The music of Haydn Wood has been largely forgotten since
the 1950s, before which time many pieces were regularly played
alongside those of Eric Coates on the BBC Light programme. Some
of the melodies linger in our minds following their use as signature
tunes for ‘Down Your Way’ and other programmes of the ’seventies.
The career of Haydn Wood may well have taken a different
path had it not been influenced by his marriage to concert hall
singer, Dorothy Court. Born in Yorkshire, he spent much of his formative
years growing up on the Isle of Man,
which explains the existence of Mannin veen, written
in 1936. An excellent violinist from his teens, he won a scholarship
to the Royal College of Music where he studied composition under
its principal, Stanford. By 1905 he had composed a Piano Concerto
and String Quartet and was seemingly locked on the path to becoming
a serious classical composer, possibly emulating the stilted
output of Stanford.
His marriage changed his direction for ever more, because
the songs and ballads written for his wife to perform became
good money earners. By 1918, Roses of Picardy grossed
£100,000 alone and royalties from recordings all helped cushion
a good style of living even before his exposure to the new wireless
that not only broadcast his works, but also provided commissions.
On this disc, Wood’s recipe for cheerful and bright, easily
accessible music is provided in many different and original
forms. The recordings span 1930-1949 and three tracks remind
us of the existence of the now long-forgotten Queen’s Hall orchestra;
their home bombed in the 2nd World War. After the
war when the BBC grew in stature, publishers like Booseys and
Chappells launched a series of ‘mood music’ records in return
for payment by royalty. These would be internally provided to
producers of radio, TV and film to give ready access to incidental
background music in return for a royalty. Most of the ‘mood
music’ recordings, rightly included here, have been generally
unknown to the public.
Wood had the skill to provide styles reminiscent of popular
identities: there are numbers that remind us of Edward German
(Nelson’s Column, Caprice), William Walton (Torch
of Freedom), and Eric Coates (Horse Guards). The
Spanish idiom is well conveyed by the fast moving Seville number from his Cities of Romance
suite, even if the castanets are almost lost in this recording.
Roses of Picardy has a wonderfully good vocal line, which
is not done justice by this decorated saxophone arrangement.
The composer’s skill as an arranger can be found in his nautical
rhapsody The Seafarer [tr. 6] where folk tunes are provided
with interesting variations. Perhaps the most catchy is Montmartre with its contemporary Kern/Rodgers
image for 1937.
Six other Haydn Wood numbers can be found on other Guild
discs. The transfers from the 78 rpm originals are excellent.
The booklet gives interesting and useful background information
but only in English.
by Jonathan Woolf