> Jennifer Paull - A Final Injustice - May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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A Final Injustice

Leonard Salzedo 1921-2000

Jennifer Paull reveals the brouhaha surrounding Leonard Salzedo’s final composition on the second anniversary of his death.

Leonard Salzedo was quite simply one of the kindest, most decent human beings I ever had the honour to know. I really think that not only did no unkind word ever escape his lips, but also, no unfair, unjust or ignoble thought ever entered his head.

I met him at the Harrogate Festival in 1966 when I was playing in the Harrogate Festival Orchestra for the premiere of his Paean to the Sun.. I fell beneath the charm of his vital rhythmical pulls and mixings; his haunting melodies and stabs of prismatic light cutting through soft backdrops of tone colour.

Leonard had been a violinist, a member of Sir Thomas Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and eventually Sir Thomas’ assistant. Beecham conducted several of Leonard’s scores with much success. But it is not about the brilliant prize-winning composition student, or the brilliant violinist or pianist, all of whom were Leonard Salzedo, that I wish to write. For me, he was a close personal friend with a vast culture and understanding of his Spanish, Jewish heritage, and many other arts and horizons too. He was a musical idea mine, and a man of loyalty and logic. His brain was razor sharp and he was totally unpretentious.

I used to smile to myself sometimes. One could start out with trepidation upon a very difficult, long explanation of something complex. Not only did he get the point before one had finished painting the picture and all its possible ramifications, permutations, and combinations of dramatic scenarios, A, B and C, but his summing up was invariably one word. "Quite!" It was a Leonard "Quite!" which I think was 50% of the English meaning, and 50% of the Latin QED (quod erat demonstrandum).

To illustrate his direct, laser brain, I recall once having asked him about going to and from Glyndebourne during his playing career. He took the seasonal, daily travel chore as a challenge. He drew a straight line from his house to Glyndebourne on a map with a coloured crayon, and simply drove along it as closely as he could. Direct – to the point – no frills, just common sense and modesty. That was Leonard, with a ton of kindness thrown in for good measure.

Leonard’s many successes included Divertimento for Three Trumpets and Three Trombones, written for and recorded by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. This was broadcast thousands of times as the theme for the Open University on television for well over twenty years. His ballet score, Witch Boy, now boasts over a thousand performances in more than thirty countries. Leonard Salzedo was an important figure in 20th Century, British music. His rightful place will be seen in retrospection with the passing of time. I am convinced that he will become more and more popular.

I could list pages of his compositions and those famous musicians who have premiered, performed, exported, loved, enjoyed and carried his music within them. I use the last phrase deliberately. To play, sing, or dance Leonard’s music, is simply to be invaded by it. Not only are his melodies haunting, but his rhythms, cross-rhythms and poly-rhythms are totally intoxicating.

One cannot disassociate Leonard Salzedo from Dance. Pat Clover, his wife, was a dancer. They were both members of the Ballet Nègres, for whom Leonard wrote four ballets during 1946/7. I played in the Mercury Ensemble that accompanied the Ballet Rambert, of which he was Musical Director (1967-72). I remember well taking part in the premiere of Hazard, one of his many, exciting ballet scores. He went on to become the principal conductor of the Scottish Ballet (1972-73) and Musical Director of the London City Ballet (1982-86). After this, he devoted himself exclusively to composition.

During all of this time, we remained firm friends. Life separated us, particularly as I came to live abroad and finally settled in Switzerland. Yet during all of those years, he listened to me and my pleadings for more repertoire for my rarely-heard love, the oboe d’amore. I premiered the first piece he wrote for me, Cantiga Mozárabe, at the Nottingham Festival in 1970. It is a beautiful, haunting melody, which portrays the nostalgic soul of a musician doomed to exile, crying out for his lost roots and origins. In a way, it was a self-portrait of Leonard himself.

Twenty years later, there was Leonard again, in Montreux, Switzerland, as I premiered his Sonata a Tré a delicious piece for the "dark chocolate oboes, wrapped in silver paper." That’s what I asked for, and what I received was a superb trio sonata for oboe d’amore, cor anglais, and harpsichord. The slow movement in 5/4 time has to be one of his most inspired, ever!

By this time, I had spent many years trying to amass repertoire for the oboe d’amore, and wanted to form a quartet of players specialising in the five voices of the oboe family of instruments. The musette’s role would be doubled with that of the oboe player. There would have been many simpler goals in life, many that would have been more lucrative and less uphill. After all, most people simply do not know that there are five different types of oboe, so why should they feel drawn to come to a concert of the relatively unknown? "Commercial activity" is not suitable as a description for my life’s mission.

