Ludovico Einaudi – I Giorni (2001)

This album’s title translates as ‘The Days’ in English and was released in 2001. It was the first solo-piano follow-up to ‘Le Onde’ and became an almost instant hit on the popular British radio channel, Classic FM. The album is effectively one long lament, with each piece demonstrating Einaudi’s ability to compose utterly simple yet beguiling melodies.

Later on, the title track ‘I Giorni’ had a lot of interest due to Greg James’ airing in June 2011 on BBC Radio 1. It entered the UK Singles charts at number 32 on 12 June 2011. The solo piano track has also been featured on quite a few adverts for arts and culture programmes. By 2019, it had become Einaudi’s second most streamed single.

Einaudi was inspired to compose ‘I Giorni’ after hearing a twelfth-century folk song that originated in the country of Mali. The song describes the killing of a hippopotamus by a hunter, and the subsequent mourning in the local village [1]. It might seem strange then that so many people today choose this piece for their wedding ceremonies but the melody is so beautiful one can appreciate why this is so.

Two of my other favourites from this album are: ‘Stella del Mattino’ (‘Morning Star’) and ‘Limbo’, the first piece of Einaudi’s music I ever heard! It was inspired in part by Radiohead’s music who were enjoying a great deal of success at the turn of the new century.

‘Stella del Mattino’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness
‘Limbo’ composed by Ludovico Einaudi, played by John McGuinness


Frederick Chopin 01.03.1810

Frederick Chopin

Chopin was born on 1st March 1810 in Warsaw and was to become one of the world’s best known composers and virtuoso pianists. He has maintained worldwide renown as a composer whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” (Rosen, 1995).

The following blogs were designed to be read in order but can be enjoyed individually. I will be presenting some history, alongside some professional videos and some of my own recordings of Chopin’s best loved pieces. I do hope that you enjoy this little encounter with one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers.

Chopin, Field and the Nocturne

Chopin’s Nocturne in E flat major, Op. 9, No. 2

The term “Nocturne” was first applied to musical pieces in the 18th century. It indicated an ensemble piece in several movements, normally played for an evening party and then laid aside.

However, in its more familiar form, as a short piece usually written for solo piano, the nocturne was cultivated primarily in the 19th century. The first nocturnes to be written for piano were by the Irish composer, John Field (26 July 1782–23 January 1837).

Field is generally viewed as the father of the romantic nocturne, being the person who elevated the nocturne to the status later achieved by the great romantic composers, such as Chopin. The nocturne is traditionally associated with the night – a sort of evening serenade. However, it came to be associated more with its musical form. Simply put, it is usually in the form of a pure melody on the right hand with arpeggios on left hand.

Field composed eighteen nocturnes, their mixture of reverie and charming melodic invention providing constant musical delight.

I think one of the best examples of a nocturne in its pure form is Field’s first ever nocturne, Nocturne No. 1 in E Flat Major. I decided, for better or for worse, to record it a few years back. I do hope you enjoy my rendition of it, warts n’all.

Field’s first ever nocturne, Nocturne No. 1 in E Flat Major

Incidentally, to give some idea of Field’s popularity in Russia – where he lived and worked for many years – he is mentioned in passing in War and Peace. There is a scene in Tolstoy’s novel where Countess Rostova calls on the Rostov household musician to play her favourite nocturne.

However, the most famous exponent of the form was Frederick Chopin who wrote 21 nocturnes. His nocturnes for piano solo are undoubtedly amongst the most glorious in the classical piano repertoire. They cover a broad spectrum of feelings and moods and are rich in musicality.

I am working on two of Chopin’s nocturnes at the moment but I haven’t recorded them yet. Maybe in a future blog when I reach my 300th birthday!

It is one of the curses of being largely self-taught that I fear I have arrived at Chopin a little too late in my life. However, the magic of audio and video recording brings with it immediate access to the genius of Chopin through the beautiful performances of world-renowned pianists.

I recently saw on YouTube a wonderful performance by a young pianist called Tiffany Poon. She is playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major, Opus 9, No.2. I found it rather beautiful and very moving. I hope you enjoy it too.

