John Dressler has just
the sort of rigorous methodical technique
that suits the cataloguing nature of
the Greenwood series. He has already
written the Finzi volume in the Green
Bio-Bibliography series and here is
the Rawsthorne. He is already deep at
work on the William Alwyn volume.
Dressler joined the
Murray State University music faculty
in 1989. There he is a professor of
French horn and teaches music history
courses and a section of world civilization.
He is principal horn of the Jackson
Symphony Orchestra in Jackson, Tennessee.
Murray State University clearly encourages
a cultured and comprehensive approach
to music and its study - well leave
aside the blunder in their Roundabout
Murray e-zine that claims Finzi as ‘primarily
a church music composer’!
Having finished his
Finzi project - although such work is
never really finished - Dressler turns
to Alan Rawsthorne. As the Finzi book
complements the Banfield biography so
this one reads harmoniously with John
McCabe’s OUP Rawsthorne biography.
The book is essentially
a sequence of lists. And what is listed?
In these pages you
- A list of all known works both
complete and incomplete. This includes
details of premieres and other selected
performances (venues, dates and
- A discography - commercial and
- 1500 citations of reviews, sections
of books and articles - usually
with a significant quote from each
- Alphabetical and chronological
- Manchester manuscript collection
- Song Cycle and Multi-Section Works
- Works dedicated to Rawsthorne
by other composers
- 25-page index
The list of works is
further subdivided into: Stage works,
chamber music, film music, works for
orchestra or brass band, songs, choral,
concertante works, solo voice and instruments,
solo piano or piano duet, arrangements.
To add juice and narrative
substance to the enterprise there are
three biographical essays forming a
triptychal overture to a flood of minutiae.
These are at the start and span 13 of
the 363 pages. That dynamo of the Rawsthorne
renaissance and leading light of the
Rawsthorne Friends, John Belcher provides
a Rawsthorne primer. The composer Gerard
Schurmann gives a lively account of
his friendship with Rawsthorne. John
Dressler provides three pages to give
additional scene setting.
is an unforgiving medium when it comes
to typos. There are so many proper names.
In fact the typos in this book are very
few. There are a few in the discography.
John Clegg’s CD of Rawsthorne piano
music in on the Paradisum label
not Paradisum. And while Tamara
Anna Cislowska may have given up using
the Polish ł
in her surname name I suspect she would
be slightly disconcerted to find out
that they she had been called Cislowski
(the male form of her surname) rather
than Cislowska; the correct form which
she uses on her various recordings for
the splendid Australian ArtWorks
label. Also her first names are for
some reason hyphenated in the Greenwood
entry. The orchestra on the Naxos piano
concertos disc is Takuo Yuasa not
Takuo Yuase. I was unable to
find any others.
The only other criticism
is more a matter of the Greenwood series
‘template’ rather than anything else.
If you are looking for citations of
programme notes you will look in vain
unless they were written by Rawsthorne.
Perhaps the difficulty is that they
are, in many cases, anonymous or maybe
the issue is availability in this most
ephemeral of areas. Still, the programme
note for the concert premiere could
have been a valuable reference. Secondly,
the sometimes very substantial liner
notes of CDs and LPs are not listed.
The recording will be listed but not
who wrote the liner note. No doubt bibliographers
are holding conferences about this sort
of thing but the fact remains that a
significant segment of literature is
left out of the reckoning in all the
Greenwood series. The growing original
literature of recording liner notes
should not be neglected.
I was about to pounce
on the apparently ‘extraordinary’ inclusion
of the film score for The Overlanders.
After all this was written by John Ireland,
wasn’t it? I then went to entry W175
where Mr Dressler promptly put me right.
In fact Rawsthorne orchestrated two
sections of Ireland ‘s score: Catching
the Brumbies and Breaking the
Brumbies - hence the other Overlander
The index is invaluable.
Not only can you find all the entries
for every work with great ease you can
also find any writing about Rawsthorne
by any author identified by Mr Dressler.
Alternatively if you want to find out
about the critical reception for Rawsthorne’s
Farnham Overture you can find
these (as well as entries for each of
his other works) all grouped together
in the bibliography. And remember that
this is not just a citation - you also
get, for each of the 1500 entries, a
brief quotation which may tell you all
you want to know anyway. Suppose you
dimly recall once reading a piece about
Rawsthorne by Gillian Widdicombe or
Jack Westrup. You can find the citation
for each of their Rawsthorne writings
with minimum fuss and waste of time.
The files at OUP, BBC Data Centre, Kew
Gardens and Dartington are also listed
in separate sections.
Alan Poulton’s three
volume work dealing with Rawsthorne
and many other British composers active
in the period 1940-1970 is good (not
that it includes details of recordings
and its bibliographical content is outline).
It does covers a very wide span. However
for Rawsthorne students and fanatics
this book is utterly indispensable.
John Dressler’s book opens new perspectives
and reveals many fresh avenues of enquiry
as well as answering those nagging questions
and providing you with new questions
when you have run out of the ones you
set out with. If your specialist subject
is Alan Rawsthorne, his life, times
and music you now have an essential
part of your life’s mission ready to
buy. Over to you.
An outstanding bibliographical