> POULTON Dictionary of Modern British Composers [AB] [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Music Reference Collection, Number 82
Hardback in three volumes: vol. 1: A-C; Vol 2: D-L; Vol. 3 M-Z,
1700pp through numbered across the three volumes
ISBN 0-313-31623-6 Library of Congress 00-026439
GREENWOOD PRESS, Connecticut publ. 2000 Volumes are available individually

AmazonUK  £195 AmazonUS $295
Volume 1 A-C Amazon UK £85.95
Volume 2 D-L Amazon UK £85.95
Volume 3 M-Z Amazon UK £85.95


This really is a magnum opus. It is planned to be a complete chronological listing of all works (with or without an Opus number) including the year of composition (and date of completion where known), dedicated, commissioning/funding sources, and performance information such as duration, instrumentation. It also lists the musical history (first performances, first broadcast etc. giving the details of performers), manuscript location where known, first or significant recordings and details of film/incidental music for plays TV etc. Broadly it covers composers born between 1893 and 1923.

The amount of data provided in these three volumes is staggering and it is particularly impressive because so much information is hard to come by. Even tracing the publisher of a piece can be difficult (especially where a composer has used multiple publishers; or where publishers have been amalgamated, gone out of business etc). Similarly it can be very difficult to check recording information (relatively easy for large major work – more difficult for smaller works,’ popular’ pieces, and arrangements).

A title index at the end of each volume makes the book much easier to use than having to use just the chronological listing. Another fascinating aspect is the tabulations of composer productivity (expressed as TCD ie. Total Compositional Duration in minutes), also broken down by age spans and type of music. It was fascinating to learn that Britten is by far the most productive of the British Composers listed being not far behind Beethoven in this regard.

I did not come across any obvious inaccuracies when looking through this absorbing catalogue but came across all sorts of fascinating information which is not found in the standard biographies or in Grove. Inevitably one feels frustrated when a composer you expect to be in the catalogue is not there – but this is usually because the date of birth is outside the stated limits, the composer is of "light" rather than serious music or perhaps because he is relatively obscure.

The Catalogue is truly welcome and will be a much used reference book which should be included in every serious musical library.


Arthur Baker

Rob barnett has also inspected this Dictionary

The last 12 months have been a year of dictionaries with the rolling climax coming in the form of Macmillan's New Grove 2.

Grove 2 is sui generis; not without blemish but unequivocally the most estimable multi-volume dictionary of music in the English language. The towering ambition of the Grove editorial team has lured it into coverage of world music, ethnic music and popular genres. The blurred focus so imparted hardly matters but Grove is now far more diffuse and arbitrary (especially where it strides out into new territory) than previously. I still lament the exclusion of peripheral British composers such as Roger Sacheverell Coke, Walter Thomas Gaze Cooper and Stanley Wilson. It is however the most universal and ambitious of available dictionaries. Its coverage, span and depth is matchless in a single work.

The next edition of the multi-volume German Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) should be out by 2005 and it remains to be seen how well that will stack up. It will however be in German.

Striking at a different level comes the latest edition of Baker's 'Biographical Dictionary of Composers and Musicians'. I have not seen the book yet but have read Martin Anderson's review in International Record Review. Baker's coverage is exclusively biographical. For people wanting to run to ground solid information on the lives of composers and musicians you could not do better. It is also somewhat less expensive than Grove though still a major bite out of your bank account.

The present dictionary is in the nature of a collection of catalogues where the works are in chronological sequence. Its coverage is quite specific. Fifty-four composers are treated in meaty depth. The full list of names is appended below. Composers selected are Brits (or adopted Brits) born between 1891 and 1923. The format of the book is, as Poulton indicates in his introduction, modelled on Kenneth Thompson's 'A Dictionary of Twentieth Century Composers 1911-1971' (Faber).

