STANLEY BATE - Forgotten International Composer.
by Michael Barlow and Robert Barnett
Introduction and Acknowledgements
Much of this article, which combines an attempt at a biographical outline with a cursory description of the music, is based on research conducted by Michael Barlow at the BBC Archive Centre. Thanks are due to the unfailingly attentive assistance of the staff at Caversham Park. A further major source of information has been the collection of newspaper cuttings held by the library of the Royal College of Music. Without the kind co-operation of the College and in particular Peter Horton, Assistant Librarian, this article would not have been written. Thanks are also due to Miss Lilian Martin for access to her collection of cuttings and correspondence, to many individuals who knew Bate at various stages in his career and who gave freely of their time and memories and to Mark Lehman, Marc Bernier, Norman Morrison, Michael Jones, David C.F. Wright, Dr. David Strong and Richard D.C. Noble. The attribution of opus numbers is a far from exact exercise and there are inconsistencies, with some works apparently occupying two numbers and others without numbers at all. Bate's works certainly deserve serious musicological and critical attention. This article is no substitute for such a study. It is a provisional introduction. A complementary and more personal article by Anthony Hodges is to be found in the British Music Society Newsletter No. 47 p. 173.
Early Days in Plymouth 1911-1928
Swilly was the name enjoyed by a suburb of Plymouth situated near the head of Keyham Creek within the Norman manor of Stoke. Its name has pejorative overtones but etymologically it refers to "a hollow place". The name Swilly has largely disappeared from modern usage and in its place the area has become North Prospect. The area was still known by its perfectly respectable original name in 1911, the year of the birth of Stanley Bate.
Stanley Richard Bate was born on 12 December 1911 (not 1910, 1912 or 1913 as claimed by some authorities). The family home was Hazeldene, 2, West Down Road, Milehouse, which his mother continued to occupy for the rest of her life. Bate was one of several children; the other being a sister Dorothy (later Dorgan). Bate attended Sutton High School. His musical talents blossomed early and his first attempts at composition were made at the age of seven. He was almost completely dependant for his musical education and entertainment on his own piano playing. He had no access to the wireless and visiting orchestras were a rarity. While having no affinity with the organ, he procured a position as organist at Plymouth's Herbert St Methodist Church. This was in 1923 at the age of 12. The next year he forsook the Herbert St appointment for a larger pipe organ at a Methodist Church just across the river Tamar at Torpoint in Cornwall. This would have involved him in taking the Torpoint ferry adjacent to the bustle of the Royal Naval Dockyards.
The Forest Enchanted and All for the Queen 1928-1931
Bate studied composition with an eminent teacher and local composer, Harold C. Lake and piano with Douglas Durston. In 1928 he wrote an opera: a Christmas piece entitled The Forest Enchanted which was locally produced by the Tamaritan Quartette, directed by the composer. Lake then assisted the budding composer to write his first landmark work. This was the opera All for the Queen - 'a faerie phantasy'. Bate himself provided the libretto. It was Lake who guided Bate on the orchestration of the piece. The composer conducted the première at The Globe Theatre, Royal Marine Barracks, Stonehouse, Plymouth on 30 November 1931. Early in 1991 the autograph manuscript working score was discovered in a car boot sale in Plymouth. This indicated an earlier date for the first performance quoting 3-4 April 1929. The cover of the score contains a quotation the attribution of which has been corrected from Walter de la Mere to John Drinkwater. The performance came about through Lake's encouragement. Bate also had the active support of a group of very talented local amateurs although the lead was taken by a professional soprano. The piece was apparently "a gay and lively operetta somewhat in the style of Merrie England" (the only opera which Bate had heard at that stage in his career) and it was certainly an outstanding success running for a week and turning in a substantial profit. A contemporary review had it that: "if ... the 19 year old Plymouth musician continues as he has begun, he will one day make his name as a composer." An approach has been made by Lilian Martin to Opera South West in the hope of a revival.
Plymouth Days 1928-1932
In 1928 Bate entered the Daily Express National Piano Playing Competition. This was recalled by fellow competitor, Lilian Russell Martin, a piano teacher living at Yelverton. Bate was a good organist and pianist but did not do as well as Miss Martin and so lost the opportunity of gaining the regional prize of a Broadwood piano. This went instead to Eileen Tombe, former leader of the Plymouth Symphony Orchestra. Miss Martin recalls Bate's consideration in telling her "You could have won on the way you played in the morning." The adjudicator was John Ireland. In 1959, the year of Bate's death, Miss Martin and Evelyn Rogers played two movements of the Op. 38 Suite for two pianos at a Memorial concert of the Plymouth Music Society.
Lake was not Bate's only supporter. He attracted the attention of a wealthy Plymothian philanthropist, Casanova Ballard, whose surname now graces a swimming pool near the city centre. Ballard provided Bate with financial support for his studies through the late 1920s and early 1930s enabling him from the age of seventeen to study in London with Felix Swinstead.
Bate was always a prolific composer. Amongst his earliest works pre-dating the College was Three Winter Pieces Op. 4 for solo piano. These were published by the Plymouth firm, Parker & Smith and were the first of Bate's works to be published.
The Royal College of Music Years 1932-1936
In 1932 he won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music. With Ballard's assistance he rented accommodation in Streatham. According to Eve Kisch's article in the November 1938 Monthly Musical Record (a worthy introduction to the early works), Bate arrived at the College with a "vast collection of original compositions, including big piano concertos and string quartets". When asked if he had any more works Bate apparently replied that this was only a very small part of his output. Seven years earlier, in 1925, he had decided to become a composer and during that time he had been composing prolifically and studying modern works.
His first study at the College was composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams. VW's Lark Ascending inspired Bate's enthusiasm. Generally Vaughan Williams showed a constant interest in Bate's work at this time and never failed to give him encouragement right up to the 1950s. His second study was piano with Arthur Benjamin. There was also counterpoint with R.O. Morris, orchestration with Gordon Jacob. Jacob remembered him as a "very gifted" student and a "voluble talker" with a vivacious personality.
He left the College in 1936 having proved himself an outstanding student carrying off many prizes including the W.W. Cobbett (for an early String Quartet, 1933), the Ernest Farrar in 1935 (Britten had won it in 1931 and 1933), and in 1936 the Sullivan.
During his holidays out of term time he returned to the family home at Plymouth and extracted an income from appearing as a pianist in a small orchestra at Williams Café at the top of Union St. He was remembered long afterwards in Plymouth as the young man in the orchestra with "a soulful expression". Aileen Mills, one of the local artists who sang in both The Forest Enchanted and All for the Queen was also studying at the College and recalled that he "was pretty down on his luck and very poor and I used to give him a good square meal". The only furniture in the Streatham rooms was a grand piano. Miss Mills was the dedicatee of his Yeats song setting When I am old and grey and full of tears.
Bate dated his first serious compositions from his RCM years, in particular the String Quartet No. 1 (1936) (not to be confused with the earlier Cobbett Prize work) and the Symphony No. 1 in E flat (circa 1934) which received its first performance at the RCM in 1936. Other works performed at the RCM include an early Piano Concerto (circa 1934) give in December 1934 and an orchestral Overture dating from 1936 and first performed the same year.
Peggy Glanville-Hicks 1931-1936
Amongst the many students at the College Bate came to know Peggy Glanville-Hicks. She was born on 29 December 1912 in Melbourne, Australia. Her first studies were with Fritz Hart at the Melbourne Conservatorium. Then in 1931 she travelled to London and began studies at the College with Vaughan Williams, R.O. Morris, C.H. Kitson, Gordon Jacob, Constant Lambert and Malcolm Sargent. His name was to be linked with hers until 1948. Gordon Jacob thought Glanville-Hicks had "greater sensitivity and self-criticism" than Bate and always felt that she had "sacrificed her own career to help to promote" Bate's. Bate showed talent as a painter at this time and held a number of exhibitions of his pictures. Glanville-Hicks died in Sydney on 24 June 1990.
