On Wednesday 12 March
2008 Alun Hoddinott died. He was regarded
as possibly the greatest and certainly
the most widely known of the group of
Welsh composers that include Grace Williams,
William Mathias, David Morgan and David
Wynne. It is surely appropriate that
Stewart Craggs’s Source Book should
have been published a few months before
the composer’s death. This is a key
reference book that provides scholars
and other interested parties with virtually
everything they might need to know about
the composer’s life and works. The format
is similar to others in this series
– but it is worth giving a brief overview
for any reader that may not yet have
It opens with a generous
foreword from the singer Jeremy Huw
Williams. It is hardly surprising that
the songs play an important part in
his evaluation of the composer’s achievement.
The book lacks a ‘biographical introduction’
as such – although Williams does set
the composer in context and mentions
some key works and events in Hoddinott’s
life. I would have appreciated a biography
of some two or three thousand words
– although I guess that most readers
of this book will be aware of, or have
access to this information.
The ‘Index of Titles’
is placed near the front of the book.
This simply states the name of the piece
– from Symphonies to individual songs
in alphabetical order, with the date
of composition and the page number of
the main entry in the ‘Catalogues of
Works’. The next section is a comprehensive
overview of the composer’s life and
works presented as a chronological list.
From the birth of Hoddinott’s father
in 1899 through to his attendance at
the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s
wedding in 2005, all the key events
are noted along with the dates of his
major compositions and important first
However the core of
this book is the ‘Catalogue of
Works’. Each ‘opus’ is outlined in up
to a maximum of twelve sections and
is presented in purely chronological
order. Interestingly, Hoddinott’s very
first composition was a setting of Matthew
Arnold’s Dover Beach: Craggs
informs us that only sketches of this
work survive –which probably means it
is unlikely we will ever hear it performed.
Yet the full force
of the book’s usefulness emerges when
the reader turns to the entry for the
fine Symphony No. 2. This has
always been a favourite work of mine
and I have long felt that it deserves
to be regarded as a major achievement
of British symphonic writing. It is
entered under the heading for the year
‘1962’ and we are informed that this
Symphony is Op.29. It was composed
for full orchestra and has four movements
– Adagio, Allegro molto, Molto adagio
The next tranche of information includes
who commissioned the work – in this
case the 1962 Cheltenham Festival of
British Contemporary Music. The instrumentation
is given in the usual format followed
by the dedicatee who, in this instance
was Alan Rawsthorne. Naturally, if a
work was given a first performance,
this is noted. Where the piece has been
published the date and the publisher
is given. One detail that Craggs provides
is important for musicologists and is
often ignored: it is the date inscribed
on the manuscript. Often this can be
much earlier than the published date
or the first performance. Furthermore
the score may have had a number of incarnations,
corrections or reworks before the final
‘received’ edition was arrived at.
There is a useful reference
to any recordings that may have been
made – this includes CDs, vinyl and
cassette tapes. Re-issues are also noted
where appropriate. But perhaps the most
vital information is the bibliography
– in which journals or newspapers which
discussed or reviewed the particular
work are noted. Lastly there are supplementary
or miscellaneous notes that may be helpful
to the scholar. In choral works, songs
and operas the texts used are noted
along with their authors.
The last three sections
of the book are equally important and
interesting. There is a general bibliography
– covering more generalised biographical
and critical essays on Hoddinott’s life
The classified index
of works is probably the only part of
this book that leaves a lot to be desired.
It is rather hard to use. For example
the ‘Chamber & Solo Instrumental’
sections list such a wide variety of
compositions that it is quite unmanageable.
I would rather this had been further
sub-divided into Piano Works, String
Quartets, String trio, Organ pieces
The last part is a
general index which concentrates on
names of artists, other composers, luminaries
and organisations that appear in the
One of the books mentioned
in the bibliography is ‘Alun Hoddinott:
A Bio-bibliography’ published in 1993.
This made me a little concerned that
there might have been a deal of overlap
between this present book and Craggs's
contribution to that notable series
of Bio-bibliographies published by Greenwood.
Yet I need not have worried. Both books
are complementary rather than competitive.