The conventionally 'great' names covered are Britten, Tippett and Walton. The greatest value of this work is its systematic exposure of the heritage of the still largely eclipsed Cheltenham generation - not to suggest that everyone here can be viewed as a 'Cheltenham composer' though I would be surprised if any of the people listed had not had some Cheltenham exposure. Female composers include Ruth Gipps, Phyllis Tate, Grace Williams, Rainier, Maconchy and Lutyens. Those of communist leanings: Alan Bush, Christian Darnton and Benjamin Frankel. Ultra-peripheral names accommodated include ApIvor, Darnton, Gipps, Leigh, Stanley Bate, Chagrin, Parrott, Wynne and Wishart. From various aspects of the avant-garde come Lutyens, Wynne, Hamilton, Searle, Gerhard and Rainier. Major symphonists drawn in are Rubbra, Arnell, Frankel, Fricker, Daniel Jones, Lloyd, Malcolm Arnold, William Alwyn, Robert Simpson and William Wordsworth. Film music composers: Arnold, Alwyn, Frankel, Rawsthorne, Lutyens, Bliss, Benjamin and Addison. Emigres: Rainier, Seiber, Panufnik, Gerhard, Benjamin and Banks. From the older lyrical tradition come Howells, Finzi, Goossens, Hadley, Bliss and Benjamin. We can all play chase the omission but for me the most regrettable absences are Inglis Gundry and John Veale.

The work that has gone into this dictionary is breath-taking and while Alan Poulton acknowledges his indebtedness to his own published works (e.g. Bravura's Alan Bush and Rawsthorne books) and those of others (all listed at the front of each volume) this must have been a Herculean enterprise. That it has been achieved with such excellence of outcome is a credit to Poulton and the courageous Greenwood.

Typos are inevitable but they are far far fewer than you might fear. I list a few at the end of this review for correction on the MS and in later editions.

Browsing through the 1700 pages is not the arid experience you might fear. Poulton drops in notes here and there and little details suddenly strike you: things you knew previously; things you discover for the first time. I had not recalled that Walton had dedicated Belshazzar's Feast to Lord Berners. Searle's Three Ages includes a quote (brief) from John Ireland's These Things Shall Be. Goossens conducted the US premiere of the Moeran symphony in Cincinnati. Notes on the Albany commissions cross-reference George Lloyd's Symphonies 11 and 12 with Arnold 8 and the Rubbra's Sinfonietta. There is humour too - note the name of one of the two pianists in the premiere of Rawsthorne's The Creel was Helen Pyke to which Poulton attaches an exclamation mark.

It is good to see that film, theatre and radio music are shown alongside concert works. It helps to break long tracts of lists that these segments are shown separately. Premiere recordings are identified but the date for the recordings is not given or not consistently. I had thought at one stage that discographies were intended but on reflection if this had been applied rigorously Poulton's work would have run to six or eight volumes (Britten, Walton and Tippett are amongst the composer roster) and the price to £500 or so. It was a wise decision to omit discographies. Bibliographies are included and they are selective. It is a pleasure to see that the British Music Society's publications are widely listed and that the illustrious work of writers like Michael Barlow, Paul Conway, Anthony Hodges and Lewis Foreman are recognised.

The three volumes are splendidly bound in sturdy slatey black livery with red insets and fold lettering for front and spine. There is no slip case (just as well as it would be an encumbrance in a busy library). To English eyes the 'Catalog' reference jars momentarily but this is an irrelevance given the intrinsic strengths of the books. The paper is an admirable matte-white though more page-to-page opacity would have helped. The font is easy on the eye: not too large; not too small - a subset of the Times-Roman family by the look of it. There are no dustwrappers, as is the practice of Greenwood.

In these days of DVD encyclopaedias and web access one in some ways laments the inflexible print medium. Web access and CDs would be the ideal allowing quick searching and rendering fixed indices irrelevant. If I had to locate references to performances by Yfrah Neaman would have to wade through each volume page by page. Even finding work titles across the composer list would entail checking from volume to volume; index to index. I certainly wish I had this work in Word format on my PC where it would assist a busy editor in his day to day work.

