Jonathan Harvey – Flight Elegy (live)

Posted on August 18th, 2023 by

Over the past few days, watching California Condors over buttes and ravines of the South Rim of the Canyon, I found this wonderful piece by Jonathan Harvey was in my mind. So here is ‘Flight Elegy’ – a very old live recording, with two drawings I did, as the the monsoon came in, and in between walking – Peter Sheppard, Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 17 8 23


Flight-Elegy (1983-89) for violin and piano Jonathan Harvey (1939-2012)

Peter Sheppard Skaerved  – Violin (Hill 1901), Aaron Shorr (Piano).

1993 Große Aula im Hauptgebäude der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Uni-Konzerte Zyklus).

Recording courtesy of Bayerische Rundfunk

This performance was given in the Große Aula im Hauptgebäude der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, in 1993. The manner of the performance resulted for conversations that I had with the composer about presenting his instrumental music dramatically. The stage of the Große Aula has an enormous apse, so we placed the piano mid stage, and a series of music stands in an semi- circle at the back – I walked from stand to stand. The last stand was offstage right The sustaining pedal of the piano was wedged down with a brick, so that it went on playing, by itself after we had both left the stage. Unfortunately, Harvey never saw us play the piece like this, but he was very enthusiastic about the idea, and the resulting recording.


‘Flight-Elegy is an elegy for the RAF pilot and violinist Peter Gibbs. I knew him slightly when he was leader of the BBC Scottish Orchestra, in which I also played. He was extremely good-looking and rather fierce with conductors. He sometimes performed violin concertos and could, in the words of Norman Del Mar, ‘play like an angel’ though there occasionally manifested itself a strange erratic flaw. He remained passionately devoted to flying and would often take his plane to engagements. He rarely bothered with a map, but would dive down to read the road signs; in fact he showed a lofty disregard for the laws of aviation, at times flying under bridges, etc. He died in mysterious circumstances. He took off at dusk in his plane from a remote sea-lochside spot in Western Scotland. He never returned. His body was later found without a scratch or trace of sea salt a few hundred yard inland. The plane was never found. –Jonathan Harvey

Drawings Peter Sheppard Skaerved – Storm and Twilight over the Canyon South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona 17 8 23