I hope this little blog and Tiffany’s gorgeous playing might entice you, even if you are not normally into classical piano music, to search out more of Chopin’s beautiful nocturnes. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!

Frederick Chopin

This blog is the first in a series focusing on my favourite piano composers. I will be presenting some recordings of Chopin’s best loved pieces and I do hope that you enjoy this little encounter with one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers.

Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin was born on 1st March 1810 in Warsaw and was to become one of the world’s best known composers and virtuoso pianists. He has maintained worldwide renown as a composer whose “poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation.” (Rosen, 1995).

Chopin was a musical prodigy and he had completed many glorious early works by the time he was 20 years old. This first blog focuses on an extremely popular waltz composed by Chopin in the year 1829 at the age of 19. Waltz Op. 69, No. 2. from Deux Valses (“Two Waltzes”) was only published posthumously in 1852. The main theme is in the key of B Minor and is marked with an overall tempo of Moderato.

Chopin’s music has had a broad appeal and many of his melodies are instantly recognisable today. When I was a young psychology student at Glasgow University in the early 1970’s a lovely friend, Anne, gave me a book of Chopin Waltzes. I have always felt daunted by the prospect of playing Chopin but my love of and respect for his music has led me to “try” one or two of his pieces and, now that I am retired, I have even managed to record my efforts.

Waltz Op. 69, No. 2. from Deux Valses

The piece for me conveys a strong sense of underlying melancholia. There are three different sections. The waltz opens with a beautiful melody that is very popular. For right or wrong, I like to play the opening a bit slower than a lot of players because I genuinely feel that the slightly slower tempo conveys more of the underlying pathos of the piece. Soon the melody changes. It is quicker, lighter, smoother as if the load is lifted a little and is a little bit cheerier in tone. The change to a major key assists this. Then the melancholia returns with the opening theme reestablished toward the end. I suspect my fondness for this piece is due to the way the music seems to mirror perfectly the switches in mood Chopin is purported to have experienced throughout his life.

Although it has achieved great popularity, ironically, it is one of several works that the composer hoped would be burnt upon his death. Thankfully, it wasn’t!


Over the past six months I have written some new piano pieces. These “Songs Without Words” are relatively short and are unashamedly romantic in style.

Each track is a composition in its own right. However, they are connected to each other emotionally and intellectually. They are sincere expressions of my inner world, my “inscape” as it interacts with the “landscape” around me.

As I write this, we are still experiencing the demands of lockdown but, at least, there is a semblance of a return to some kind of normality in the not too distant future.

Music is a wonderful gift of communication and I have been touched throughout the pandemic by the way so many people have danced, sung and played music in order to keep everyone’s spirits high, bring us socially together and provide us with dreams of a better tomorrow.

I rather suspect it will take many years for people to absorb the enormity of the pandemic and its effects on our lives. Slowly but surely we will become less “anaesthetised” to the full social, psychological, cultural and economic damage and gradually awaken to the full horror of the death toll and of a world changed utterly. As with all change, however, it will bring positive outcomes as well. One thing for sure is that we will awaken gradually to a fuller awareness of the fragility of our existence.

I have always believed that communication through music can help us to come to terms with loss and bereavement and begin to dream again. It is in this spirit that I wrote these little pieces of piano music.

The songs have a different feel to my last album “Requiem” (2020). Whereas “Requiem” was about a world of loss and sorrow, hurt and anger, my latest set of songs is about a world of conciliation, new beginnings and tenderness.

“Where?” is a little melody that I found myself whistling. I wrote the melody down and then added a simple chord progression. I don’t do words – I’m useless with lyrics. This annoys me intensely because sometimes my little tunes suggest words and I hear little phrases in my head as I hum the song. As is characteristic of me, I select one of these little phrases as the basis for a title. Funnily enough, “Where?” seems to fit perfectly the sense of searching which I often experience as I walk in the woods.

If you are interested in my little piece “Where?”, it is available on most channels – Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, Apple and many more… click HERE

Bohemian Rhapsody

This Song, released by the band Queen in 1975, has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. Regarded by many as one of the most progressive rock songs of all time, its popularity has continued to the present day.