Paris and Berlin 1936-1937
Bate's sister recalled Vaughan Williams speaking to her of Bate: "You have a very clever brother." Clearly Bate was an impressive student. Amongst the battery of prizes he won while at the College was the Octavia Travelling Scholarship. This enabled him to continue his studies on an international stage. He went to Paris during 1936 and studied privately with Nadia Boulanger.
Boulanger thought highly of her pupil and later travelled to London to conduct a performance of the Concertino. She wrote of Bate: "Among the young composers of today, very few have such importance as his. He possesses personality, strength, originality and also a natural vein which makes his music a pleasure for the amateur as well as the professional musician. Bate is also a remarkable pianist and his contribution to contemporary music is rather exceptional." Priaulx Rainier also admired Bate's music.
One source suggests that he received lessons from Ravel but this is dubious. During 1936 Bate combined his participation in the "Boulangerie" with tuition from Hindemith in Berlin at the Hochschüle für Musik. This international dimension became central to his professional life. Whether this was by choice or by way of reaction to neglect at home, remains a matter of speculation.
Glanville-Hicks also won a travelling scholarship at this time. She used it to travel to Paris for tuition from Nadia Boulanger and to Vienna where she was taught by Egon Wellesz. Wellesz's course was in musicology and advanced composition.
Bate once said that he had benefited more from VW's and Lake's teaching in earlier days than from Boulanger and Hindemith. Kisch however relates that the "beneficial results of Boulanger's training and discipline" and the "widening knowledge of the music of the French and Russian schools are to be seen almost immediately" in Bate's work. "Bate emerged from Boulanger's training with an undiminished felicity of expression but with a new power to express himself succinctly and relevantly in the less pretentious forms of music e.g. Piano Sonata (1937), Sonata for flute and piano (1937), Trio for flute, cello and piano (1938) and Concertino for piano and chamber orchestra (1937)".
Works dating from these years include: the Flute Sonata Op. 11 [1937, considered by Kisch to be "admirably conceived for the medium"], the Recorder Sonatina Op. 12 [1938, 8', written for Manuel Jacob and first performed by Carl Dolmetsch and Joseph Saxby in June 1939 at the home of Sir Robert Mayer in London; also in version for flute], Six Pieces for an Infant Prodigy for solo piano Op. 13 [4'], a Wind Quintet, Violin Concerto No. 1 (short score dated July-December 1936, orchestration completed November 1937), the ballets Eros (1935) and Goyescas or Goya Dances for piano and string quartet (1937) and Two Preludes for chamber orchestra (1936). Some of these works, including the first piano concerto and symphony, were later disowned by the composer and are understood to have been destroyed. According to the actress Aileen Mills these early works were: "sensitive and delightful ... influenced by Delius and Ravel."
Return to England 1937
Having established his credentials and while still pursuing lessons with Boulanger and Hindemith in 1937, he returned to England for occasional visits. The Two Preludes for chamber orchestra were played by a chamber orchestra directed by Iris Lemare at the Mercury Theatre on 22 February 1937. Lemare considered them "... workmanlike and efficient but not inspired." "Pleasant" and "derivative" were typical press comments.
Bate had become an outstanding concert pianist although for the most part his appearances were to be restricted to presentations of his own music. He was fortunate to attract a commission from the Eastbourne Festival. The commissioned work was his Concertino for piano and chamber orchestra Op. 21 [1-2-2-1 2-1-1-0 perc strings, 10'-12', Lengnick]. This was premièred on 8 February 1938 by the 26 year old composer with the Eastbourne Municipal Orchestra conducted by Kneale Kelly. The performance drew favourable critical attention. Kisch's article states that "... pointed use is made of the percussive qualities of the piano in a manner new to Stanley Bate and perhaps derived from Stravinsky." The score is dated 17 December 1937.
At about this time Bate also completed the Sinfonietta No. 1 Op. 22 [2-2-2-2 4-2-2-0 perc strings, Lengnick, 16']. From approximately 1937 date the Five Pieces for string quartet Op. 23. These pieces are: 1. Moderato (Energico); 2. Ostinato (Presto); 3. Romanza (Lento); 4. Valse and 5. Chant (Lento).
The London stage, BBC, marriage and the Concertante 1938
From 1937 his "bread and butter" was derived from forging an association with the world of the London stage. He became musical director with Michel Saint-Denis at the Phoenix Theatre. While with Saint-Denis he wrote incidental music for productions of The White Guard, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard; all London Theatre Studio. At this time he also wrote music for Lorca's Bodas de Sangre (Savoy Theatre) from which he extracted the Suite for two trumpets, flute and piano. Saint-Denis was also responsible for productions of Sophocles' Electra and Surica Maejito's mime-ballet Juanita. Maejito was the dedicatee of the Seven Piano Pieces (1938). Eve Kisch believed that Bate was well qualified to supply music for these productions, his "eclectic and unerring taste" enabling him to compose "very apt music for the varied productions of Saint-Denis and others set in Spain, Russia, Ancient Greece etc." Apart from the predominance of theatre music produced during 1938 he also produced a set of Housman Songs.
Such was the cachet of the Eastbourne success that the Concertino was taken up by the BBC in a broadcast performance directed by Nadia Boulanger with the BBC Orchestra and the composer as soloist. This went out on 4 November 1938. Bate's relationship with the BBC was however bedevilled with disputes. Despite constant success abroad, broadcast performances here were very rare and many strongly worded letters from and to the BBC were written. One of the earliest (16 February 1939) to Mr K. Wright: "... I find it very difficult to know how to set about getting performances (very important to a young composer). It is also difficult to decide on sending scores away for a long time unless one knows that the recipient is interested in them." Later, more irate letters than this one were sent to the BBC and despite the advocacy of RVW, Boulanger, Sargent and others, Bate's name (and music) caused little joy amongst the BBC music staff e.g. Basil Lam: "... I have no use for this composer." An anecdote recounted by his mother shortly after his death refers to an incident where the BBC approached Bate to take part in a broadcast concert and then transferred his part in the programme to the second part after the interval. This was not broadcast.
Three days after the BBC Concertino performance Peggy Glanville-Hicks and Stanley Bate were married. They took their honeymoon in the Swiss Alps. It was during their stay at the tiny town of Foumex that Bate revised the Concertante for piano and string orchestra Op. 24 [Schott, 23']. The Concertante had been completed in its original form in August 1938 beginning life as a Concerto for piano and string orchestra. The pounding rhythms of the first movement are an echo of the desperate hammering of the cobbler in whose house Bate found a piano on which to develop the work which was finally to emerge in front of the public in 1939. The première was given at the Aeolian Hall on 5 June 1939 by Lloyd Powell with the Riddick String Orchestra conducted by Kathleen Riddick.
London ballet world 1937-1939
Bate also worked with Ballet "Les Trois Arts" on productions at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith. With the coming of the Second World War Bate became an organiser of "blackout entertainments." Peggy collaborated with him as assistant manager, publicity director and assistant conductor. They pursued a policy of encouraging new works in the ballet medium an example of which is Elisabeth Lutyens' Midas premièred on 25 November 1939. Lutyens was another of Bate's assistants. She was not particularly impressed with the troupe referring to it as a "fairly crook" ballet company.
During 1938/39 Bate had written the ballet Perseus Op. 26 "after the traditional Greek myth" for "Les Trois Arts." The ballet was in seven scenes: Prelude; [curtain up] The Vision of Athene; 1. Perseus in the house of Polydectes; 2. Perseus prays to the gods and is given the magic Sword, Shield and Sandals; 3. Perseus visits the grey sisters; 4. Perseus in the garden of the Hesperides; 5. Perseus slays Medusa, the Gorgon; 6. Andromeda chained to the rock - Perseus rescues Andromeda - Perseus and Andromeda depart in triumph; 7. Feast at the Court of Polydectes - Perseus stops the feast and turns the guests to stone - Perseus is vindicated and dances with Andromeda - Perseus departs with Andromeda.
