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THE HOUNDS OF SPRING: English Dances and Preludes (1905-35)
(1879-1942) Nine Preludes (1904)
William HURLSTONE (1876-1906) Capriccio in B minor
Ernest FARRAR (1885-1918) Valse Caprice; Shadow Dance
J B McEWEN (1868-1948) Three Preludes
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) Dance for Harpsichord; Three Preludes
Armstrong GIBBS (1889-1960) Four Preludes
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Phantasy (1917)
Alan Cuckston (piano)
rec Leeds, April 1990
SWINSTY FEW 118CDr [65.53]

Alan Cuckston's Swinsty company has been around for many years. At first they produced exclusively cassettes. Some of the tracks on this warmly recorded CD were first issued in that medium. Swinsty CDs are now being issued making most of the back catalogue available and adding new or unissued tracks. This disc presents four sets of Preludes by British composers: Corder, McEwen, Delius and Armstrong Gibbs. The brief notes are by the pianist who throughout contributes sensitive performances without glossy virtuosity. The Preludes are interspersed with various genre pieces by other Britons though Delius is only British in the most pedestrian of senses. McEwen (a Scot) would have jibbed at his Three Preludes being collected under the title 'English Dances and Preludes' however the cap fits well enough if not to perfection.

The greatest mystery here is Paul Corder so a few words of introduction are in order. Here is what a dictionary entry might look like (if anyone can add to this please contact me):-

CORDER, Paul Walford [London, 14.12.1879 - London, 6.8.1942]

Paul Corder F.R.A.M., was the son of leading music teacher Frederick Corder. In the early years of the century was regarded as one of his father's leading students in the same company as York Bowen, Benjamin Dale, Joseph Holbrooke and Arnold Bax, all at London's Royal Academy of Music. The son studied with the father and later (from 1907) joined the staff of the Academy as Professor of Composition and Harmony. He was much influenced by the artistic movement associated with the Pre-Raphaelites. His many orchestral works remain unpublished and unknown. He wrote a number of keyboard pieces that achieved both publication and some modest public attention. He was a close friend of Arnold Bax who dedicated the song Aspiration (1909) and his Fourth Symphony (1931) to him. They spent holidays in each other's company in Cornwall. It is interesting to note that, in the early 1900s, Corder had written a piece for orchestra entitled Morar. Morar was the area which Bax resorted to in the winter months in the 1930s for composition and orchestration of his symphonies. Professor of Composition at the Tobias Matthay School. Recreations: cabinet making. He lived for many years at White Cottage, Netley Heath, West Horsley, Surrey.

Opera: Rapunzel and Grettir the Strong (one act), both in manuscript;

Ballet: several including The Dryad, a pantomime ballet;

Choral: A Song of Battle for chorus and orchestra; A Song of the Ford for male voice chorus and orchestra;

Vocal: Four Sea Songs for baritone and orchestra (Hell's Pavement; The Turn of the Tide; The Emigrant; Captain Stratton's Fancy); The Moonslave, a terpsichorean fantasy; A Song of the Bottle; Spanish Waters;

Orchestra: Two Sketches: Sunset and Sunrise; Tone Poem, Pelleas and Melisande; Overture, Cyrano de Bergerac; Gaelic Fantasy, Morar (also for two pianos; 1908, RAM Patron's Fund concert); Dross, a music drama without words (Anglo-French Music); Preludes to Acts I and II, Rapunzel (Proms, 14 Sept 1915); Violin Concerto; Five Orchestral Tone Pictures: Along the Seashore: 1. The Ebbing Tide; 2. The Sea Cavern; 3. Seagull's Rock; 4. The still hour of dusk; 5. The Call of the Sea;

Chamber: String Quartet; Fountains for viola and piano;

Piano: Transmutations of an Original Theme; Nine Preludes (RAM Patron's Fund concert, Aeolian Hall, 6.12.1904); Three Studies; Passacaglia; Romantic Study; Heroic Elegy; Spanish Waters; An Autumn Memory; various. See additional note below

The Nine Preludes run the range from assertively Rachmaninovian romance with every grand gesture in place (Nos. 1, 7 and 9) through Griegian regret (No. 2), Macdowell sentimentality (No. 3), Tchaikovskian charm - more Glazunov in fact (Nos. 4 and 8), noble sorrow (No. 5) and haunted grandeur (No. 6).

McEwen's Pre-Raphaelite visions of naiads, seraphs and fairies are adept and moving essays in the sort of impressionism that you find in William Baines and in his own music for violin and piano as recently recorded on Chandos. After McEwen the Delius Dance seems positively uncomplicated. The Three Preludes rustle and shimmer impressionistically without undue elaboration.

Switching from the Royal Academy's devotion to Tchaikovsky and Liszt, Hurlstone in his Capriccio fits neatly and extremely competently into the Brahmsian style (Piano Concerto No 2). Farrar has a Chandos orchestral CD devoted to his music. His Valse Caprice and Shadow Dance are high octane salon 'fuel' leaning into Macdowell. They have no sense of the 'danger' you find in, say, Baines or Ireland though, in all fairness, the rising Brahmsian lines at the end of Shadow Dance transcend the merely comfortable. The confidently affluent pictorialism of Howells' Phantasy brings a rewarding disc to a close.

Armstrong Gibbs' Four Preludes explore Griegian themes and treatment (No.1), alongside a warmly liquid introspection (No. 2) and a rapid bell-clear Gallicism in Flares (now there's a Whistler title for you - this could easily have been by Baines). Flares might well have been heard by Malcolm Arnold before he wrote his Concerto For Two Pianos - Three Hands. The great counter-melody of grand span in The Hounds of Spring is treasurable and well justifies the cost of the disc. The composer of these preludes stands high above the company; a firm case for reappraisal of Armstrong Gibbs whose music can also be heard on FEW123CDr Lakeland Pictures and In the High Alps.

Rob Barnett

Graham Parlett has written to say that: "Someone I knew who died last year (Jessica Morton) knew the Corders when she was very young and told me the distressing news that Paul's sister, Dolly, with whom Paul lived, was so distraught when he died that she destroyed his musical manuscripts. I've certainly made occasional attempts to trace some of the orchestral pieces but without success, and I fear it may be true, which means that only the few published works survive. Paul and Dolly moved in 1921 to Looe Island, Cornwall, which they had bought from the proceeds of the sale of Frederick Corder's collection of first editions. In 1932 they moved to White Cottage, Netley Heath, Surrey. After his death in 1942, Dolly moved in 1957 to Littlecot, Jefferies Rd. W. Horsley, Surrey, and she celebrated her 90th birthday on 30 June 1968 (but I'm not sure when she died). Paul was, as you point out, into furniture making, and last year I inherited from Jessica Morton a table and bookcase which he had made. I also have colour photos of Olga Antonietti (the 'Fiammetta' of Farewell, my Youth), which Paul had taken in about 1909, and one of Arnold Bax taken at about the same time (reproduced in monochrome as the frontispiece of Lewis Formean's edition of Farewell my Youth.

I am very grateful to Graham for this additional information.

Price per CD inclusive of p&p within UK is £11.00
Price per CD inclusive of p&p outside UK: please enquire
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Phone/Fax: +44 (0) 1757 638238
Swinsty Records
Turnham Hall
N Yorks YO8 6ED
United Kingdom

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