By Coriander Stuttard

The Royal Academy of Music turns 200 in 2022 and, as part of its bicentenary celebrations, has launched the 200 Pieces project with the premiere of a little gem of unaccompanied violin writing by former visiting professor of composition, the late Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

‘A Postcard from Sanday’ was a beautiful reminder of the legacy Max left for the Academy, and summed up the idea of the project perfectly, giving the solo violinist (a student at the Academy) the chance to show off her playing with the sonorous melodies and Scottish snaps.

Once premiered, each of the pieces commissioned for the project will be recorded by the Academy’s audio visual department and put onto the new website which will launch in July. ‘The bicentenary is about the here and now, and the legacy we can leave to provide for students in and out of the Academy,’ explained Principal Jonathan Freeman Attwood. ‘It’s tempting to look to the past, but we want to point forward to the Academy’s work in its third century.’

It is also a chance to celebrate the work the Academy does with ‘friends and associates.’ The composers who have been commissioned include Academy alumni, staff, students and honorands as well as associates, and there is an international spread of composers as well as the chance to look at the diversity of its reach to ensure that all sectors are represented.

Alongside the 200 pieces, the Academy’s Learning and Participation programme, Open Academy, will engage in work with secondary school students to support them in creating 200 of their own compositions. These will also be performed, with a selection recorded. The opportunity for these students to explore their own creativity is invaluable at a time when music is less accessible in the secondary school curriculum, and the department is committed to delivering 200 performances outside of the Academy’s walls in all sorts of settings, connecting with people through all walks of life.

This season, 23 premieres are currently scheduled including pieces by Diana Burrell, Luke Bedford, Philip Cashian, David Sawer, Robert Saxton and Mark Anthony Turnage. Some will be coming into the Academy as part of the composition process, collaborating with the performers. It is a true celebration of new music, bridging the past with the future and involving the immense amount of talent at the Royal Academy of Music as it marks its bicentenary.