The present volume is much more user-friendly
– with all the relevant information
provided against each work’s entry rather
than spread around in a complex series
of cross-references. At present, I have
not been able to compare entries between
the two volumes. I think the only thing
I like about the Bio-bib was a brief
resume or epitome of the reviews in
the press or musical journals. This
More importantly, some
sixteen years have elapsed since the
Bio-Bib was published – and as Hoddinott
was not a composer to rest lightly there
has been a considerable addition to
his catalogue – including Symphonies,
Song-Cycles, Sonatas and the odd opera.
Naturally there have been a host of
CD releases since 1993 – although perhaps
not as many as the composer’s reputation
The price of this volume
is understandably high at £55, for I
guess that it is the kind of book that
will end up in two places - music departments
of colleges and universities and in
the personal libraries of musicologists.
It will never become a best seller!
But rest assured that copies will be
snapped up – it is hardly likely to
appear in the remainder bookstores!
Craggs is the expert
on this type of book. He has compiled
ten or so volumes of close written bibliography.
Composers such as Ireland, Walton, Elgar
and Bliss have their dedicated volumes.
It is the sort of research that is so
important for those of us who follow
on. Few people have the resources and
energy to explore the manuscripts and
literature of a composer to any great
depth. Yet all of us who write reviews
or articles depend heavily on these
works of scholarship. It is an impressive
task, superbly done.
I spent some time reading
through the catalogue. I have followed
the composer’s career with interest
since about 1972, yet the strange thing
is that the sheer range and quantity
of music that Hoddinott wrote is beyond
my ken! I have not heard most of the
works noted: in fact I never knew many
of them existed! Furthermore there is
a long way to go before the majority
of Hoddinott’s work is recorded and
in public view.
One final thought:
the very last work in the catalogue
especially appeals to me: the Images
of Venice for soprano, baritone
and orchestra. This work is a setting
of texts by Shelley, Ruskin, and Byron
et al. It was given its first performance
on St David’s Day 2007. There is something
about this work, its title, the authors
chosen and the imagery of the Lagoon
– one of the most beautiful and inspiring
places in the world - that raises my
expectations and whets my curiosity.
I hope one day that it will be recorded.
I will be looking out for it.
I recommend this book
to anyone who has more than a passing
interest in the music of Alun Hoddinott.
It provides a deep understanding of
his life, his music and the learned
criticism that has been written over
the past fifty odd years.
Provides a deep understanding of Hoddinott’s
life and music ... see Full Review
And a further view from Rob Barnett:-
There’s no doubting
the value of this volume even if it
does prompt me to wonder what else Hoddinott
wrote between 2005 - when this book
appears to have closed for printing
- and the composer’s recent death. Presumably
there was very little but it would be
good to confirm what else was written
and would further enhance the value
of this volume. Similarly it would be
good to know of any works left unfinished
and their state of ‘incompleteness’.
By the way I do hope
that it might become the habit with
volumes of this type that the author
adopts the practice applied to law books
and includes a note ‘Accurate as at
DATE’. It would lend definition and
precision to the researcher’s armoury.
I enjoyed the chronology
– it gives a quick-sweeping summation
and is a good place to start after the
Jeremy Huw Williams foreword. This book
does not set out to be a biography –
no doubt that will follow in due course.
There are very few
typos but very few by the standards
seen elsewhere. I noticed George
Issacs instead of the correct George
Isaacs for the Trio op. 77. And
shouldn’t the 1998 entry that mentions
Rhmney Valley instead show Rhymney
Valley? Apart from that there is
a speckle of punctuation errors where
commas are left floating between spaces
rather than butted up against the letter
they separate and at least one place
where a full stop has no space after
it. The paper is a good quality matte
white which makes for an easy ‘contrasty’
against each work in the central catalogue
will prove extremely helpful to enthusiasts
and academics … and even enthusiastic
Duration of works are
shown with instrumental/vocal specifications:
a blessing for hard-pressed concert
and recording planners including those
who contemplate Hoddinott festivals.
The centenary is in 2029 but I hope
that there will be much earlier celebrations
Browsing the catalogue
which forms the hub of this book, across
some 170 pages, various things can be
noted. He wrote no fewer than six operas.
There are ten symphonies, 13 piano sonatas
and six violin sonatas among much else.
A phenomenal output. It is fascinating
to see that several of his works set
words by the late Ursula Vaughan Williams.
I see also that he wrote an appreciation-obituary
of RVW in 1958. Notable from the bibliography
is that throughout the 1960s he was
very active as a music journalist.
All in all this will
make a sturdy and reliable foundation
for the future of Hoddinott’s music
in the years to come.