Tchaikovsky – ‘Theme and Variations’ from the Suite for Orchestra No 3 Opus 55

Transcribed for piano and performed by David Earl.

Recorded in the Fazioli Concert Hall, Sacile, Italy, on 14th November 2023. Production: Federico Furlanetto and Samuele Fabbro HvF Studio Casrsa (PN) – Italy

Scenes from a South African Childhood

Composed and performed by David Earl

Recorded: Fazioli Concert Hall, Sacile, Italy

15th November 2022

The gardens at Old Nectar 0:08

Princess Rainbow 3:34

At Bain’s Kloof (Baboon dance) 7:43

The blue dressing-gown (A lullaby) 10:36

Christmas at Rose Cottage 14:18

At Groot Drakenstein 15:43

At Rhodes Memorial (An elegy) 19:35

Bringing in the nets at Fish Hoek 22:40

The fig tree hammock 22:28

The gardens at Old Nectar 0:08

When my parents married, they rented a cottage on a small estate called Old Nectar, in the Jonkershoek Valley, near Stellenbosch, about thirty miles north of Cape Town. The gardens were the creation of Una van der Spuy, and they later became internationally famous. The old Cape Dutch manor house, the ancient oak trees, the lily pond fed by the mountain stream, and the long winding rose pergola, under which my Mother and I used to walk, made an incomparable impression on my earliest memories.

Princess Rainbow 3:34

Running through the Jonkershoek Valley was the Eerste (literally “first”) River. This lay just beyond, and parallel to, the gravel road leading up to Old Nectar. Here, in the boulder-strewn, light-dappled water, my Father would spend many a weekend hour trout fishing. I would often accompany him with a ‘pretend’ rod and line. Fly fishing was something of a passion for my Father, and he possessed a number of books, fact and fictive, on the subject. For several years he conjured up an on-going bedtime story about a trout called Princess Rainbow.

At Bain’s Kloof (Baboon dance) 7:43

We spent a couple of holidays at an isolated spot in the Cedarberg Mountains called Bain’s Kloof. There was no electricity: lamps provided light at night, and a paraffin stove was used in the kitchen. While I distinctly recall the odour of the eucalyptus trees outside, my over-riding memory is of the tribe of baboons who used to silently troop down the wooded hill-side, the tiny infants riding on their parents’ backs, or clinging to their necks. I found their frowning faces enormously threatening, and occasionally a fight would break out between the males, or, even worse, one of the males would have a violent altercation with his female mate. When the baboons appeared I was usually to be found under my bed.

The blue dressing-gown (A lullaby) 10:36

After my brother William was born we moved to Devon Valley, on the opposite side of Stellenbosch. There, at Rose Cottage, surrounded by vineyards and a pine forest in which grew gigantic red and white-spotted toadstools, we were host to a domestic flock of muscovy geese. They took a great dislike to my Mother’s blue dressing gown, and she learned never to go outside while wearing it. I well recall the tear along the hem, received after one particularly violent assault.

Christmas at Rose Cottage 14:18

The front room at Rose Cottage was filled with an enormous Christmas tree every year, and the fresh resin aroma of its pine-needles mingled with all the baking smells coming from the kitchen. This being the mid-1950s, my Father had invested in a LP record player, and an impressive cross-section of Christmas music was soon assembled. Chief amongst this collection was Bing Crosby singing White Christmas. Being in the Southern Hemisphere our Christmases were anything other than white but the irony of this did not reach me at the time.

At Groot Drakenstein 15:43

One of my uncles by marriage was the Director of Rhodes Fruit Farms who lived, with my Aunt and cousin Helen, in a wonderful home called Good Hope, in the district of Groot Drakenstein. Lying over the Helshoogte Pass east of Stellenbosch, the house was set on the mountain slope, and some way up behind it ran a sandy track leading to a deep natural reservoir. With overhanging oak trees, the latter was a secluded spot, inhabited by wild ducks and guinea fowl. I discovered Mozart’s C major Piano Concerto No 25 K503 among the recordings in the house, and the music became indelibly associated with the walk to this enchanted stretch of water.

At Rhodes Memorial (An elegy) 19:35

When I reached school-going age we moved to Cape Town, settling in the suburb of Rondebosch. Nearby, on the slopes of Devil’s Peak, stood the grand stone Memorial to Cecil Rhodes, with its gigantic bronze athlete on a horse: Energy, by Frederick Watts (there is a replica in London’s Hyde Park.) On either side of the massive steps leading to the top of the Memorial are pairs of lions, on which it is possible for children to climb. Climbing anything was not usually a prerogative for me personally, but I am sure on at least one school outing I would have done so here, through peer pressure if for no other reason.