It was produced at the Lyric by John Regan with décor by Toni del Renzio. The first performance was on 18 November 1939. The orchestra was conducted by Emanuel Yourovsky. The dancers were Lisa Brionda, Celia Franca, Olga Valevska, Joan Innes, Maria Sanina, Anna Lendrum, Sylvia Rye, Jack Spurgeon, John Regan, Leo Kersley, Alexis Rassine, Igor Barczinsky and Toni Repetto. There were further performances on 20, 22, 23, 24 November and 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 December. Bate made a full orchestral suite from the ballet [2-2-2-2 2-2-2-0 timp perc strings, 28', Schott]. The ballet was also available for piano, flute, string quartet and double bass.
Frank Howes, the Times critic, wrote of the first performance of Perseus: "The music is neo-classic in style and relies for dramatic effect upon its rhythmic tensions. The general impression is that here is a composer who will soon make a distinctive mark."
At the end of December 1939 he left "Les Trois Arts" and joined the Arts Theatre group working with the same responsibilities. With the Group he revived Perseus with Keith Lester's choreography and Pamela Bowden's décor and costumes. Here he also wrote a ballet Cap over Mill Op. 27 for the Ballet Rambert. This was in two acts and was laid out for the more practical forces of two pianos. Walter Gore was responsible for the choreography and Nadia Benois, the décor. He later made a suite from the music Op. 27 (12'). The original two pianos were retained for the suite. Also dating from 1939 is the Sonatina No. 1 Op. 19 No. 1 for piano; the first of a cycle of nine.
During these hectic years his activities in the theatre in no way stemmed the flood of new works although prospects of achieving performances were not good. In Spring 1939 he completed his Symphony No. 2 Op. 20 [3-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc strings, 30'] on which he had been at work since October 1937. Although still listed in the catalogue of Associated Music Publishers Inc. in 1948 it seems to have been withdrawn although the full score survives. In any event it does not appear to have been performed at all. In the same year he produced a Trio for flute, cello and piano Op. 9 [7']. At about this time (probably 1938) Bate's newly completed Flute Sonata Op. 11 [10'] was recorded on 2 10" 78s with sponsorship from the music publishers Editions de L'Oiseau Lyre. The artists were the father and son duo Marcel Moyse (flute) and Louis Moyse (piano). The movements of the sonata are: 1. Introduzione - Scherzando, 2. Andante and 3. Presto.
In 1940 he completed his Symphony No. 3 Op. 29, a work whose mood was very much in keeping with the violence and instability of the times. He suffered a severe illness at about this time although the nature of this illness is not specified. Sir Henry Wood commissioned a work from Bate for the Proms enabling him to complete and submit the Piano Concerto No. 2. It was accepted but the Blitz prevented its performance. Bate's frustration was noted in Musical Opinion.
Having recovered from the illness, Bate was able to take up an offer from the British Council for a tour of Australia. In May 1939 he travelled via the U.S.A. on board the same ship as Benjamin Britten, a contemporary for whom he felt little sympathy musically and personally. The purpose of the visit was to lecture on British and contemporary music, to appear as soloist in a number of his own pieces and generally to promote the performance of British works both in live concert and through broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Amongst the works he took with him was Vaughan Williams' Piano Concerto which had been premièred by Harriet Cohen with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult at a Queen's Hall concert on 1 February 1933. Glanville-Hicks and Bate went to Australia together, collaborating as ambassadors of British musical culture. The young composer played the piano part in a performance of the Op. 24 Concertante broadcast on the National Programme on Saturday 16 November 1940. The orchestra was the Sydney Orchestra conducted by Percy Code.
The critic in Wireless Weekly wrote of the Concertante: "It is an energetic work, good fun for a good pianist - which Stanley Bate undoubtedly is - and with a highly satisfying slow movement. That burst of lyrical feeling separated two rather uncompromising movements ... uncompromising in the sense that they pursued an intellectual idea rather than infected the hearer with any expression of feeling. In the slow movement a masterly handling of the strings reminded me very strongly of teacher Vaughan Williams." (23 November 1940). Bate may have given a further performance in early 1941 with the same forces.
Philip Blake, an acquaintance of Bate's states that Bate "fell foul of British officialdom" through leaving Australia in 1941 and that fortunately Blake "was in a position to get him straightened out; but it is safe to say that but for this accident he would have been completely discredited in the U.S.A."
United States of America 1941-1944
The couple travelled from Australia to the U.S.A., probably arriving there during the Spring or early Summer of 1941. He shared part of the voyage with Benjamin Britten who according to Virgil Thomson led a "wilful war on Stanley Bate's career". Certainly there was considerable rivalry between the two composers. The Bates' stay was attended with a series of important successes which consolidated Bate's reputation on the international stage. Much of their time in the States was spent in New York where they took a top floor apartment on 17 E. 59th St.
It was during May 1941 in New York that Bate completed the Romance from the Romance and Toccata Op. 25, a work performed by the Hungarian pianist György Paxman and of which a performance has survived on acetate. The Toccata dates from January 1941 and was written in Melbourne. Also at this time he continued and completed, his cycle of eight Sonatinas for solo piano Opp. 19 No. 2 and 30-36. (variously published by Schott and Associated Music Publishers). These are all very slight and technically much easier than his other piano music. Herbert Murrill, a very fair-minded and respected Director of Music at the BBC, wrote of them: "... they are awfully feeble - piano writing is not good or effective ... I couldn't raise a glimmer of enthusiasm."
During these years (1941-42) Bate became part of the Beecham entourage although he appears to have been, as ever, at the periphery. Also in this circle were the harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick, William Primrose (then principal viola of the NBC Symphony Orchestra), the American composer Courtland Palmer, the noted music critic and composer Virgil Thomson and the then Mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia. Beecham's residence in the States ran from 1939 to 1944.
Bate's Second Piano Concerto Op. 28 [2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 Perc strings, Lengnick, 22'] completed in May 1940 to a commission from Sir Henry Wood was another successful vehicle to display the virtuosity, both technical and poetic, of the 29 year old composer. The initial dedication was to Boulanger but he later substituted his wife's name. Vaughan Williams and Malcolm Sargent were fervent admirers of the concerto. Its first performance was given by the New York City Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham with the composer as soloist. The concert took place on 8 February 1942 in the Carnegie Hall and was the third concert of the orchestra's W.P.A. Music Project season. The Bate work was flanked by Haydn's Symphony No. 99 and Berlioz' Harold in Italy (William Primrose). The reviews commented on the abundant vitality of the music. The Lengnick score with the orchestral part transcribed for a second piano shows the work dedicated to Peggy Glanville-Hicks. This may later have been changed.
Ross Parmenter's review appeared in the New York Times the next morning: "... the concerto which received its world première, was by the 29 year old British composer-pianist Stanley Bate, who made his local début playing the solo part ... Mr Bate proved to be an excellent pianist ... The eighteen minute concerto suggested a chase. From the start it moved at a headlong pace, and even though the slower second movement had a pastoral quality there was still the underlying unrest of a man being pursued. In the last movement the flight was resumed. The piano was used as an integral part of the orchestra and there was original and effective use of instruments in the scoring. It showed the influence of Hindemith, under whom the composer studied, but it had the vitality of a work of individual inspiration."
The Léner Quartet gave the première of the String Quartet No. 2 Op. 41 [14'] in New York Town Hall. Noel Strauss reviewed the concert: "The work was excellently written for strings and sounded rich and sensuous in texture. It boasted clarity of structure and though romantic in essence was couched in the modern idiom - a worthy addition to the string quartet repertoire." The date of the première is subject to conflicting accounts: some maintain 1942, others late 1943 or early 1944; 1943 appears to be the correct year.
Fellow Society member David C.F. Wright has provided the following descriptive note: "The String Quartet No. 2 was written in New Hampshire in 1942 and is dedicated to Helen Wilson. It is in C major, follows a classical design and is in four short movements none of which is really slow. The opening Allegro is in sonata form. The first theme is eight bars long and begins with high alternating quavers. The second theme is stronger still and consists of a falling ninth followed by a falling seventh, a rising tone and a rising ninth which interval is repeated. There are some attractive variations on the two principal themes, notably a viola solo. The second movement is marked Andante and is in C minor although the opening may suggest F minor. It is played con sordini throughout and is an effective song-like piece. There are no instructions in the score to remove the mutes for the following Allegro moderato which begins in 7/8 time. It is probably the least successful part of the work and the powerful climax appears too early. The finale, without mutes, is a furious Presto with one pause for breath just before the end. The music bustles along with high spirits to bring to a close this highly enjoyable work."
