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John Tilbury

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Biography

John Tilbury is a celebrated pianist, associated with new music.

Tilbury studied piano at the Royal College of Music with Arthur Alexander and James Gibb and also with Zbigniew Drzewiecki in Warsaw. In 1968, he was the winner of the Gaudeamus competition in the Netherlands.

He is considered one of the foremost interpreters of Morton Feldman’s music, and since 1980 has been a member of the free improvisation group AMM. During the 1960s, Tilbury was closely associated with the composer Cornelius Cardew, whose music he has interpreted and recorded and a member of the Scratch Orchestra. He is currently completing a biography of Cardew. He has also recorded the works of Howard Skempton and John White, among many others, and has also performed adaptations of the radio plays of Samuel Beckett.

With guitarist Keith Rowe’s electroacoustic ensemble M.I.M.E.O., Tilbury recorded The Hands of Caravaggio, inspired by the painter’s The Taking of Christ {1602). In this live performance, twelve of the members of M.I.M.E.O. were positioned around the piano in a deliberate echo of Christ’s Last Supper. The thirteenth M.I.M.E.O. member (Cor Fuhler) is credited with “inside piano” as he interacted and interfered with Tilbury’s playing by manipulating and damping the instrument’s strings, essentially doing piano preparation in real time. Critic Brian Olewnick describes the album as “A staggering achievement, one is tempted to call The Hands of Caravaggio the first great piano concerto of the 21st century.”

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