“Bohemian Rhapsody” Composer: Freddie Mercury Piano Solo: John McGuinness
“Freddie” A Tribute to Freddie Mercury by John McGuinness

Bohemian Rhapsody is a six-minute suite, consisting of several sections without a chorus. It has an intro, a ballad segment, an operatic passage, a hard rock part and a reflective coda. It was written by the band’s lead singer, Freddie Mercury.

It is still one of the best-selling rock singles of all time, was voted “The Song of the Millennium” in 2000, and was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the No. 1 song of all time.

The lyrics of the song are strange but fit the music beautifully. There has been much speculation as to the meaning of the words. Most people accept that the lyrics are largely self-referential, reflecting something of the intensity of Mercury’s life and personality. Mercury was very close emotionally to his parents. They were of the Parsi religion which sees homosexuality as an abomination. It is, therefore, possible that the lyrics reflect internal conflicts and issues relating to Mercury’s identity. Mercury was always evasive about the meaning of the lyrics. He said simply that the song was “about social relationships”.

In the seventies, I had mixed feelings about the song. I was never a great fan of Queen, but I was aware the group was different. I loved sections of the Bohemian Rhapsody, admiring the harmonies and the musicianship. However, I found the words a bit pretentious and the musical structure somewhat disjointed. I always liked the energy of the piece and I was touched by the underlying sense of melancholy, particularly in the closing passages.

More recently I have grown to appreciate this piece of music. Rick Wakeman, on BBC’s Desert Island Discs, tells a lovely story about his dad. Rick said that he and his dad happened to hear an old song on the radio and Rick, being a young arrogant music student, said “ How can people like that rubbish?”. His dad, who was a bit of a musician himself, said kindly, “try not to dismiss any music as unworthy until you have taken the time to learn and then play it. By doing this, I find that I nearly always come to understand why people like it”.

I have followed Mr Wakeman’s advice and, as a consequence, have grown to love and admire the vitality and complexity of this wonderful piece of music. I have recorded “Bohemian Rhapsody” and wish to share it with you. This version for piano solo is quite complex and I hope it conveys some of the energy of the piece. As is typical of me, I have attempted to make it somewhat “classical” in style although, unlike many versions, it is fairly close to the original. I do hope you enjoy it.

As well as growing to love Bohemian Rhapsody, I also came slowly to admire its composer, Freddie Mercury. I decided to write my own little tribute to him. I chose one or two chord progressions from the beginning of the rhapsody and developed them into this little piece to celebrate his life and works.


Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

Boléro is an orchestral piece of music by the French composer Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). It premiered in 1928 and is widely regarded as his most famous composition. It was originally written as a ballet piece.

Florin Baluta – YouTube

The music consists largely of a theme repeated over and over again. With each repeat, he simply adds more instruments! In this way, he gradually increases the volume of the music and enriches its melodic texture. It has been suggested that Ravel’s unusual interest in repetition was caused by the onset of progressive aphasia brought on by a stroke.

The tune is highly erotic and has a strong percussion section. With its driving rhythm, repetitive melody, gradual build up and gloriously exciting climax, it has much in common with contemporary popular music. It is a piece which has been loved by people of all ages. Although written by a classical composer, it is adored by people of all musical tastes.

At the Sarajevo Winter Olympics in 1984, Torvill and Dean won gold and became the highest scoring figure skaters of all time (for a single programme) after skating to Ravel’s Boléro. That day, twenty-four million people fell in love with the skaters, the choreography and, of course, Ravel’s Boléro.

I love the rhythm of the Boléro and for years wanted to write a piece of music that used this rhythmic form. But how do you follow Ravel’s majestic piece? The answer is simple – you can’t. However, after a visit to The Alhambra, in Granada, I decided to put together a little bolero of my own, an extract of which can be found below.

It is called “El Castillo”. Just for fun I tried it out with the original Torvill & Dean olympics video -see what you think – and you can also listen to the full track below.

El Castillo – John McGuinness

This piece comes from my album “ Memories of Andalusia”, which is a musical diary of my visit to Southern Spain. I hope you find it interesting.