The nineteenth Festival of the International Society of Contemporary Music was held in Berkeley, California at the University of California from 1-9 August 1942. The festival offered four orchestral concerts and three chamber concerts. The second concert on 2 August was conducted by Willem van den Burg and included the Sinfonietta No. 1 [2-2-2-2 4-2-2-0 perc strings,]. The band was the California Youth Orchestra of Mills College. It was acclaimed by Darius Milhaud in the New York Herald Tribune: "The Sinfonietta ... deserved its great success by its qualities of vivacity and charm." Others wrote: "It contrasted quick barbarity with passages of lyric warmth" (San Francisco Examiner), "a work as crisp pointed, as bright, gleaming and sharply cut as any the Festival can possibly bring forth." (San Francisco Chronicle), "tuneful vigour, highly contemporary in idiom" (New York Times) and "a lively well-balanced work" (Seattle Post Intelligencer). Koussevitsky later conducted the Sinfonietta in Boston and New York.
In December 1942 Bate was awarded a Guggenheim grant to continue his composing activities. Bruno Walter then displayed some interest in the Op. 24 Concertante. A press interview records that Bate "was delighted that Mr Walter agreed to perform my Concertante but I must add I was surprised too. It is an abstract work. After I played it for him Mr Walter said: 'Well it looks mechanical but it sounds romantic'." Walter said that "its three short movements, though atonal, boasted returning subjects, and that its rhapsodic content, though audacious in treatment, remained strictly logical." The Concertante was played by the composer with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter on Saturday 30 January 1943. Probably there was also a performance in Boston conducted by Serge Koussevitzky.
The performance was greeted by the critics. Paul Bowles writing in the New York Herald Tribune stated: "The work made a splendid impression; it was alive without being obstreperous, intelligent without being cerebral and cautious without being precious." The influential critic Alfred Frankenstein was also highly complimentary.
On 6 June 1943 he completed his Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 42 [30']. The same year also saw the completion of the Concerto for two pianos and orchestra Op. 43 [15'], the Suite No. 1 for solo piano Op. 44 (21') and the Piano Sonata No. 1 Op. 45. The suite is dedicated to Mac Harshbenger. The movements of the suite are: 1. Praeludium (Allegro moderato) (completed in New York in 1941); 2. Hymn (Andante maestoso); 3. Rustico (Allegro vivace); 4. Serenade (Andante tranquillo); 5. Burlando (Presto); 6. Promenade (Moderato) (13 September 1943) and 7. Interludium (Allegretto-Perpetuum mobile) (4 September 1943).
Bate's next foray was back into the world of the theatre. At the invitation of The Playwrights' Society he wrote the incidental music for a new play by Sidney Kingsley The Patriots. This was produced at the National Theatre, New York opening on 29 January 1944. The score employed arrangements of three early American tunes beloved of Thomas Jefferson (who was also a violinist): Lovely Peggy, Yankee Doodle and Liberty Tree. The play won the 1944 Critic's Award.
Bate was chosen by the British Library of Information in New York to provide music for a documentary film about the progress of the War and Britain's five years fighting it. This commissioned score was wedded to the film The Fifth Year and the music was written between 10 and 14 September 1944. Bate later became music adviser to the B.L.I. where he lectured on British music. Bate made an orchestral suite [1-1-2-1 2-3-2-0 timp perc piano strings, 15']. At this time he was drafted into the U.S. Army but was later discharged for health reasons.
Another commissioned piece was Haneen, a Fantasy on an Arabian Theme Op. 50 for flute, gong and strings. This came from Gary Owen on behalf of the Arabian American Oil Company. Haneen was completed between July and September 1944 and may have lead to a documentary film which he scored: Careers in Oil. The conductor Efrem Kurtz showed interest in pioneering Haneen and presided over its first performance on 7 January 1945 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
In 1945 Bate travelled to South America for an extended tour of Brazil. He played for Villa-Lobos at the Conservatorio, Rio de Janeiro. He also directed and performed in eight broadcast concerts of his chamber music. These were arranged by Ondes Musicaes do Brazil, the national radio organisation. The programmes were networked throughout South America.
The first comprised the Sonatina No. 7 for solo piano Op. 34, the Flute Sonata Op. 11 and the Suite for solo piano Op. 44. The second in the series offered the Violin Sonata No. 1 Op. 47 (only recently finished and with the following movements: 1. Allegro - an arrangement of the first movement of the Recorder Sonatina Op. 12, 2. Lento, 3. Tempo di marcia and 4. Presto; 15'), Recitative for cello and piano Op. 52a (8' also recently completed and soon to be joined by a companion piece, the Fantasy for cello and piano) Op. 56 and the Suite for String Quartet Op. 23 (8'). The flautist was Moacyr Liserra, principal with the OSB, the violinist, Anselmo Zlatopolsky, the cellist Mario Camerini and the string quartet was the Pelo Quarteto, Rio de Janeiro. The Violin Sonata is dedicated to Margarida Guedes Nogueira. The score notes that Bate was: "indebted to Maria Lidka for help in fingering and bowing."
In addition he gave two concerts with the Orquestra Sinfonica do Brasil (OSB) conducted by Eugen Szenkar. One of these took place at an afternoon concert at the Municipal and included the Concertante Op. 24. It received a notice in the Correio de Manha, Rio de Janeiro by the critic Nogueira Franca: "It is music of real distinction in the contemporary British idiom. It is penetrated by a poetical joy and a frankness of sentiment which are characteristic of the style of Purcell's compatriots. This sort of youthful lyricism is found in the part devoted to the strings and as to the piano it is often treated with the effect of percussion, this in contrast with the expressive sentiment of the orchestral part, and besides this, makes itself heard, in preference alternating with the later. The piano solos possess a tone of jovial virility, except in the second movement Andante sostenuto through which runs a melodious line of rare distinction. In the terminating movement, which is a Tarantella the work arrives at its greatest interest, when the violins independent of soloist achieve a development of positive eloquence. The incisive attack of the piano after this generous reach of expression attains unexpectedly the heights of valour. But the emotional significance ... is steadily maintained between the limits of voluntary soberness peculiar to the temperament of the author without his ever attempting to do the pathetic. ... Bate's work reflects something of the atmosphere of his country, in spite of having, as far as the technique is concerned, traces of Hindemith." At the other concert he played his Piano Concerto No. 2.
The Op. 37 Overture on Russian Red Army Songs or Overture to a Russian War Relief Concert for two pianos four hands [6'], was written at about this time as a pièce d'occasion in much the same way that Bax produced his brief choral and orchestral piece To Russia. Precursor of these works were Alan Bush's orchestral Soviet Glory (1941) and Fantasia on Soviet Themes (1942).
The mid 1940s gave birth to various piano works by Bate. These included Three Mazurkas Op. 38a (1944), Three Pieces (1. Prelude 2. Pastorale 3. Rondo) for two pianos, four hands Op. 38 written for Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson. The Sinfonietta No. 2 Op. 39 (1944, 3-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc piano strings) was premièred by the National Orchestral Association conducted by Leon Barzin at the Carnegie Hall, New York in 1946
Between 1944 and 1946 he wrote a sequence of songs to poems by various writers. Outstanding amongst these was a set entitled Pomes Penyeach Op. 53 (James Joyce): 1. Tilly; 2. On the Beach at Fontana; 3. A Flower Given to my Daughter; 4. Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba; 5. Alone; 6. Nightpiece; 7. She Weeps Over Rahoon; 8. Tutto e Sciolto; 9. In Memory of the Players at Midnight; 10. Simples; 11. Bahnhofstrasse; 12. Flood and 13. A Prayer (September - October 1946, 22').
Five of the songs were published by Ricordi in 1951. The score is dedicated to Joseph Condon Riley. When first published they were reviewed by Harry Dexter who mentioned their "... clarity of texture, sincerity of expression, general sense of purpose and their emotional substance (which) make for ready understanding and should be taken up by all singers of serious intentions." The Five Songs were taken up by Frederick Harvey who broadcast them on the Third Programme although the first broadcast performance was in fact given by John Cameron accompanied by Frederick Stone on 20 October 1952 the same year in which Bate produced an orchestral accompaniment for the set.