Summarising: no self-respecting music library, academic institution or serious music broadcaster can do without this dictionary. Enthusiasts who are able to and are prepared to shell out £210.00 will find these three volumes endlessly rewarding. Concert organisers, record companies, chamber ensembles, music administrators, journalists, broadcasters, researchers and music entrepreneurs will find them invaluable in weighing up revivals and programme planning.

This major book facilitates and decisively paves the way for the slowly rolling renaissance of British music from the period 1945-1970.

Rob Barnett





Volume 1
Foreword by Vernon Handley
Composer Productivity - an Analytical Approach
Composer Catalogues:-
1. John Addison (1920-1998)
2. William Alwyn (1905-1985)
3. Denis ApIvor (1916-)
4. Richard Arnell (1917-)
5. Malcolm Arnold (1921-)
6. Don Banks (1923-1980)
7. Stanley Bate (1911-1953)
8. Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960)
9. Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989)
10. Arthur Bliss (1891-1975)
11. Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
12. Alan Bush (1900-1995)
13. Geoffrey Bush (1920-1998)
14. Francis Chagrin (1905-1972)
15. Arnold Cooke (1906-)

Volume 2 Composer Catalogues:-
16. Christian Darnton (1905-1981)
17. Howard Ferguson (1908-)
18. Gerald Finzi (1901-1956)
19. Benjamin Frankel (1906-1973)
20. Peter Racine Fricker (1920-1990)
21. John Gardner (1917-)
22. Roberto Gerhard (1896-1970)
23. Ruth Gipps (1921-1999)
24. Eugene Goossens (1893-1962)
25. Patrick Hadley (1899-1973)
26. Iain Hamilton (1922-)
27. Herbert Howells (1892-1983
28. Gordon Jacob (1895-1984)
29. Daniel Jones (1912-1993)
30. Constant Lambert (1905-1951)
31. Walter Leigh (1905-1942)
32. George Lloyd (1913-1998)
33. Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983)

Volume 3 Composer Catalogues:-
34. Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)
35. E.J.Moeran (1894-1950)
36. Herbert Murrill (1909-1952)
37. Andrzej Panufnik (1914-1991)
38. Ian Parrott (1916-)
39. Priaulx Rainier (1903-1986)
40. Alan Rawsthorne (1905-1971)
41. Franz Reizenstein (1911-1968)
42. Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)
43. Humphrey Searle (1915-1982)
44. Matyas Seiber (1905-1960)
45. Bernard Stevens (1916-1983)
45. Robert Simpson (1921-1998)
47. Phyllis Tate (1911-1987)
48. Michael Tippett (1905-1998)
49. William Walton (1902-1983)
50. Peter Warlock (1894-1930)
51. Grace Williams (1905-1977)
52. Peter Wishart (1921-1984)
53. William Wordsworth (1908-1988)
54. David Wynne (1900-1983)

p296 Burglund for Berglund
p1408 Nielson should be Nielsen
p1455 Richard Cockin should be Richard Cock
p1701 Guilford instead of Guildford.
P1670 Coeurs Désolés is correct in the text but wrong in the index.
DETAILS from Alan POULTON's promotional material

  1. Who were the soloists in the first British performance of Humphrey Searle's opera Hamlet Op. 84?
  2. What instruments are required to perform the Tankas of the Four Seasons by Alan Rawsthorne?
  3. Who wrote the words for Gordon Jacob's choral work News from Newtown?
  4. Who are the dedicatees of Iain Hamilton's Sonata Notturna for horn and piano, and when did they give the work's first broadcast performance?
  5. In which year was Herbert Howell's Procession and Fugue for orchestra composed?
  6. Who conducted the soundtrack to the Ealing film The Magnet (1952) and who wrote the music?
  7. Who made the first recording of the Suite for flute, violin and harp (1914) of Eugene Goossens?
  8. Where and when did the first American performance of Britten's The Burning Fiery Furnace take place?
  9. In which theatre was Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet staged, for which production Roberto Gerhard wrote the music in 1947, and who was the producer?
  10. In which year was the score to Rubbra's String Quartet No. 1 published, and who was the publisher?
  11. Who commissioned Lennox Berkeley's Sonata for flute and piano Op. 97 and for which performer?
  12. What is the duration of Panufnik's Reflections for piano?