Click image for John McGuinness – YouTube

The Waltz

I have never met anyone who does not know what a waltz is. This dance is renowned for its elegance, charm and romanticism. Even as a young lad I can remember my dad or an aunt telling me to stand on their feet and they would move around the kitchen in time to some awful tune on the radio, step by cumbersome step, shouting “ One, two, three -One, two, three.. ad Infinitum”. I loved it! It’s easy to please a four-year-old.

But where did this dance form come from? And why has it had such enduring popularity? Television programmes such as “Strictly Come Dancing” or New Year concerts from Vienna testify to the Waltz’s grand legacy of delight.

The Waltz almost certainly derived from the old German “Ländler“. It grew in prominence at the end of the 18th century, being the vogue in Vienna. It arrived in Britain around 1791. Popular composers such as Mozart regularly wrote waltz pieces for balls and public events in Vienna.

It is hard to imagine now, but the waltz was once regarded as quite improper and was almost universally disapproved of. An English chap called Burney in 1805 wrote, “ the verb ‘waltzen’… implies to roll, wallow, welter, tumble down, or roll in the dirt or more. What analogy there may be between these acceptations and the dance, we pretend not to say; but having seen it performed by a select party of foreigners, we could not help reflecting how uneasy an English mother would be to see her daughter so familiarly treated, and still more to witness the obliging manner in which the freedom is returned by the females”. I don’t know who this guy was but he must have been a wee bit of a kill-joy.

Johann Strauss Statue, Vienna

The great waltz composers of the early part of the 19th century were Joseph Lanner and the Strauss family. There are many celebrated waltz melodies that emerged in Vienna at this time but probably the best known today is “The Blue Danube Waltz” by Johann Strauss. It is smooth, elegant, and beautiful.

Even Andre Rieu, in a typically lavish performance of the waltz, leaves aside a proportion of his cheesy smile in order to give us a flavour of the grandness of the waltz as it may have been experienced in early 19th century Vienna.

A particular feature of the Viennese Waltz is worthy of note. Compared to the classic waltz, in the Viennese Waltz the second beat of the accompaniment is played a trifle before its legal moment. This is what adds to the vitality and energy of this particular form of waltz. It is the reason why some, but clearly not all, of the celebrities in “Strictly…” come a cropper in the Viennese Waltz section.

Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Weber, Chopin, Schumann, Brahms and many other classical composers wrote wonderful waltz tunes. The piano waltzes of Chopin and Brahms are of particular importance in the history of music.

Chopin’s Waltz in B minor, Opus 69, No.2 (Op. posth.)

A personal favourite of mine is Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, Opus 34, No.2. A friend gave me a book of Chopin Waltzes when I was at Glasgow University in the early 70’s and I was delighted that this particular waltz was in it. I recorded it a few years ago. I hope you enjoy listening to this. I have also recently recorded Chopin’s much loved Waltz in B minor, Opus 69, No.2 (Op. posth.)

Chopin’s Waltz in A Minor, Opus 34, No.2.
Chopin’s Waltz in B minor, Opus 69, No.2 (Op. posth.)

The waltz as an instrumental form continued to be popular throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it has been less favoured in more recent times. A lot of contemporary rock music tends to have 2 or 4 beats to the bar, but this is not a universal phenomenon. Much jazz, classical and contemporary music genres use mixed beat set-ups so that the rhythm of the piece changes, creating variety and novelty.

As far as the contemporary piano is concerned, there are some beautifully evocative waltz compositions. One of my favourite compositions is by Alexis Ffrench. Born in 1970, Ffrench has been improvising on the piano since the age of four. He received scholarships to study at The Purcell School for Young Musicians, the Royal Academy of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He is known for his unique style of combining his classical training with a love of roots music and Rhythm and Blues.

Bluebird (Solo Piano Version) by Alexis Ffrench is a smooth, melodic composition for solo piano. It is an elegant waltz and is quite beautiful. In my opinion, this contemporary piece demonstrates why rock artists are missing a trick or two by ignoring the waltz form.