In November 1946 he tackled a further set. This came out as Three Songs Op. 55: 1. Rest from Loving and be Living (C. Day Lewis); 2. Spinning Song (Edith Sitwell) and 3. Ecce Puer (James Joyce). There was an isolated Walter de la Mere setting of Nod produced on 15 December 1946. From the same month dates We'll go no more a'roving (William E. Henley).
U.S.A. again and the Viola Concerto 1946
The United States had not forgotten Bate. His return was attended with welcomes and work. Bate set about writing what became the Viola Concerto Op. 46 [2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc strings, 38'] in January 1944 and completed it in May 1946. It is dedicated to Vaughan Williams and it was written for the violist William Primrose. It was highly thought of by Lionel Tertis and Harry Danks stated that: "... it shows off the viola better than any other similar work for viola that I know." It was performed by Emanuel Vardi with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Vardi was born in Jerusalem in 1917 and had only arrived in the U.S.A. in 1940.
The Vardi performance was broadcast by NBC and a set of transcription discs made. The conductor is not named but it may well be the composer. The New York Sun carried a review: "... a score of much skilful design and expressive meaning, particularly in the well-written modal slow movement and swift moving finale. He has contrived a scoring that was advantageous to the soloist." Later Harry Danks took an interest in the concerto but as far as can be seen did not perform it. It appears to await its first performance in this country. The discs reveal a work laid out in four movements heavily influenced by the music of the dedicatee. The concerto is highly attractive with a substantial first movement spanning almost quarter of an hour, a contemplative second movement, a very brief glimmeringly energetic third movement and a last movement which, while it has some highly attractive incidents, somehow fails to catch fire. Nevertheless it has much to commend it and it is to be hoped that one of today's enterprising violists such as Rivka Golani might record the piece.
From 1946-47 dates a Pastorale Op. 48a for military band. Amongst the commissions from this era is a score for the film Jean Helion Op. 54. The film was made jointly by The Museum of Modern Art, New York City and The Sorbonne. Bate even appeared in the film. On 29 June 1946 he put the finishing touches to an Oboe Sonata Op. 52. In the dance theatre field he completed Dance Variations Op. 49 in 1946. Work had begun on the score in 1944. The Dance Variations Suite was scored: 2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc piano strings (28').
In 1946 Bate returned to the United States to an avalanche of commissions. Notable amongst these was a further work for the dance theatre. He was commissioned by Georges Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein to write a ballet. The work he produced was Highland Fling Op. 51 or Op. 56 (numbers shared with other works) completed in November 1946. The plot was founded on Philippe Taglioni's "La Sylphide". A wedding takes place on a Scottish village green. The groom standing with his bride-to-be in front of the Minister is enchanted by a sylph and abandons the proceedings to rush after her into the woods. He comes to his senses and returns to the marriage ceremony and celebratory dancing.
It was produced by the New York Ballet Society at the City Centre, Central High School of Needle Trades on 26 March 1947. The production was reviewed by Virgil Thomson in the New York Herald Tribune: "... the score has real style, sincere, expressive and advantageous to the material. Bate is rich in feeling and has an instinct for style."
Anatole Chudzoy contributed a review to Dance News: "William Dollar's Highland Fling to Stanley Bate's music was the most professional of the three ballets. It suffered from too much music and not enough variety in Scottish dance steps ... The romantic dream part ... was excellently danced by Gisella Caccialanza, Todd Bolender and ensemble. ... The scenery and costumes by David Ffolkes were conventional." The other two ballets in the evening were Elliott Carter's The Minotaur and another piece Comedia Balletica.
Once again Bate made an orchestral suite from the music [2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc piano strings 30']. This was performed at a concert in St Andrew's Hall, Edinburgh in 1951 by the Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Walter Susskind.
It will be recalled that amongst his voluminous output Bate wrote a Violin Concerto in the late 1930s. Another followed in 1943 with the opus number 42. Clearly the idea of writing a successful fiddle concerto gripped Bate. While Yehudi Menuhin was visiting New York in 1947 it came about that Menuhin and Bate were taking a cycle ride through Central Park when Menuhin told Bate that it was about time he wrote a Violin Concerto. The idea was planted and Bate set about the work of composition completing it in 1950. It was not to be performed until 1953 and then not with Menuhin. The Second Piano Sonata dates from 1947.
Perhaps inevitably given the independence of Bate and Glanville-Hicks and their professional nomadic existences their marriage was unable to sustain the pressure. They were divorced in 1948, the year in which Bate wrote Three Hilaire Belloc Songs Op. 61: 1. The Birds; 2. The Yellow Mustard and 3. The Moon's Funeral (December 1947 to 3 January 1948). There were also two individual songs setting poems by e.e. cummings: 1. Sonnet and 2. Song. The Children's Pieces for piano Op. 54 also date from this time.
Bate's next ballet was an Interpretation of Scenes from Shakespeare's Tragedy Troilus and Cressida Op. 60. This was laid out for flute, string quartet and piano although other sources indicate flute, viola and piano. The production in New York was by Emy St Just.
Return to England and Continental travels 1949-1953
In 1949 he returned to England and made his home in London in a flat at Roland Gardens, South Kensington. The BBC relayed the first broadcast performance in this country of the String Quartet No. 2 on 5 June 1950. This was by the Hurwitz Quartet. At this time he completed his Piano Sonata No. 3 Op. 62. The new sonata was reviewed by Robert Bagar in the New York World Telegraph: "We have here music of a neo-romantic type, always interesting, always expressive, and it is more than apparent that Mr Bate wrote it for the ears as well as the intellects of his listeners. There is beautiful form. Everything grows out of the basic material. The themes are vivid in all three movements and they have been skilfully developed. There is nowhere a sign of artifice in the whole piece. It is complete and real and alive." Another New York critic wrote: "... easily one of the best if not the best of all piano sonatas of the last ten years ... there is nowhere a sign of artifice in the whole piece ... it is complete and real and alive." Edward Lockspeiser was present when the sonata was given its first London performance by Mary Guidon at the Wigmore Hall on 16 December 1950. He pointed out the influences of Hindemith, Stravinsky and Walton. Other solo piano works dating from this time include a set of seventeen Preludes written in 1949.
In 1950 he gave concerts in Brussels and Amsterdam in which he played the solo part in various of his concerted pieces. Thus began a further round of lecture and concert tours throughout the Continent. Also in October 1950 he finished his Violin Sonata No. 2. (14'). This was given its first airing by Emanuel Vardi and the composer at the Wigmore Hall on 24 November 1950. Nap de Klijn (violin) and Alice Heksch (piano) as the Amsterdam Duo gave the first London performance of the Violin Sonata No. 1 in November 1950. They knew the work well having performed it on the Continent many times and considered it by far the most popular British work they had played. The Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 43 [30'] was first heard in a Hilversum Radio broadcast performance with Nap de Klijn during February 1951.
The Concerto Grosso for piano and strings [22', Lengnick] was completed on 1 April 1952. This was commissioned by the Club d'Essai and Radiofusion Paris for a UNESCO concert given in June 1952 by the Paris Radio Orchestra with the composer as soloist. The first U.K. performance was a BBC broadcast by the pianist, Eric Hope with the BBC Scottish Orchestra conducted by Ian Whyte. This took place on 13 October 1954.
A song cycle was also produced during the early 1950s. He was drawn to the poetry of Stevie Smith and set: 1. O happy dogs of England 2. Duty was his lodestar 3. To a dead vole 4. Arabella 5. Parrot and 6. The Boat.