I had decided, however, to publish the repertoire that I had been collecting since the mid-1960’s. I had fought to keep the oboe d’amore alive and expand it’s use as a solo instrument as well as in contemporary orchestration. In a nutshell, that was everything musical I was trying to achieve in life. Leonard had always been there, was always ready to compose and give of his work, knowing that I believed in it, would perform it, record it, cherish and one day, eventually publish it.

In 1996, I premiered Leonard’s Bailables for oboe, oboe d’amore, cor anglais and bass oboe. This première took place at the 25th International Double Reed Society Conference at the Florida State University, Tallahassee. Few were those in Europe who had ever heard of this town then. The Bush/Gore election was to work wonders for its PR.

Whilst I was there, I met a doctoral student who was very interested in working with me in the publishing of my repertoire, and in becoming a member of the projected, permanent quartet. He had never heard of the musette – the piccolo member of the oboe family. However, I needed someone to play in a recording I had set up, and I arranged with Lorée, a celebrated manufacturer in Paris, to borrow an instrument for him.

I returned to Switzerland after this conference to find that Leonard had written Canto de Sibila for oboe d’amore and string quartet as a complete surprise and "thank you". I was delighted!

For the CD I was about to make, I had asked Leonard to arrange the fun piano dances by Matyas Seiber, Leichte Tänze for my ensemble. This he did with full written permission from Schott’s, Seiber’s publisher.

The recording was one of those nightmares that would make a perfect Fawlty Towers episode. We were perched up a mountain in a chapel with miles of cables strewn all over the floor, and although it was August, there prevailed the absolute necessity to wear sheepskin coats and scarves. It brought back the distant memory of a Bach Magnificat in Ripon Cathedral one August, for which I had to wear sheepskin wrist muffs and cut off the fingers from the knuckles upwards of a pair of woollen gloves.

Oboes are very temperamental things. We tried turning on the heating, which was a further disaster. It sounded like the sea breaking on Dover beach on a windy day in November. The show had to go on. Booked sound engineers do not grow on trees, Alpine-evergreen, or otherwise.

However, the warmth of the condensation gathering in the instruments from our warm breath and the cold of the stone chapel at such high altitude, produced the nightmare known to every wind player. Water flooded the tone holes, octave keys and crooks (bocals). These are the metallic extensions that reach from the instrument to the reed and bend it into the mouth on all double reed instruments with the exception of the oboe and musette. The bass oboe was beginning to sound like a dishwasher as water churned inside its crook. Tempers frayed. The American lady playing the cor anglais and the French gentleman playing the bass oboe had what I can only term, an instant Teflon effect, upon one another.

Somehow in the middle of this we managed to record Leonard’s beautiful Bailables and his Seiber dances arrangement. I also recorded the Sonata a Tré with the harpsichord slipping in pitch with every gust of icy wind through the pine needles, and much stopping and starting as a result.

Leonard, true to his form, sent me another gift. It was Quatro Canciónes Españolas for oboe d’amore and piano. I was deeply touched yet again! I felt the moment had arrived. Somehow, I had to find a way to start publishing this music so that other people with these rare oboes could enjoy the beauty of what he and a faithful few had so generously written for me.

I drove to visit him in London with the doctoral student after the recording, and talked about plans. As I had worked many years to obtain my repertoire and had the intention of financing what a student could not, we would start out on the publishing venture with my existing, relatively healthy quantity of original repertoire and my financial backing. The doctoral student’s computer music copying was his valuable input, and we would work on a mutual half share of any benefit resulting from sales of scores.

As I retired, and this younger enthusiast continued, my initial, greater input would gradually be compensated, and matters would equal themselves out. After all, in terms of computers, I knew as little then as this doctoral student knew about the musette or any other rare oboe come to that. I had experience of publishing in general and promotion in particular. This had all the makings of a complimentary team.

I was working on the idea of concerts, which would enable a group of four oboists to play as a quartet at the beginning and end of a lecture recital, branching into solos, duos and trios (with and without keyboard) as the lecture progressed. I would introduce every musical illustration as I gave an historical overview, demonstrating and performing repertoire and discussing the background of these beautiful, seldom-heard instruments. University Music Departments and Conservatories were ideal locations for such lecture-recitals.

I asked Leonard if he felt he could write me another piece for these, my ensemble projects. By this time, his heart, that one so full of goodness, was not behaving itself as it should, in other more basic ways. Of course, he said he’d be delighted.

I had solo works for bass oboe and piano thanks to Derek Bell, that wonderful harpist of the Chieftains who is also an oboist. In his own time had also promoted the rare oboes. He kindly gave me all of his scores. What I really needed, was a piece to illustrate the musette.

