodity at the mercy of the market and of bigoted politicians and bureaucrats. To raise a triumphant note requires an effort from considerable depths and the struggle to obtain it is evident in this composition. Beethoven’s Ode triumphed in a spirit of hope for and from humanity – bless him; mine is born from the realisation of what could have been.

JOY was made possible with financial support from the Performing Arts Fund NL It has already enjoyed a string of performances in England and abroad since it was written and is set to continue its tour of success in the foreseeable future.

Jan Vriend

Tetbury – 31 May 2011 (updated November 2012).