On 11 June 1953 there was the first performance of the Violin Concerto No. 3 Op. 58 (1947/50). This took place at the Royal Festival Hall with Antonio Brosa. Richard Austin conducted the London Symphony Orchestra. Brosa already had a reputation for pioneering new music perhaps most notably in the Britten Violin Concerto (Brosa, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Barbirolli, 28 March 1940) and the concertos by Arthur Benjamin and Roberto Gerhard. He was also associated with the Bax and Elgar concertos. According to the Daily Telegraph critic the concerto received "a warm welcome, testimony to the accessibility of the composer's style. It is truly a violinist's concerto, with melodious rhapsodising and great opportunities for display." The Star described it thus: "...it is a quiet, tautly written work, full of subtleties." The Times: "... constructed in a craftsmanly fashion, well laid out and ... by no means narrow-minded or conservative." The BBC assessment dissented from this praise: "... a worthless piece of undistinguished pastiche ... Bate's mind is totally devoid of distinction."
There was at least one further performance when on 26 November 1953 Brosa was accompanied by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. The critic of the Bournemouth Daily Echo described the concerto: "Its opening allegro is immediately arresting, with the solo violin entering almost at once over a rippling accompaniment with an impassioned romantic tune. Chameleon-like it undergoes a transformation until it becomes a piece of dazzling virtuosity - a brilliance later to be dimmed by an even more dazzling finale. Between these two movements an andante shows that besides being able to write for virtuosos Mr Bate has something to offer the lyrical side of our imperfect natures. The slow movement is rhapsodic. It is as if it is questing for a beauty that haunts the imagination, yet is never quite realisable. And what makes this work especially attractive is the exuberance and vitality. Mr Bate would seem to take a reasonably optimistic view of life and what a delight it is to find that in a 20th century artist. Mr Brosa admirably accompanied surmounted all the work's technical difficulties, putting great dash and spirit into the presto and putting the audience in a high state of enthusiasm." The concert was broadcast. At much the same time there was a relay of a concert featuring the Concerto Grosso.
After this Violin Concerto Bate was to attempt a fourth and completed a Suite for violin and orchestra. 1953 also marked the arrival of the Prelude, Rondo and Toccata for solo piano.
Bate was engaged to write the music for the film The Pleasure Garden sponsored by the British Film Institute and produced by James Broughton. This was completed on 1 January 1953 and was shown at the Edinburgh Festival the same year. The film won an award at Cannes that year. The film was described as "an unclassifiable but entertaining glimpse of individual happiness triumphing rudely over official misery." The scoring is for voice, flute, clarinet, bassoon, cello and harpsichord. He also completed on 19 November 1953 a further film score for a documentary Light through the Ages (9').
Cheltenham Festival 1954
14 July 1954 was the date of the première of a work that was to make the greatest impact in advancing Bate's musical reputation. Bate had completed his Symphony No. 3 Op. 29 [2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 perc strings, Lengnick, 28'] in 1940 and ultimately dedicated it to Barbirolli. It has something of the 'whirlwind' quality of Walton's Symphony No. 1, Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4 and parts of the 6th. It is impassioned storm-troubled music. Puccini's Turandot was cited by one critic as a momentary influence. Certainly such hallmarks suggest music having a natural affinity with Barbirolli. The Symphony was broadcast at 7.30 p.m., live on the Home Service).
The première took place at the Town Hall, Cheltenham as part of the 10th Annual Festival of British Contemporary Music (7-16 July 1954). The souvenir programme booklet lists a treasury of British music: 8 July (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Rudolf Schwarz): Rawsthorne Fantasy Overture Cortèges; Geoffrey Bush Symphony No.1 (première); 11 July (Clive Lythgoe): Bliss Piano Sonata; Bernard Stevens Piano Sonata in one movement Op. 25. 12 July (Griller Quartet): Second String Quartets by Rawsthorne (première) and Rubbra; 13 July (Hallé / Barbirolli): Geoffrey Bush Overture Yorick, Alec Rowley The Boyhood of Christ for string orchestra (première), Graham Whettam Viola Concerto (Harry Danks, première); 14 July (Hallé / Barbirolli): Bax Romantic Overture; 15 July (Hallé / Pritchard): Walton Overture Portsmouth Point, Fricker Rapsodia Concertante Violin Concerto No. 2 Op. 21 (U.K. première) and 16 July (Hallé / Barbirolli): Hoddinott Clarinet Concerto (première in public, Gervase de Peyer) and an In Memoriam performance marking the passing the previous year of Arnold Bax: his Symphony No. 5. A breath-taking panorama of music and one for many years regarded by many as arid or unfashionable. A different perspective is now beginning to assert itself.
Bate's own programme note describes the Symphony No. 3: "The work is in three movements to be played without a break. The first movement opens moderato; the first subject immediately presented pianissimo on two bassoons accompanied by cellos and basses. This is developed into a tutti (accelerando) which leads to a subsidiary first subject (piu mosso) which is easily recognisable by the leaps of ninths and trills on the strings accompanied by the side drums. This motive is used a good deal in the development section. It leads to a short bridge passage (tempo 1o) which in turn leads to the second subject. This begins quietly with chords on the strings and horns and builds up to a climax on the full orchestra. In the course of the development, which is the longest subject of the movement, all the subjects of the work are introduced, interrupted only once by a short passage (tempo 1o) on muted strings."
"A restatement of the first subject follows, this time on the full orchestra, followed by a short agitated development of the subsidiary first subject, this time maestoso; the theme played by all the strings, the opening bars followed in canon by the trumpets. The first subject reappears quietly and a short passage on the horns accompanied by pizzicato strings leads directly to the second movement."
"The Andante opens with a fugal exposition, the subject of which is introduced softly on the flute over a roll on the bass drum. It is taken up by the clarinet and bassoons in turns, and eventually played in an extended form by the violins and violas in unison, backed by chords on the horns."
"After a brief development and recapitulation, the movement closes softly on the strings and one bar's rest for the whole orchestra brings us directly to the finale."
"This movement opens presto with a very energetic first subject in 2/4 time, played by all the strings in unison. The figure is repeated by the wood-wind and horns. Finally on the brass and wood-wind, it accompanies the subsidiary first subject, played simultaneously on the strings. The second subject is a scherzo-like theme, first heard on the flute and clarinet over a pizzicato string accompaniment. It leads directly to the development which is based entirely on the first subject and its subsidiary motive. The recapitulation leads to an adagio section, which is important because it sums up the emotional content of the Symphony. The work is concluded by a short coda (presto) based on the rhythmic opening theme."
The press reaction was uniformly welcoming:- "... first-rate composer, superbly competent." (Manchester Guardian); "... revealed a new force among contemporary composers." (Times); "... stimulating, cosmopolitan, superbly professional music." (Spectator); "... the most striking modern orchestral work we have heard this week. (Yorkshire Post); "... the nugget of the festival (Time Magazine); "... Stanley Bate has vitality and brilliance in abundance." (Observer).
After Cheltenham 1954-1955
In Autumn 1954 three of Bate's works were performed in New York. The Concerto Grosso was heard with the composer at the piano at the Carnegie Hall. Then the Cello Concerto was premièred at the Eastman School of Music with the Eastman Rochester Symphony Orchestra. It was probably during this visit that Oklahoma City heard the first U.S. performance of the Symphony No. 3. Bate then visited Brazil briefly before travelling to Hanover for a concert on 30 October 1954. This was given by the Niedersachsen Orchester and included his third symphony. Creative work included a Harpsichord Concerto [1-1-1-1 0-0-0-0 strings, published by Lengnicks in 1957, 22'] written between 4 October 1952 and May 1955. The Concerto's dedicatee was Yolanda Penteado Matarazzo who also gave the first performance. On 3 April 1955 London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Groves gave a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. It included the first London performance of Symphony No. 3. The concert was unusual in featuring only British music. It opened with John Veale's Overture Metropolis (première), Bax's Tintagel followed together with John Ireland's Piano Concerto (Iso Elinson). The concert was poorly attended.