Bringing in the nets at Fish Hoek 22:40

Once we were living in the Cape Peninsula, our favourite beach was Fish Hoek, overlooking False Bay and the Indian Ocean. Here there was quite an operation run by local commercial fishermen who had watchers up on the hillside on the lookout for shoals of whatever fish happened to be in the vicinity. They had a code of flag signals, and according to what was communicated, the fishermen on the sand would push down the boats, row out, and then drop a great semi-circle length of net into the water. Invariably the catch would be plentiful, and a certain amount of trading would take place right then and there with bathers on the beach, the remainder being packed into boxes and driven away to market. It would be some years before I came to deplore the cruelty whereby yellow-tail, and other large fish, were manually hurled up the sand to hasten their demise. The manner in which the death of certain creatures can be romanticised, as in this apparently idyllic/bustling scene, is one of life’s great paradoxes.

The fig tree hammock 22:28

Hanging between two large fig trees that grew in our Rondebosch back garden was a canvas hammock that my father bought from an army surplus store. I spent many solitary hours in it, reading an eclectic range of literature. Many of the trees on the property are no longer there, but amongst those that are is a mulberry which still produces an abundance of fruit every summer, more than half a century after we first moved there.

Nocturne – Old Nectar for Double Bass and Piano

Old Nectar is the name of an estate near Stellenbosch, South Africa, whose gardens have become nationally famous. It lies amid mountains in the Jonkershoek Valley, and overlooks the tree-shaded, boulder-strewn Eerste River. My parents rented a cottage there soon after their marriage in the 1950s, and I had the great good fortune of experiencing early childhood in this idyllic environment.

In ternary form, the Nocturne fleetingly evokes a myriad of sense impressions recalled from more than half a century ago, as well as from more recent times. It follows several other works inspired by Old Nectar’s haunting beauty: Old Roses and the first piece from the suite Scenes from a South African Childhood, both for solo piano; and the Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra.

This work was written in 2019 at the request of Leon Bosch, who has assembled a collection of Double Bass pieces by South African composers.

D. E.
January 2022

Symphony in C (a Carbon Symphony)

1st movement – ‘Carbon, the element of Earth’ (0:00)
2nd movement – ‘Carbon, the element of Air’ (17:34)
3rd movement – ‘Carbon, the element of Fire’ (30:42)
4th movement – ‘Carbon, the element of Water’ (36:47)

Royal Scottish National Orchestra
Ben Gernon – conductor

Studio recording – Glasgow, 24th and 25th October 2019.

The Symphony was inspired by the 2019 book, Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything, written by the US geologist Robert Hazen. The book explores the elemental role of carbon in life on Earth as a symphony, with movements inspired by four classic elements of Greek mythology – earth, air, fire, and water.

Chopsticks Variations

Performed by David Earl, piano

Filmed by Tom Andrews in The Old Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge. 19th September 2019

Five excerpts from 15 Bagatelles for Clarinet, Cello and Piano

Daniel Prozesky – clarinet, Peter Martens – cello, Elna van der Merwe – piano.

Filmed during an impromptu rehearsal on 22nd September 2020.

Old Roses

Performed by David Earl, piano

Filmed by Tom Andrews in The Old Library, Pembroke College, Cambridge
19th September 2019

Macbeth (a ballet in two acts)

Premiered by Ballet de Santiago Chile on 22nd March 1991 in Santiago, Chile.

Based on the play by Shakespeare.

Choreography – André Prokovsky.
Music – David Earl
Sets and Costumes – Robin Don
Lighting – Bernardo Trumper
Philharmonic Orchestra de Santiago
Conductor – Miguel Patron Marchand

Act One

1. Prelude (0:00)
2. Battle – Macbeth victorious. (1:25)
3. Macbeth meets the witches. (4:35)
4. Macbeth considers the prophesies. (9:16)
5. Macbeth rejoins his troops; re-appearance of witches. (11:16)
6. Lady Macbeth reads her husband’s letter; he returns. (14:02)
7. Arrival of King Duncan. (20:35)
8. Lady Macbeth plants seeds of destruction; Macbeth sees daggers all around him; goes to murder Duncan. (22:26)
9. Lady Macbeth waits. (27:59)
10. The porter is woken. (31:05)
11. Murder discovered; Duncan borne away. (32:53)
12. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth exult. (35:19)
13. Macbeth dreams of Banquo’s threat. (37:52)
14. Banquo flees but is murdered. (40:34)
15. Banquet: formal dance. (43:10)
16. Entertainment by jugglers. (46:13)
17. Banquo’s ghost appears. (49:08)
18. Lady Macbeth dances for the guests; Banquo re-appears. (51:36)
19. Macbeth suffers a breakdown. (55:47)

