I first met Elliott – thanks to Paul Griffiths – at Carnegie Hall, on the occasion of the thrilling New York premiere of What Next? Paul and his wife Anne then took me to tea at Helen and Elliott’s apartment the following day. Elliott was subdued, in the wake of a childishly dim-witted review of the opera, but not unfriendly. Moreover, Helen evidently took a shine to me. I had brought along the score of 90+, having played it many times, and Elliott was happy to work with me at the piano. Perhaps I was a welcome distraction.
Soon after, I hatched the plan to ask Elliott for a piano concerto. No one thought he would do it, but he did; and during the months and years which followed I performed, often with his guidance, not only the resulting Dialogues (usually in collaboration with Olly Knussen – an indispensable guide and inspiration), but also the Piano Concerto of 1964-5, Double Concerto, Soundings, and all the solo piano works apart from the Sonata. Those twelve years of collaboration were for me incomparable, musical gold-dust, never to be equalled. For how could they be, bearing in mind Elliott’s extraordinary position straddling musical history?
Even more important to me was the personal warmth I felt from him. I visited him at home whenever I was on the East Coast, and we spoke about everything: about his work, but just as often ranging across music, art, and literature. He was always curious about my growing family, in a most avuncular manner, and we talked about real life. There was for example a discussion about jealousy: “It is indeed a terrible thing” he nodded sagely, looking at the floor.
I recently played Elliott’s music at Carnegie Hall for the first time since his passing, and felt his absence in the hall sharply. His personal and musical support was invaluable to me. I miss him very much.