We agreed that this new work I was asking Leonard, to compose, would therefore be for musette and piano. True to his word, Leonard sent it to me not very long afterwards. It was the last work he ever composed for me, or for anyone else. It also made Leonard one of a rare world-fraternity, and probably the very first British composer ever to have written for the entire range of oboes; musette, oboe, oboe d’amore, cor anglais and bass oboe.

Before copying a work into the computer, one must have a contractual agreement between publisher and composer. This had not yet been drawn up and signed, but the doctoral student copied the musette work telling neither the composer nor myself that he had done so. He performed it as part of his doctoral recital requirements at the Florida State University. The printed programme, details for which were his responsibility to provide, claimed a ‘World Premiere’.

The taping of the recital included his spoken comments that the work had been written for him personally and dedicated to him as well. Not only had he never seen a musette a few months previously, but Leonard did not write for people he did not know, who did not own or have more than a passing acquaintance with the instrument in question. This work was intended as part of my endeavours for the complete oboe family and composed for me to use to those ends.

Of course, as soon as I discovered what had happened; purely by chance and because the programme was faxed to me by a friend at the university; Leonard contacted The Composers’ Guild of Great Britain which underwent a restructuring process and name change at just this precise moment. The Guild became The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, but Martin Dalby, ex-Director of BBC Scotland, remained at his post in a newly defined capacity. With the help of their lawyer, Martin wrote to the Florida State University as the doctoral student himself chose to reply to no one.

Leonard wrote letters of complaint. The world premiere of this piece and the dedication belonged to the dedicatee – and that was I. The Florida State University replied eventually, much feet dragging going on. They asked Leonard if he was "really sure" that he had written the work for me and not their student!

Monty Python sprang to mind again. It would have been laughable had it not been for the fact that false claims were being made during stipulated, doctoral requirements, (which do include a truth clause); that everybody was procrastinating hoping that the problem would simply go away by itself; and Leonard’s life was running through the hourglass, like sand.

Derek Bell was fast to complain. The doctoral student had asked to borrow Derek’s musette as he did not have an instrument of his own. Derek never agrees to lend instruments on principal, however, he was led somehow to believe that this was for a concert, which included me in some way. He sent the instrument from Ireland not wishing to let me down, agreeing to collect it when the Chieftains came through Florida after this recital.

Derek and the Chieftains went to Florida, but the instrument and the doctoral student never materialised. Derek is a dear friend. He contacted me in a panic. We all applied pressure on the Florida State University, and the instrument was eventually returned. The case did not contain either the refund of the original shipping costs as had been stipulated, one word of excuse for the delay, or even a simple ‘thank you’.

In the summer of 1997, two works had seen the light of day from the joint publishing venture. One was by Derek Bell, the other, Cantiga Mozárabe, Leonard’s first, and my most adored oboe d’amore piece. I have played it in every recital I have given. This was twenty-seven years after it had been written it for me, and my reaction at seeing it in print, not manuscript for the first time, was one of sheer joy and deep satisfaction. Sadly, this was to be short lived for Leonard and myself. Of the two hundred and fifty copies printed of each one of these two works, the Police discovered 6 of one and 11 of the other in a lock up storage unit where this doctoral student had dumped them as he left the State without informing me. I was half a world away and thirty-four years of my work and what it had cost to produce in every way were being dispersed in the wind. What I write here is documented fact. and was a great source of frustration to Leonard.

We both agreed to change the name of the musette composition to Iberian Improvisations so that it’s life could be reborn away from the bad taste left in the wake of all the brouhaha.

The Florida State University did not cover itself with dignity in the whole sordid affair. They took six months to finally decide to disallow the student the credits for this one recital, and destroy the tapes and copies of the printed programme. That is virtually an impossible mission. It is enough for one copy to remain for many more to be cloned. I try to envisage the identical thing happening at Princeton, La Sorbonne or Oxford, and I simply cannot imagine the same results.

Leonard was shown no respect by Steven Nelson who simply helped himself without permission, and with false claims concerning dedications and world premieres, to Leonard’s final composition. The Florida State University’s Music Department seemed not to realise or care how bad they were looking in the eyes of those well-known figures who, backed by a well-respected British institution (The Composers’ Guild of Great Britain), were writing in constant complaint.

Leonard didn’t live to see Iberian Improvisations come to life. I cherish it as I do the other works that this gentle man wrote for me with affection that I return to him in gratitude, with every note of his I ever play.

Leonard Salzedo was quite simply one of the kindest, most decent human beings I ever had the honour to know. I really think that not only did no unkind word ever escape his lips, but also, no unfair, unjust or ignoble thought ever entered his head.

C, Jennifer Paull 9.4.02

Vouvry, Switzerland


See also




JENNIFER PAULL writes about her love affair with the Oboe d'Amore

Paul Conway's Biography of Salzedo

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