Act Two

1. Prelude (57:10)
2. Reign of terror. (57:49)
3. Witches’ coven. (1:01:51)
4. Visit of Macbeth. (1:04:39)
5. Vision of kings. (1:06:17)
6. Macduff as threat. (1:09:26)
7. Macduff with his wife and children. (1:09:58)
8. Murderers approach them; all but Macduff are killed. (1:14:19)
9. Lady Macbeth sleepwalks. (1:17:33)
10. Macduff rallies soldiers to overthrow Macbeth. (1:23:22)
11. Macbeth deranged by guilt; Lady Macbeth commits suicide. (1:26:53)
12. Macbeth calls for arms. (1:31:12)
13. Approach of the moving wood; battle; Macduff kills Macbeth. (1:31:56)
14. Epilogue: The witches enclose the scene. (1:37:44)

Sangharakshita Songs

1. Bamboos (0:18)
2. The Evening Walk (3:56)
3. The Secret (6:55)
4. Longing (9:52)
5. Man’s Way (11:52)
6. Peace (14:26)
7. Messengers from Tibet (17:53)
8. The Bodhisattva (22:05)

Poems – Urgyen Sangharakshita
Music – David Earl

Filmed by Surya Williams at The Festival Theatre, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, on Saturday 27th October 2018.

Graham Titus, baritone
David Earl, pianist
Michael Lunts, reader

Special thanks to:
Tejasiddhi, Cambridge Buddhist Centre
Mahasraddha, The Abhayaratna Trust
Bárbara Sousa, assistant camera operator
Julian-David Vincent – page turner


Darshan – from Sanskrit, meaning “to see or glimpse a vision or apparition” – is normally defined as an auspicious sight of a holy person or guru, which bestows merit on the one who beholds such an individual. The word can mean both “seeing” and “being seen”.

The poet Gary Snyder likens it to “…a gift: the moment in which the thing is ready to let you see it – a source of a certain kind of inspiration for creativity. You get a view of the Himalayas from the foothills, and an Indian person would say, ‘Ah, the Himalayas are giving you their darshana’; they’re letting you have their view. This comfortable, really deep way of getting a sense of something takes time. It doesn’t show itself to you right away. It isn’t even necessary to know the names of things the way a botanist would. It’s more important to be aware of the ‘suchness’ of the thing; it’s a reality.”

The three movements of Darshanas open out the implications of such an experience.

Recorded in the Old Library, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, 11 September, 2017.

Strange Ghost – Highlights

Highlights of Strange Ghost, a two-act opera written to mark the centenary of Rupert Brooke’s death in April 1915.

First performances took place at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, in December 2015.

Composer – David Earl; librettist – Juliet Jenkin.

Full details at

Strange Ghost – Act Two Scene Two

Goitsemang Lehobye as Taatamata and James Schouten as Rupert Brooke in Act Two Scene Two of Strange Ghost, a two-act opera written to mark the centenary of Rupert Brooke’s death in April 1915.

First performances took place at the Festival Theatre, Cambridge Buddhist Centre, in December 2015.

Composer – David Earl; librettist – Juliet Jenkin.

Full details at

Piano Quintet

David Earl performs his Piano Quintet with the Odeion Quartet (Denise Sutton & Sharon de Kock, Violins; Jeanne-Louise Moolman, Viola; Anmarri van der Westhuizen, Cello). Recorded at Hiddingh Hall, Cape Town, 22nd August 2010.

You can also watch the four movements as separate videos on Youtube.

Wind and Wings

Wind and Wings – performed by Cambridge Contemporary Dance and Cecily Beer (harp), David Curington (oboe), Chloe Grover (flute), Christopher O’Beirne (clarinet).

Music – David Earl; Choreography – Vanessa Fenton. Created for “Experience Dante” at Robinson College 26th April 2009.

Filmed by Claude Schneider at the performance on 23rd June 2009.

Piano Concerto No. 2

David plays his Piano Concerto No.2 with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Kern.