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A Salute to Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944)
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Rosamunde; Entr’acte and Ballet Music
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Sinfonia Concertante in E flat K364
Il Pastore K208 – L’amero, saro costante
Exsultate, Jubilate K165 – Alleluia
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Cello Concerto - excerpts
Symphony No.3 – brief rehearsal extract
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Brandenburg Concerto No.3 in G major BWV 1048 – brief rehearsal extract
Jean Pougnet (violin) and Bernard Shore (viola) in the Sinfonia Concertante
Elizabeth Schumann (soprano) in L’amero, saro costante and Exsultate, Jubilate K165 – Alleluia, with Marie Wilson (violin)
Beatrice Harrison (cello) in the Bax
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Henry Wood
Rec. Prom Concert 8 September 1936 except the Bax 1 February 1938 and the rehearsal extracts 21 June 1942
SYMPOSIUM 1150 [79.15]


The bulk of this disc enshrines a Queen’s Hall Promenade Concert from September 1936. The second half comprised Saint-Saëns’ Le Rouet d’Omphale, Honegger’s Pacific 231 and two piano-accompanied Mahler songs; Schubert’s Great C major Symphony was also on the programme but only the items collated here were actually broadcast. There are also rehearsal snippets from two years before Wood’s death – useful reminders of his practicality, professionalism and industry – and a severely compromised torso of the Bax Cello Concerto.

Wood’s Schubert is slow, reverential, with strong portamenti and excellent work from the BBC’s principal woodwind players. The Ballet Music from Rosamunde is rather more robust than the Entr’acte. The Sinfonia Concertante shows that there were London based pairings other than Sammons and Tertis in this work. Jean Pougnet was then twenty-nine and immersed in money-earning light music jobs in film studios and dance bands though his classical credentials were impeccable. Bernard Shore had been the principal viola of the BBC Symphony since its foundation and had given the premiere of Gordon Jacob’s First Viola Concerto in 1925 as well as being the second, after Hindemith, to espouse the Walton. Both had Tertis connections; Pougnet’s quartet was coached by him and Shore had studied under Tertis at the Royal College of Music after the First World War. The performance has its share of peculiarities mostly stemming from Wood and these concern orchestral cuts in the main. The first movement exposition cut is the most wilful, truncating the Mannheim crescendo and making a bit of nonsense of the architecture here. There are also cuts immediately after the first movement cadenza, no cadenza in the slow movement and a 24 bar cut in the finale. As for the performance it highlights many of Pougnet’s strengths as a classicist of distinction – his small, slim tone and elegance, his reluctance to overdo portamenti and overtly expressive finger tip intensifications much as it shows us Shore’s commendable musicality and lyrical introspection. Wood is a robust presence on the rostrum and his tuttis are inclined to be rather big boned though his wind players again distinguish themselves. Unlike the earlier commercial recording made by Sammons, Tertis and Harty there are no real tempo fluctuations and Wood maintains a metrical straightforwardness throughout. The slow movement is quite slow and very expressive without recourse to romanticised phraseology; as with Sammons and Tertis, Pougnet and Shore omit a second movement cadenza which seems to have ben a feature of British performances of this work (the first movement cadenza was essentially Mozart’s with some of Tertis’s included and not the outrageous Hellmesberger-Tertis). The finale is not quite as bracing and buoyant as the earlier recording but is on a par with the roughly contemporaneous American recording made by Albert Spalding and William Primrose (a one time member of Pougnet’s string trio by the way). Wood really brings out the open hearted horn writing and the soloist’s interplay dancingly, Pougnet lithe and sweet, Shore much lighter in tone than his master Tertis. It’s a shame that Wood has the horn cover the violinist’s ascending climactic run.

Elizabeth Schumann’s pre-interval appearance was in Mozart as well and she is delightful, soaring in L’amero, saro costante and then accompanied by violinist Marie Wilson in the Alleluia. The excerpts from 1942, a busy year for Wood during which he gave the British premiere of the Leningrad Symphony, are replete with his constant call outs to the orchestra as they rehearse; "horns … off … 4/8 … 1234 … Ar … tic .. u … late …" I’d always imagined from reports that Wood’s speaking voice was "high pitched cockney" but it doesn’t sound like that to me; businesslike London I’d say. The Bax, a tantalising fragment, comes from a studio concert in 1938 given by Beatrice Harrison. This was recorded on discs and as a result of side changes the lost material has been left as it is, as it inevitably must be in these circumstances, unfilled (impossible to patch from another source). There is also some queasy sounding wow and very dim sound. It’s frustrating because of the Harrison family’s familiarity with Bax and the extant correspondence between the composer and Beatrice about the Concerto. This is still more so because of her lyric impress and the way Wood brings out the clarinet lines, Harrison’s cantilena in the waltz like pages and much else. Invaluably frustrating is the best verdict I can come up with.

The notes are plentiful and there’s much to read by Emanuel Hurwitz, Lewis Foreman Tully Potter and David Candlin of the Harrison Sisters Trust. The disc gives us a perspective on the standard of music making in London between 1936 and 1942 under Wood, his interest in repertoire both established and contemporary and his sympathetically lively musicianship.

Jonathan Woolf



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