'Alan Ridout composed this Duo Concertant whilst he was still in Canterbury, finishing the work on 6th October 1986. The first performance was given by myself and the pianist Vanessa Latarche at Herne Bay Music Club in 1987.
Alan Ridout was born in West Wickham in Kent, attending Haberdashers' Aske's School, then in Hampstead. A precociously gifted musician, by the age of 12 he had already written over one hundred works and passed his Grade VIII Piano with distinction. He then studied at the Guildhall School of Music and the Royal College of Music in London under Herbert Howells, Gordon Jacob, Peter Racine Fricker and Michael Tippett. In his autobiography 'A Composer's Life' (1995), he refers to his time at the Guildhall from the age of 15 as 'the happiest time of his life', since he had known from childhood that all he wanted to do was to compose. In 1958, he was awarded a Netherlands Government Scholarship to study with Henk Badings who introduced him to electronic music and a wide range of European music. Leaving the RCM aged 20, he became Director of Music of a preparatory school in Kent.
Teaching was to remain important to him throughout his life. In 1964, he became Professor of Theory and Composition at the Royal College of Music and he also taught at the Universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and London and at the Cathedral Choir School and King's School, Canterbury, where he lived in the precincts of the Cathedral.
It was during my time as a schoolboy at King's, Canterbury, that I got to know Alan as a teacher and friend. He made a great impression on me both as a teacher of harmony and composition and as a composer from the musical 'outside world'. Whether in his beautiful works for choirs, his instrumental works or the entertaining theatre pieces, his music communicates with almost naïve simplicity and honesty.
The Duo Concertant was one of a number of works I commissioned around this time as a companion piece to Weber's Grand Duo Concertant. I remember teasing Alan at the time that the brief might not be quite so straightforward for him, as many of his pieces were intended for younger developing players and therefore intentionally not generally very challenging.
Alan's immediate musical thoughts were realised in a Threnody (Lament) in memory of his mother, who in the face of his father's fierce opposition had first arranged Piano lessons for him and encouraged him to develop his musical gifts.
The opening movement has all of the hallmarks of his style, clarity and simplicity of musical thought, open texture, simple but heartfelt vocal melodies, and a tonal or polytonal approach to harmony. First impressions, however, are deceptive as this moving Lento requires very sustained legato playing, big breaths and security in the altissimo register and it is also hard to judge and maintain the right speed. Try thinking in crotchets first before moving into an alla breve feeling of two-in-a-bar. The brief Scherzo is by contrast punchy, requiring attention to detail in articulation as well as good ensemble. In spite of marking the Finale in 2/2, the composer's crotchet metronome mark seems rather on the slow side. Whether the indicated crotchet = c.108 is a mistake, the music seems to work best at quaver = c.144-156, so those who want to cut a dash might like to try it a lot faster than c.108!' - Nicholas Cox