1. Victor Braun, Ann Howells, David Kelly, Patricia Johnson.
2. Oboe, clarinet, bassoon, violin, cello.
3. Christopher Hassall.
4. Barry Tuckwell and Margaret Kitchin - 30 November 1965.
5. 1922.
6. Ernest Irving and William Alwyn.
7. Charles Stainer (Fl.), Charles Woodhouse (Vn.) and Marie Goossens (Hp.) VOCALION 05104/5.
8. New York, 25 June 1967 (Caramoor Festival).
9. Memorial Theatre, Strafford - Peter Brook.
10. 1947 - Lengnick.
11. The Edinburgh Festival for James Galway.
12. 12 minutes.
These and the answers to many thousands of other questions are now available in one major study from Greenwood Press, Conn., USA.
Alan Poulton's Dictionary-Catalog brings together, for the first time, a comprehensive listing in chronological sequence of the complete output of over fifty British composers, including music for film, incidental music for stage, radio and television, as well as arrangements.
The content of each volume is planned as follows:
* Complete chronological catalogue for each composer
* date,
* dedicatee,
* commissioning source,
* performance information (duration, instrumentation),
* music history (first concert, first broadcast, first British, European or American performance as pertinent and available, including performing artists);
* publication details;
* first and subsequent significant recordings;
* MS location where known.
* Bibliography (selective).
* Title Index of concert music organised in separate indices for each composer.
The following is a typical example of two entries from the ApIvor catalogue:
Six Songs of Federico Garcia Lorca for high voice and piano Op. 8 (1945-46)
1. La Gitarra (The Guitar)
2 La niña del bello rostro (The girl with the beautiful face)
3 Cancion de jinete (The rider's song)
4. Pueblo (Village)
5. Virgen con marinaque (Virgin in a crinoline)
6. Raiz amarga (The bitter root)
Dur 16'30"
f.p. Frederick Fuller (Bar.)/Daniel Kelly (Pno.) - Wigmore Hall, London, April 1947
f broad.p. Trefor Jones (Ten.)/Clifton Helliwell (Pno.), 23 January 1951
Pub: Berben Milano 1972 (* version for voice and guitar)

Violin Sonata Op. 9 (1946 rev. 1951-2)
Dur. 17' f p.
Antonio Brosa (Vn.)/Kyla Greenbaum (Pno.) - Wigmore Hall, London, 1947 (LCMC Concert)
f conc.p. (rev. version) Leonard Dight (Vn.)/Eiluned Davies (Pno.) - Swansea Music Club, 23 February 1952
f. broad.p. (rev. version) Leonard Dight (Vn.)/Eiluned Davies (Pno.) - BBC Wales, 2 May 1957
The Dictionary-Catalog will therefore be of particular interest to the following:
* Researchers and biographers of individual British composers.
* Discographers studying the recording history of twentieth century British music.
* Performers, e.g. soloists, chamber ensembles, choirs and orchestras for concert/repertoire planning.
* Libraries and academic staff for teaching budgets/acquisition planning.
* Musical historians researching a particular performing artist, ensemble or orchestra.
* Researchers with a specialist interest in twentieth century performing arts, particularly in the influence of music in the world or films, stage performances, and radio and television productions.
Not only are the major composers featured such as Bliss, Britten, Walton, Tippett and Berkeley, but others, less well-known, who have not hitherto been analysed in such detail, e.g. Francis Chagrin, Matyas Seiber, Bernard Stevens, Denis ApIvor and Humphrey Searle.
Access to much of this information has been given with the complete cooperation of many of the composers, their families and publishers, as well as from the archives of the BBC, British Library, British Film Institute and the personal recollections of hundreds of performing artists throughout the world.
The Dictionary-Catalog (in 3 volumes) covers those composers born between the years 1891 and 1923 and this provides a unique historical perspective of musical performances which have taken place during the ninety years from c.1910 to 2000.

Rob Barnett


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