RADIE BRITAIN - A
by Walter B Bailey and Nancy Gisbrecht Bailey
Greenwood Press, 1990 hardback. 173pp.
full detail at
American composers beyond the central trio and core ten are not that commonly
encountered on library shelves or in CD shops. Radie Britain is way beyond
even the outer circle - ultra-peripheral as a reputation. She suffers at
various levels, she is American, a Texan, a woman and attractive. That last
factor took its toll in polite and impolite musical circles. How could she
be take seriously? Madeleine Dring another vivacious female composer at least
had the decency to write small scale pieces but Britain's ambition broke
those respectable bounds.
This book documents her music in the lovingly practical way that sets the
imprimatur on all Greenwood bio-bibliographies. This is No 25 in the series
by the way. The paper is of good opaque and dense quality and a clear Bookman
type font is used. The result is glare free, easy to read and soft on the
eyes. I did not notice any misprints.
There is a compact biography, a bibliography annotated with full extracts
for each entry, chronological and alpha list of works topped off with a good
index. The heart of the work (pp. 25-87) is a highly annotated list of works
and significant performances - typically premieres. Before this comes an
interview with Britain. From this and from the worklist it is apparent that
Britain's métier is the orchestra. Her teacher, an associate of Richard
Strauss, inculcated into her the orchestral skills and her music in this
genre has been played by orchestras conducted by Stock, Hanson, A Clyde
Roller and Wallenstein. Her Prelude To A Drama was played by the Moscow
SO conducted by Konstantin Ivanov on 11 August 1961. Although there is a
String Quartet pretty well all her pieces are arranged under descriptive
titles like: Southern Symphony (1935) written in the Macdowell colony,
Light, Canyon, Saturnale, Red Clay, San Luis
Rey, Jewels Of Lake Tahoe, Cowboy Rhapsody, Angel
Chimes, Chicken In The Rough, Cosmic Mist Symphony, In
Memory of Anwar Sadat, Sam Houston, Texas, Rain,
Dicky Donkey and so on.
Her interest in Texan themes is clear enough and this continued when she
was outside the state at Chicago and in Hollywood. Apart from a twelve tone
experimental piece Les Fameux Douze, her music described, in her own
words (I have only heard Saturnale), 'real good juicy melodies
something from the heart that orchestras like to play and the audience enjoys
- it isn't cerebral music at all.' I would rather like to hear more by Britain
but I fear that is not going to happen.
Until then take this book as your trusty guide. How wonderful if Albany would
give us a Britain collection with the Saturnale, the Cosmic Mist
symphony, Prelude To A Drama and Sam Houston. The performing
materials are available from the Fleisher Collection in Philadelphia and
from publishers Heroico at 1945 North Curson Ave, Hollywood, California 90046.
If you are out to make a splash for your orchestra do get hold of this
authoritative and intriguing book. It will be your trusty and practical guide
to choice and turning plans into a concert hall experience.
Do try these detailed sites to learn more about Radie Britain