The Symphony No. 3 was to have been played at Liverpool in Spring 1955 but was cancelled. Barbirolli did not forsake the Symphony No. 3. On 13 October 1955 he included it in a concert which formed part of the Norfolk and Norwich Triennial Festival. Basil Maine wrote about this in a notice included in his book "Twang with my Music" (Epworth Press, 1957): "A week or so ago the booking for this concert was hanging fire, probably because of the inclusion of a contemporary symphony in the programme. Possibly since then, would be supporters began to realise that Sir John Barbirolli is hardly the man to be an apostle of frightfulness, certainly not of quackery. Whatever the reason there were a good number of late tickets sold ... in his directing of a finely finished performance we had one more shining instance of how he in turn is dedicated to every phrase of music his orchestra plays ... One can understand his sponsoring of this particular symphony, for it is expertly built and fluently inventive - the last movement notably so - as well as lucid in exposition ... Present day music, so individual, so sane, above all so compelling in its dry manner of following up a wealth of ideas, is hard to come by; and when we reached the heart of the matter in the slow episode near the end, we knew we had made a new friend among symphonies." Maine considered Bate "neither a reactionary nor a cerebral system-composer ... hardly likely to figure in the Darmstadt Festival lists." On 14 November 1955 the String Quartet No. 2 was given its British concert première at the Wigmore Hall by the New Music Society. 1955 also brought forth the Suite No. 2 for piano (15').
Symphony No. 4 1955
Barbirolli was so delighted with Symphony No. 3 that he commissioned a further symphony from Bate. What became of this is not known although it may well have been the work we now know as Symphony No. 4 [2-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 harp perc strings, Lengnick, 32']. In any event, in August 1955 Bate was asked by the London Philharmonic Orchestra to compose something for them. He had started work on a symphony in September 1954 but only completed sketches of the first two movements before journeying to Brazil to fulfil musical engagements in the city of Rio de Janeiro. With the LPO commission in front of him he decided to complete the symphony, relishing the challenge to his ability to produce a work within a given time-limit. The Symphony No. 4 was completed in short score between November 1954 and 7 October 1955. The full score was completed in finally revised form in December 1955. The movements are: 1. Andante moderato, 2. Andante and 3. Presto and Moderato.
The Symphony is dedicated to his second wife, the Brazilian diplomat, Margarida Guedes Nogueira. Initially the dedication had been to the conductor Reginald Goodall. Señora Nogueira came of one of the leading Brazilian families. Her career in the Corps Diplomatique took her to various posts including Brazilian Consul at Southampton. Bate is believed to have met Señora Nogueira in Brazil in 1945. She is believed to have died in 1984.
It was given its first performance on Sunday 20 November 1955. The occasion of this event was a concert by the London Philharmonic Orchestra (leader Joseph Shadwick) at the Royal Festival Hall. The conductor was Sir Adrian Boult. The Symphony concluded the concert. The first part comprised works by Gustav Holst including two accounts of the Scherzo from an unfinished Symphony, the Somerset Rhapsody and The Hymn of Jesus.
The concert was reviewed in the Western Morning News the next day. Of the symphony the reviewer wrote: "It has more confidence in itself; is more resolute in its statement of theme and one cannot help feeling shows less of an inclination to be bound by the Plague of Custom than was perhaps discernible in his latest major works ... For all that there is evidence that Bate possesses and practised in its composition both virtues of humility of approach, disciplined restraint and technical thoroughness. It is ironical that the man who is rapidly becoming recognised as one of England's foremost composers should be better known in America than in his native land. It is also true that Mr Bate has done a great deal to arouse interest in British music in the United States ... There are four movements. The first movement opens quietly. It develops in a forthright and rather impetuous style and there is an effective even startling use of drums. The movement ends as though posing a question con tutta forza. The second movement is richly scored for strings and there is a plaintive passage for solo flute. The third movement reminds us of Stanley Bate the artist. It has the same warmth colour and brilliance as one of his own multi-hued canvasses which unfortunately he never allows the public to see. A theme played with almost furioso intensity on muted strings is in sharp contrast to another played with an expansive tenderness and eventually combining with the first. The fourth movement consists of two closely related themes. It contains some spectacular fanfares for trumpets. The finale which brings the Symphony to a close is perhaps symbolic of modern times. A succession of hammer beats of dissonance seems to suggest nothing so much as the machinery of a gigantic robot factory noisy, remorseless unthinking, slowly grinding itself to a standstill. The Symphony as a whole strikes one as a whirlpool of melodic invention from which no doubt once better acquainted significant elements will seem to rise to the surface and present themselves for a more appreciative analysis. It has overall strength and vigour, moments of joyousness and abandon, brief and contrasting moods of yearning and perhaps merits the assessment which an American critic has already made of Mr Bate's music - The serious bluster of an Englishman in a hurry. The composer was warmly applauded by the crowded house when he appeared on the platform at the end, at the invitation of the conductor."
The critics commented on the rhetorical and lyrical nature of the music and its concentration on the use of simple melodic material, singable themes in a "Soviet" style. Some were impressed but many took the view that the intrinsic value of the musical ideas was low with too persistent a use of dotted rhythms. The critic in The Times was less censorious: "The feeling of the symphony is elegiac, too consistently so, though the mood swings between defiance in the first movement, petulance in the slow movement and resolution in the finale. There were two angry moments in the slow movement in which it was not apparent what the composer wished to convey but elsewhere the structure was lucidity itself. The thematic material and the harmonic thought did not officiously strive to be up-to-date but were adequate to what the composer wished to express and lent themselves admirably to treatment in the symphonic tradition."
On 23 December 1955 Bate honoured a promise he had made to the Plymouth Arts Centre to make one of his rare visits to his home city to talk about his music. With him he brought a private recording of the new Symphony made during rehearsals with the LPO. This recording was played twice. During the talk he stated that his musical aims were to achieve clarity and conciseness in expression. He added that he hoped that a concert of his music might be given in the city but, sadly, nothing came of this.
In January 1956 the Symphony No. 4 was played at Montreal conducted by Sir Ernest Macmillan. On 31 July 1956 the Quarteto de Cordas Municipal played the String Quartet No. 2 Op. 41 at the Sao Paulo Discoteca Pública Municipal. It is possible that Bate was present at that concert. Closer to home there was a first U.K. broadcast of the Violin Sonata No. 1 by Nap de Klijn (violin) and Alice Heksch (piano) (Third Programme 1 December 1956).
Opera, Piano Concertos and more travels 1957
In 1957 Bate was working as usual on a number of projects one of which, frequently referred to in press material at the time, was an opera. He completed only the opening of Act 1 Scene I, the short score (dated 17 May 1954) of which can be inspected with many of the other scores in the library of the R.C.M. There is also correspondence with the librettist who is identified only by the initials B.G. From April to August 1957 he was resident in Milan but during June and July visited Yugoslavia where he found musical activities highly interesting with a very high standard both in the creative and performing fields. He resolved to make a return visit. Before this could happen his career would pass another major milestone.
He had begun work on a Piano Concerto No. 3 on 17 October 1951 and completed this in full score in August 1952. He then put this version to one side and began a new work entitled Piano Concerto No. 3. There seems to have been some interest in this work by Harriet Cohen but in the event the first performance of the Concerto was given by the composer. This was at a Promenade concert on 30 (not 23 as indicated in some sources) August 1957 at the Royal Albert Hall. The orchestra was the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the conductor, John Hollingsworth.
Bate described the Concerto as a "virtuoso piece, with the main emphasis on the solo part. The orchestra is used but sparingly and a real tutti is seldom resorted to. "The composer's analysis of the piece may help to give some impression of the work: "The opening movement, a Toccata in 6/8 begins quietly with firm E's on the lower strings, a persistent semi-quaver figure in A flat (the ultimate key of the movement, and, indeed of the whole work) for the soloist's left hand, and an important melody centred on C, for muted trombones. The trombone theme and the piano figuration are at once expanded. The second subject is marked by a slackening of pace and a more lyrical piano theme, accompanied by cellos and basses. The development begins ff with the second theme in the brass, on a large scale. The melodic and harmonic treatment is not hard to follow. The recapitulation begins pp, like the opening bars."
"The Andante in minor mood, has two themes, one gently rising, the other gently falling. The first, played quietly by the clarinets in the opening bars is eventually passed to the piano for extensive elaboration. The second theme appears in the flutes mf with a background of plucked strings, and is immediately taken by the soloist. This is treated at length and gives rise to an appreciably quicker passage in which the piano is all-important. After a substantial resumption of the first theme, the quicker passage returns to form the coda."
