John Bateman was my mentor for very many years. I was introduced to him by my former piano teacher Carlina Carr who had coaxed and coached me through my piano ARCM in l964. I had approached her to play some improbably difficult 20th century piece with me and she said: "this man in Muswell Hill just loves things like that, he's your man!". I think it was the Duo Concertante by Rawsthorne, which I did eventually play in the Wigmore Hall and which I have to say remained a thorn in my flesh for ever after. But John simply loved the challenge of any intractable modern work and more or less refused, gently, anything other than Stravinsky, Bartok, Janacek, Hindemith and Prokofiev. He was unfailingly polite about my rhythmic inadequacies and ever patient with my ungracious complaints about tonalities beyond my comprehension. He liked to put on delightful house-concerts in which I learned to overcome terrible stage fright and proved also to be a debonair host with impeccable taste in food from the finest delicatessen in Muswell Hill. I remember a remark he made when he looked at a velvet garment I was wearing; "ah, just like a Klimt"... at a time when I had not yet discovered this artist. So, in his refined and all-round knowledge of the arts he was an important person in my life and I remember him with great fondness.
Perhaps I can add a personal word - I already knew John a little through the Club, but got to know him better through Evelyn and her long-standing respect for him. I also have memories of, in my case, improbable piano duets - particularly a bizarre Jean Francaix (which he always insisted had to be pronounced 'fransakes') account of dissolute Rome with four solo voices as well - a typical enthusiasm on all counts. The last relevant Club event I remember was a concert of 20th century music (in the Club centenary year 1999) that he was trying to organise at long range, from one of his regular stays in America. He requested that it should include Henze's Arioso - for solo soprano (Lyn Parkyns, who liked it), solo violin (Evelyn, kicking and screaming) and, again, piano duet (Nick Reading and me, doing our best). It duly happened, but I am sorry to say that in the event he was so incensed by what was included in the rest of the programme (Herbert Howells, and Britten folk-song arrangements - genuinely 20th century, but not what he had in mind at all) that he wouldn't come to hear it - which is no doubt a fitting memorial to his exacting standards.
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Page last updated: 24 November 2005