I first met Alan about 1925 at a meeting of the Manchester Contemporary Music Centre (the meetings were held monthly at the then R.M.C.M.).
He was in his first year as a student and I would have been in my second if I had not had to leave, (the coffers were empty). He introduced himself to me with a gracious remark about my first string quartet that had just been played by what later became known as the Catterall Quartet. (its first performance coincided exactly with its last performance, for I destroyed the material).
After that we met again some years later in the Liverpool flat of Gordon Green - a mutual friend, who taught in Liverpool after leaving the College. The occasion was made very memorable by hearing Alan play his Bagatelles for piano. I was astonished how early he had developed an unmistakable musical signature that served him, more or less, throughout his composing career; the shifting tonalities, the dry wit, the bitter-sweet harmonies of the augmented triad, and the somewhat arid, though captivating charm.
When he moved to London I had less contact for a while until our joint membership of the Composers' Guild of Great Britain. We met once or twice over a meal, or coffee, and at his flat. To my orientated provincialism he seemed rather the typical Man-About-Town, who, a generation earlier might have been wearing a silk hat, black cloak and silver knobbed stick; he carried the latter, anyway, and wore a black broad-brimmed hat, beloved of Bohemia, and a bow tie. I suppose his manner could be called debonair.
There was a rather stormy Composers' Guild meeting during the anti-Communist period in Britain and the U.S.A. I forget the details, but there were some very unpleasant exchanges concerning the BBC, an 'Establishment' conductor and the composer Benjamin Frankel, over a work of the latter, turned down because of his political allegiance. William Alwyn was the chairman and was on the verge of tears as the atmosphere became more clamorous. At the point of near-ignition Alan spoke up, making an oblique aside at the intolerance by saying he had no objection if the Conservative Party were to perform.... (short pause for thought) Stainer's Crucifixion - which immediately released tension and provoked a gust of laughter. He was, in fact, a virtuoso bubble-pricker and demolisher of pomposity and pretentiousness, very 'Oscarwildish'! Witness his remark to someone who asked if he dined at the Savoy - implying that he (the questioner) often did; and Alan's sharp reply, which would not have been in the best of taste at a Vicarage Tea Party, but was exactly appropriate here: "No, but I might just pop in if I wanted to pee.
We were both born about ten miles from each other - as the crow (sometimes) flies, in the cotton area of Lancashire. His Bagatelles, and my Prelude, Minuet and Reel once appeared in the same programme, when Gordon Green broadcast them from Norway, but there was a much later near-miss when John Ogdon offered Alan's Second Piano Concerto and my No. 1, to feature three Lancashire lads' in the same programme at the Royal Festival Hall, only to have mine withdrawn by Powers That Be.
I don't think it would be the first performance of Alan's First Piano Concerto, but I went to the Royal Albert Hall to hear it, played by Louis Kentner, with Alan's close friend, Constant Lambert conducting. It was in the second half, and I went round to the Green Room during the interval to wish them well, and could not help noticing that both were rather the worse for strong liquor.
I returned to my seat in the balcony above the pianist, in full view of operations, but it was obvious - in the Finale, I think, - that Lambert - brilliant musician that he was had either lost his place in the score, or was temporarily incapable, and that the performance was rescued by Kentner's very fine communication with the orchestra.
These are random personal recollections - I leave analysis to others more closely acquainted with Alan's complete output.
Taken from THE CREEL, the Journal of the Friends of Alan Rawsthorneand Rawsthorne Trust, Vol.1 No.4 Spring 1991