More duet performances followed in 1977 and their two-piano début took place in December as part of the enlightened series of Subscription Recitals for talented young artists set up by Peter Katin. Their international performances began in Canada in August 1979 and by 1983 they had played on four continents: the rest, as they say, is history! As a result of this plethora of significant dates as well as the independence of the two facets of duo music-making (1 piano/4 hands and two pianos each having their own individual technique, repertoire and sonority), David and Richard feel justified in extending the 30th Anniversary celebrations from 2005 to 2009!
Even in the highly committed world of classical music it is true to say that very few musical partnerships can claim to have survived to flourish and grow for such an extended period of time as Nettle & Markham, and it is a testament to the enduring passion they show in their working relationship for the music composers have written or transcribed for four hands that, while so many piano duos come and go, they continue to entertain and enrich their audiences through the quality of their playing, the variety of their repertoire and the originality of their transcriptions.
Celebrations to mark the 30th Anniversary of the formation of the Nettle & Markham Piano Duo began with the World Première of Hendrik Hofmeyr’s Concerto for Two Pianos. This new work, written especially for the Duo and commissioned by their dear friend and "musical godparent" Prof. Lionel Bowman, was enthusiastically received by audience and critics alike at its first performance in Pretoria; the Chamber Orchestra of South Africa was conducted by Conrad van Alphen [see Repertoire with Orchestra]. A second performance followed in December 2006 as part of the 1st Cape Town International Summer Music Festival, when the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by Owain Arwel Hughes. In the same concert Nettle & Markham were the soloists in Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals, to which the enormously popular Evita Bezuidenhout (aka Pieter-Dirk Uys) provided new, witty and topial verses. [see Photo Gallery]. Five days later their two-piano recital in Cape Town City Hall received rapturous acclaim:
"The internationally acclaimed piano duo, David Nettle & Richard Markham, presented a very substantial programme to an enthusiastic City Hall audience ........ with playing that was idiomatic, intelligent, superbly crafted and executed with precision .... Liszt's huge Concerto Pathetique, a tour de force of pianistic skill for both performers, was simply rivetting in its physical and emotional energy ...... Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto, in their fine transcription, became an alluring, evocative and finally exhilarating conclusion to a wonderful evening." [Deon Irish, Cape Times, 11 December 2006]
This very zoological recording also includes Jeremy narrating Poulenc's Babar, the little elephant in David & Richard’s two-piano transcription as well as more animal vignettes for 4 hands by Ibert, his 5 Histoires (including The Little White Donkey) – definitely a CD for family listening enjoyment! March 2009 saw re-releases of the 1980s Saga recordings, Holst's The Planets and Stravinsky's Petrushka and Tne Rite of Spring [see Discography].
Other engagements in 2007 included, as usual, a variety of repertoire in a wide range of venues: Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with the St Austell Choral Society in Bodmin [see Choral Repertoire], a P&O Classical Music cruise of the Baltic capitals, Side by Side by Sondheim with the Louth Choral Society and a two-piano recital to open the prestigious Singapore International Piano Festival.
2008 concerts included a highly varied and entertaining The Virtuoso Piano Duet recital for Grantham Music Club, including a performance of Kenneth Leighton's Sonata for Four Hands, composed and dedicated to David & Richard in 1985, as well as two-piano recitals for Beaconsfield Concerts and Thornbury Arts Festival.
The culmination of the 30th Anniversary celebrations occured during the Celebrity Recital series at London's Cadogan Hall on Friday 12 June 2009. The programme was:
SCHUMANN: 3 Canonic Studies, Op.56
BRAHMS: Sonata in F minor, Op.34b
SAINT-SAENS: Danse macabre
POULENC: Capriccio (Le Bal Masqué); Elégie; L'Embarquement pour Cythère
Nettle & Markham's 30th Anniversary celebrations have been spanning successive seasons! David was still a student when he and Richard took a break from the piano solo repertoire and joined forces to perform together in public for the first time at a charity concert in August 1975.
Nettle & Markham continued to expand their two-piano recital repertoire in 2006 and an autumn highlight was a UK tour which featured the world premiere of their transcription of the late Sir Malcolm Arnold's Cornish Dances (a work dear to David’s Cornish heart) in Truro on what would have been the composer’s 85th birthday [see Photo Gallery]. In order to keep some sort of geographical balance the Duo also included a work by Percy Grainger associated with Richard’s origins. 2006 happened to be the 100th anniversary of the composer’s second visit to Brigg to collect North Lincolnshire folksongs, and it was some of these which he later incorporated into his “bunch of musical wildflowers”, Lincolnshire Posy; it was fitting that two of the concerts were in that county.
The Duo’s long-awaited CD The Complete Two-Piano Works of Brahms is now available containing the Sonata in F minor Op.34b, the Haydn Variations (on the St Antoni Chorale) Op.56b and the 5 Waltzes Op.39. The launch of this CD and the Duo's 30th anniversary took place at Steinway Hall, London, on 10 May 2007.
Another new release followed in 2007. It features Jeremy Nicholas, who was commissioned by the Duo in 1985 to produce his witty, ingenious verses for Saint-Saëns' Carnival of the Animals for their Queen Elizabeth Hall 150th anniversary tribute to Saint-Saëns.
Later in the year they returned to the USA for a 5-week, 9300-mile, 16-concert tour of the Mid-West [see USA Tour 2008]. In 2008/09 they gave more performances of their unique reconstruction of Brahms' own 4-hand transcription of The German Requiem [see Choral Repertoire] in Cambridge, Oxford, Maidenhead and Solihull.