A couple of my own little pieces are in waltz time. When I visited Italy some years ago, I made some new friends, including three amazing ladies in their eighties. Carol and I, being younger and more able-bodied (when not tipsy), would often walk holding arms with them in order to negotiate steep and busy pathways in places like Verona and Venice. Sometimes it must have looked to other tourists as if we were doing some crazy, unsychronised dance. When I got home I wrote a little waltz to celebrate those lovely moments. I called it “The Dance of Youth”!

Another little waltz I wrote is quite different. I was walking along the canal at Willington to get some exercise. I was in a sombre mood when I noticed some Willow trees hanging over the water. The weather was wintry, grey and bleak and the trees also seemed a bit sad. Of course, I know a tree cannot be sad but I sensed the pathos of the moment. Then a little bit of magic happened. The branches hanging over the water began to dance about in the wind – here, there and everywhere. They made my heart leap a little and I smiled for the first time that day. It is funny how the littlest things in life can give so much pleasure!

Later that day, I returned to my music diary and decided that my experience could best be encapsulated in a small piano solo. I decided it would have a sad opening. Then a little waltz melody would be introduced to describe the fluttering of the branches and leaves over the water. Then the piece would finish with the sad feeling again. I called this piece “The Willow Trees”.

Extracts from The Dance of Youth & The Willow Trees by John McGuinness

I hope you like my little waltzes and that they illustrate how the waltz rhythm can be varied in order to change the feeling of a piece of music. Vive la valse!

You can find full versions of my waltzes on Riversongs and Among the Willows by clicking on the images above.

Christmas Greetings

I have always loved Christmas. I remember one magical Christmas Eve walking with my older brother, Jim, through the deep snow to serve at midnight mass. It was my debut. I was so excited! I can still hear the distant church bells as we scrunched for a long way through the thick snow. All around, the silence of the night, the piercing chill wind, the distant lights surrounded us. After mass, we met our family and friends, wishing one to the other a wonderful Christmas.

I was not disinterested by presents but, for me, the lasting beauty of Christmas has always been the way in which it transforms people’s lives and creates a deep sense of mutual affection and love. Even today I get that lovely warm feeling when I see my grandchildren’s eyes light up with wonder at all things tinselly and sparkly. It makes the world a better place.

For me, it is a time of deep nostalgia too because most of the people who inhabited those places when I was a child and, indeed, most of the places themselves, are long since gone. It still manages to stir something of profound meaning and deep gratitude in my heart.

One particular Christmas Carol never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Consequently, I went to the piano and recorded it as a way of expressing my warmest Christmas wishes to each and every one of you. Now, which Carol could it be?

Thanks very much Anne for your guest article. Lovely to hear about your choir days and about your and Tony’s favourite Carols xx❤️

Willington, on the Banks of the River Trent

Willington Bridge
The Black Swan
Pastoral Scene

I live in Willington, a thriving village on the banks of the River Trent. There are so many beautiful walks along the river and the canal. As mentioned in my previous blog, these have provided me with many of my musical themes and ideas.

There is a richness and diversity of fauna and wildlife as well as a rich history both ancient and modern. On the other side of the river is Repton, the ancient capital of Mercia, home to one of the oldest public schools in England and St.Wystan’s Church. The crypt of the church was used as the burial chamber for the ancient Anglo Saxon kings and in its grounds were discovered the graves of vikings who had come up the Trent in their longboats and settled in the Repton area.

At Swarkestone, another neighbouring village, one can see the commemorative plaque to Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army. It marks the spot where Charles and his army turned back to Scotland on his ill-fated attempt to win back the British Throne for the Stuarts. Soon afterwards, they were decimated at Culloden!

When I was first widowed, I would walk the fields, discovering so many new things about Willington’s past, its geography, its history, its social and cultural life.

Many of the Piano pieces in “Riversongs” and “Among the Willows” are early attempts to capture the ambience of this place

In the last year, I have written a set of orchestral poems about my countryside “ haunts” entitled “Songs of the Trent”. I have not yet sent these for general distribution but I thought I would upload one or two of these musical poems in advance for you to hear.

I do hope you enjoy them.