"The rhythmic distortion of the finale is declared at the outset as alternating bars of 2/4 and ¾ set the mood for a springy orchestral theme which is taken up in octaves by the piano. A short descending motive first heard in the lower strings is the basis for the second section. A transitional passage, with bravura writing for the soloist, leads to a vigorous development of both ideas. In the recapitulation the first theme acquires considerable orchestral weight; the second theme is given a slimmer orchestral treatment, in every sense. The forceful coda is founded on the first theme."
Bate had not exorcised his interest in the piano concerto. Not only did he produce a fourth concerto but he also began a fifth. So far as can be seen the fourth concerto was never performed. Bate played the third concerto in Birmingham before travelling to Hanover to hear a performance of the Symphony No. 4 at a concert on 27 November 1957. Also he went in late November 1957 to the world première in Vienna of his Incantations for soprano voice and orchestra Op. 48 [3-2-2-2 4-3-3-1 harp piano perc strings also piano accompaniment, 15']. This cycle comprises: 1. Choral 2. Psalm 3. Mater Dolorosa 4. Vineyard in the Sun, poems by Eugene Jolas.
Oklahoma Première and more travels 1958
In January 1958 Bate left to visit the U.S.A. He had received an invitation from the British-born Guy Fraser Harrison (1894-?), the conductor of the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra to play his Piano Concerto No. 3 (written in 1952) being given its U.S. premiere. Harrison had already given the U.S. premières of the Symphony No. 3 in 1955-56 season and the Concerto Grosso in 1957. Harrison had corresponded with Bate throughout the late 1950s and did much to secure Bate's reputation throughout the U.S.A. The composer and critic Virgil Thomson was also one of Bate's allies. The Oklahoma performance of the Concerto took place on 4 February 1958 in the Municipal Auditorium, Oklahoma City. During the visit Bate played the same work at Memphis (7 February 1958 for the Memphis Orchestral Society with conductor Vincent de Frank) and in New York. Private archive discs exist documenting the concerto's Oklahoma appearance. This recording was made in a limited edition recorded and distributed by the Recording Guarantee Project. This was supported by the American International Fund and the Koussevitsky Music Foundation. The recording is to be found on a single track mono 7½" sound tape reel in the New York Public Library.
On 3 April 1958 Lawrence Leonard directed a performance of Symphony No. 4. This was broadcast on the Third Programme at 10.10 p.m. The orchestra was the BBC Northern Orchestra. Leonard contributed a brief note to the Radio Times: "The strength of this work springs from the composer's refusal to be worried by stylistic inhibitions. He is a neo-romantic and proud of it." Mary and Geraldine Peppin played Three Pieces for two pianos Op. 38 in a Third Programme concert at 9.55 p.m. 24 July 1958. This was a first U.K. broadcast performance.
The travels continued when in Autumn 1958 he returned to Yugoslavia calling at Ljubljana, Zagreb and Belgrade and performing in a programme of his works in each of these centres. Bate was full of praise for the high standards of creative and executive activity in Yugoslavia. During 1958 there were a number of BBC Third Programme broadcasts including the Piano Concerto No. 2 (composer with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Stanford Robinson.
The Last Year, 1959
Details of the last year are sketchy but it seems to have included a holiday in Paris with his wife and bouts of intense creative activity both musical and literary. In the months before his death he completed five hundred pages of a book in ten days. Amongst the manuscripts were Four Diversions and a Suite No. 2 both for solo piano, a Symphonia Concertante and music for children's television: The Nightingales and The Ugly Duckling including two TV marches. He found himself in real financial difficulty and had to sell his piano. His mother said that he was often short of money: "When he had it he spent it; he was that sort of person."
Bate died in his bed on 19 October 1959. He had not been seen by anyone since the previous Friday 16 October. His body was found by a neighbour. The Coroner's verdict was that death was due to alcoholism. Other reports refer to an overdose of drugs. Stanley's elderly mother was interviewed at the time and said she believed that her son's death was due to lack of sleep: "I don't suppose he knew what he was doing if he took sleeping tablets after having had a drink ... He never could take it and it always affected him badly. He used to go very quiet after just one or two; Stanley never got merry like other people." Speaking of the neglect by the BBC and other concert promoters Mrs Bate said: "He did not belong to the fashionable clique who arranged them (concerts) ... He was very sensitive and used to take these slights badly ... Despite all these setbacks he was always sociable and jolly ... He had a breakdown some months ago and was not well right up to the time of his death." One of Bate's friends recalled him as "a friend with a capacity for fun." Mrs Marjorie Osborne was appointed his Personal Representative.
Margareda Nogueira flew from the Brazilian Embassy in Milan when she heard the news of her husband's death. She made all the arrangements for the funeral which was held at Chiswick and attended by many celebrities from the musical world. Señora Nogueira collected Bate's voluminous accumulation of manuscripts from his flat. These then effectively disappeared from circulation until in 1986 and 1987 the Brazilian Consul-General donated no less than eighty-three manuscripts to the library of the Royal College of Music.
Reputation and the future
Bate's music occupies the back of a very deep and long shelf with other composers active in the forties and fifties: Benjamin Frankel, Franz Reizenstein, Matyas Seiber, John Veale, John Gardner, William Alwyn, William Wordsworth, Richard Arnell and others. Their music is individual and personal. They form no school. What they have in common is that they inhabit a hinterland of neglect away from the main focus of interest of societies such as our own. They, and we, all deserve the opportunity for reappraisal of the music. That opportunity will come as there are more broadcasts and recordings. The received wisdom is that the fifties was an arid era of Cheltenham blandness. The truth can only now be found by peeling away the patina of the years of other people's judgements and substituting our own. Unless this happens in some active way Bate will remain a name associated with a Cheltenham triumph "very much of its time" and a face, which, if it is known at all, will be because he was photographed standing to one side of Vaughan Williams at an outdoor table laden with a Cheltenham tea around which were seated Michael and Eslyn Kennedy, Ursula Vaughan Williams and Frank Howes (p. 100, Ralph Vaughan Williams - A Pictorial Biography, John E. Lunn and Ursula Vaughan Williams, OUP, 1971). Bate's reputation has become archival rather than living.
Bate was both nomadic and prolific. Glanville-Hicks claimed he wrote a dozen or more symphonies and thirty or so piano sonatas. Even allowing for his productivity the catalogue of the works mentioned in this article his phenomenal productivity in a very small span of creative years was bound to prompt the drawing of parallels with Villa-Lobos, Martinö , Milhaud or Hovhaness. He wrote in every medium of expression and amongst the manuscripts there are even two musical plays. He gave free rein to his tumultuous energies and his travels seem to have fuelled his fecund creativity, writing en voyage. What have we heard of Bate since his death? The only performances have been the Symphony No. 3 at the 1965 Cheltenham Festival when revived by Sir Adrian Boult and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (broadcast on the Third Programme at 8.00 p.m. 12 July 1965), in the previous year the baritone Christopher Keyte with the pianist Frederick Stone performed Five Joyce Songs (1. Simples; 2. Tutto e Sciolto; 3. Watching the Needleboats at San Sabba; 4. Bahnhofstrasse and 5. Tilly (Home Service 9.28 a.m. 9 October 1964) and during the early 1980s a performance in London of the Pomes Penyeach.
As things stand, the closest approximation to fame achieved by a work by Bate rests on the shoulders of the Symphony No. 3. Much was written about it at the time of its première. It does carry the fingerprints of other composers' styles but it transcends superficial accusations of lack of originality in expressive language by articulating a uniquely feverish intense energy and stormy violent imagery. Whether it is a War Symphony or a Symphony which happened to be written during a war the work is an eloquent statement about conflict and despair. The psychological landscape exposed by the work is haunting. Its atmosphere is one of brooding, louring clouds. The performing materials for a number of his works appear to be available. Let us hope that Chandos, Lyrita, Hyperion, Meridian or Marco Polo will record the Symphony aptly coupled with the Piano Concerto No. 3 as an entertaining foil.
© Michael Barlow and Robert Barnett
The first broadcast performance of the Viola Concerto was given on 18-2-2011 by Roger Chase (viola) BBC Concert Orchestra Stephen Bell (conductor)
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