Jablonski, Marek (Michael)

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P. Welding: ‘Hell Hound on his Trail’, Down Beat Yearbook (1966)

J. Shines: ‘The Robert Johnson I Knew’, American Folk Music Occasional (ii, 1970), 30–33

S.B. Charters: Robert Johnson (New York, 1973)

S. Grossman: ‘Robert Johnson’s Bottleneck Style’, Guitar Player, viii/10 (1974), 46 only

B. Groom: ‘Standing at the Crossroads: Robert Johnson’s Recordings’, Blues Unlimited (1976), no.118, pp.17–20; no.119, pp.11–14; no.120, pp.15–17; no.121, pp.20–21

R. Palmer: Deep Blues (New York, 1981/R)

J. Obrecht: ‘Robert Johnson Revisited’, Guitar Player, xxiv/9 (1990), 60–66, 69–72

P. Guralnick: Searching for Robert Johnson (New York, 1992)


Johnson, Robert Sherlaw

(b Sunderland, 21 May 1932). English composer and pianist. He studied at Durham University (1950–53) and at the RAM (1953–7), where his teachers included Alwyn, Bush and Ferguson (composition), and Pirani (piano). In 1957–8 he was in Paris, studying composition with Boulanger, attending some of Messiaen's classes at the Conservatoire and taking piano lessons with Février. He has held appointments as assistant lecturer at Leeds University (1961–3), as director of music at Bradford Girls' Grammar School (1963–5) and as lecturer at the universities of York (1965–70) and Oxford (1970–99). In 1969 he was one of the joint winners of the Radcliffe Music Award with his Second Quartet. He received the DMus (Leeds) in 1971, the DMus (Oxon) in 1990 and was made a FRAM in 1984.

An essential source for Johnson's activity, as composer and as pianist, has been the music of Messiaen, on which he has published a seminal study (1975, 2/1989). His performances of the solo piano music, much of which he has recorded commercially, move with keen rhythmic life through an extended range of dynamics and timbre, finely scaled to structural purpose. The same qualities animate his performances and recordings of the song cycles, given with Noelle Barker, for whom a large part of his own vocal music has been written. Messiaen's influence on Johnson's composition has been subsumed to varying degrees in different works, and combined with other interests, notably the music of Varèse, Stockhausen and Boulez. While The Resurrection of Fêng-Huang shows the influence of Messiaen’s Cinq rechants, there is a definite individuality in the later piano pieces, in two works for soprano, piano and tape – The Praises of Heaven and Earth and Green Whispers of Gold – and in the tape piece Fractal Dialogue (1994). A similar fusion of the modernist strands of Messiaen and Webernian serialism is to be found in his piano works. The First Sonata is strictly serial, while in the less orthodox serialism of the Piano Sonata no.2 (in which note-rows are transposed according to cycles of 5ths or 3rds, akin to Messiaen's modes), fingers and drumsticks are used directly on the strings to produce effects which interact almost orchestrally with the conventional keyboard sounds; in the expressive Seven Short Pieces (1968) this same technique evokes the sound of the gamelan. The use of selective transposition and a fixed pitch centre provides tonal focus in Carmina vernalia (1972), its third movement centring on middle C, while the Nocturn for two pianos (1992) involves ritual interactions between the keyboard and the strings and between the instruments. His colouristic use of the piano is perhaps most eloquent in the later Pour le tombeau de Messiaen (1994), in which his notations of goldfinch and blackbird song are set against colourful harmonic backdrops. A like concern for relating diverse materials brings richness to Green Whispers of Gold, where Johnson's vocal writing is at its most characteristic in ease and floridness.



Op: The Lambton Worm (2, A. Ridler), 1978

Choral: Resurrection, S, chorus, str, pf, 1960; A Liturgy of the Nativity, chorus, ens, 1962; Sedit angelus, Sarum antiphon for Easter, SATB, 1965; Veni sancte Spiritus, Pentecost sequence, SATB, perc ad lib, 1965; Congregational Mass, 1967; The Resurrection of Fêng-Huang, S, SATB, 1968; Incarnatio, Introit for the second Sunday after Christmas, SATB, 1970; An Anthem for the Trinity, SSA, org, 1971; A Festival Mass of the Resurrection, chorus, small orch/org, 1973–4, rev. 1986; Newminster Mass, 1981; Veritas veritatem, S, Mez, A, T, Bar, B, 1981; Aposticha for the Sunday of St Thomas, SATB, 1983; Missa aedis Christi, SATB, 1991

Solo vocal: A Song Cycle of Our Lady, S, hpd, 1960; Amores (e.e. cummings), S, cl, pf, 1964; Night Songs (Chin.), S, pf, 1964; Liturgia redemptionis nostrae, S, 9 insts, 1965; The Praises of Heaven and Earth (Ps cxlviii), S, pf, tape, 1969; Green Whispers of Gold (Cummings, Johnson), S, pf, tape, 1971; Carmina vernalia (medieval Ger.), S, fl, ob, cl, hn, tpt, trbn, vn, va, vc, 1972; Where the Wild Things Are (M. Sendak), S, tape, 1974

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