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Haydn WOOD (1882-1959)
The Golden Age of Light Music – Joyousness – The Music of Haydn Wood
Horse Guards - Whitehall (from London Landmarks Suite)
Orchestre Raymonde/Robert Preston [3:11]
Joyousness - Concert Waltz (from Moods Suite)
Light Symphony Orchestra/Haydn Wood [4:18]
Laughing Cavalier (Haydn Wood)
New Concert Orchestra/Jack Leon [3:01]
Longing
London Palladium Orchestra/Richard Crean [3:02]
Roses of Picardy
Peter Yorke and his Concert Orchestra featuring Freddy Gardner, saxophone [2:33]
Seville (from Cities of Romance Suite)
BBC Variety Orchestra/Charles Shadwell featuring Reginald Foort, organ [2:35]
The Seafarer - A Nautical Rhapsody (Haydn Wood) Intro: Hulla Balloo Balay, Rio Grande, Leave Her Johnnie Leave Her, Drunken Sailor, Shenandoah, When Johnnie Comes Down To Hilo, Roving
Charles Williams and his Concert Orchestra [7:38]
Montmartre (from Paris Suite)
Debroy Somers Band [2:47]
Nelson's Column - Overture (from London Landmarks Suite)
Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams [3:05]
Soliloquy
Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Robert Farnon [3:11]
Homage March
Light Symphony Orchestra/Haydn Wood [4:13]
Bird of Love Divine
London Palladium Orchestra/Richard Crean [3:37]
Vienna (from Frescoes Suite)
New Concert Orchestra/Serge Krish [4:07]
Mannin Veen (Dear Isle Of Man)
Light Symphony Orchestra/Haydn Wood [8:55]
Caprice (from Moods Suite)
Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams [2:18]
Tower Hill (from London Landmarks Suite)
Queen's Hall Light Orchestra/Charles Williams [3:15]
I Hear You Calling Me (Charles Marshall arr. Haydn Wood)
London Palladium Orchestra/Richard Crean [4:15]
Torch of Freedom - Grand March
New Concert Orchestra/Jack Leon [2:34]
Stanford Rhapsody (founded on Sir Charles Villiers Stanford's Songs of the Sea) (Haydn Wood) Intro: Drake's Drum, Homeward Bound, Devon O Devon In Wind And Rain, The Old Superb
Debroy Somers Band [8:19]
Recorded 1933-52. ADD
GUILD LIGHT MUSIC GLCD 5121 [77.57]

 

 

I came to the music of Haydn Wood by way of his Piano Concerto. This may seem rather strange when one considers that the composer’s most popular piece is undoubtedly ‘Roses of Picardy.’ Even today this Great War song is seen as being something of an ‘anthem for a lost generation’. It is only necessary to look at any CD catalogue for confirmation – there are some seven versions currently available. And following as a close second is the song A Brown Bird Singing. Orchestrally, the London Landmarks Suite is well known and is played relatively often - especially the march Horse Guards - Whitehall.

Yet it was Hamish Milne playing Haydn Wood’s Piano Concerto in D minor that made me think about this man and his music. It may not be a ‘masterpiece’ or exhibit pure genius but it is a fine concerto and makes one feel better about life after hearing it – what more could you ask for?

And there was another thing. I often used to take the train from York to Manchester. Just after Huddersfield the train passed through the town of Slaithwaite - not pronounced, apparently, as it is spelt. I had learnt that Haydn Wood had been born in this little town on the Yorkshire side of the Pennines. Every time the train puffed - or motored, these days - up the hill to Standege Tunnel I used to spare the composer a thought. However any notion that his ‘sly shade’ still haunts these wild moorlands was expelled by finding out that he moved to the Isle of Man with his parents at an early age. And the Isle of Man was to be important for the composer in the ensuing seventy odd years. But a little more of that later.

It was only after hearing the Piano Concerto that I explored Wood’s music more systematically. I found the two Marco Polo recordings in a second-hand CD shop in York. Here were some classic tunes that captured the imagination – Variations on a Once Popular Song, the ubiquitous but charming Sketch of a Dandy, the metropolitan London Cameos, the delightfully named Dance of a Whimsical Elf and many others. Of course the two potboilers mentioned above were included. Sadly these two discs appear to have been deleted from the Naxos/Marco Polo catalogue – so listeners have lost a fine opportunity to hear over two hours of Haydn Wood’s music. And lastly there is Philip Scowcroft's excellent essay on MusicWeb which brought me up to speed with the composer’s background and achievements.

One of my favourite pieces on this present CD is the ‘concert waltz’ Joyousness which has all the charm and panache of the best of light music. It is the final movement of the Moods Suite – which explores Dignity, Allurement, Coquetry, Pensiveness, Felicity and our present feeling of ‘Joy.’ Also recorded is the Caprice which is, in fact the third movement – Coquetry. This turns out to be a fine little scherzo. Interestingly, if we do our sums this suite must add up to nearly half an hour of music – not far short of a veritable ‘light’ symphony.

There is a nautical flavour to this disc represented by three works. Firstly the attractive medley Seafarer: this is in many ways as impressive as the more famous Sea Songs by another Wood! And of course Nelson sitting on his Column certainly has a salty tang to it. Yet the most impressive marine piece has got to be the unusual and slightly sycophantic Stanford Rhapsody. Wood was taught by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music and this work is ‘a heartfelt tribute’ to the elder composer. The Stanford enthusiast will not need to be told that the work derives from the great ‘Songs of the Sea’ thankfully recently released by Chandos [CHSA5043] It is certainly an attractive way to hear this music – minus, of course, the soloist and the choir. I prefer the original, I hasten to add – but this is an enjoyable ‘take’ on what is now probably regarded as a dated and politically incorrect piece: Drake coming to save the nation in times of trouble.

Haydn Wood certainly enjoyed writing marches – and the three presented here are excellent. I have mentioned Horse Guards – Whitehall which is definitely ‘marchy,’ – but it is the lesser known Homage March which appeals to me most. Strangely the programme notes suggest that the Festival March, written in 1949, is present on the CD. I initially guessed this from the fact that Guild appears to italicise all works recorded and print other work references in normal type. Festival March is in italics – yet I cannot find it listed as a track – which is a pity. Torch of Freedom is another ‘grand march’ which was apparently used by radio and television companies. It is a classic example of a signature tune for a nineteen-fifties wireless production. It has a lovely ‘trio’ theme which nods to Elgar and everyone else who has ever written a stirring march.

The Laughing Cavalier (as opposed to the Laughing Policeman) is a novelty pure and simple. Nothing profound here – just fun. Yet we often tend to lose that particular mood in our musical listening.

In a more reflective frame of mind we have the delicious Longing which is a little character piece that will remind everyone of what it is/was like being in love. This is just pure romance – a heart on the sleeve job. Yet Soliloquy goes deeper: this is almost ‘Delian’ in its soundscape and none the worse for it. It is perhaps my favourite piece on this CD. Simply gorgeous. The imagery may suggest a landscape but it is certainly not the Isle of Man: to me it is a reflection of a summer’s afternoon on the ‘downs.’

Seville from the Cities of Romance appeals to me for its exuberance – and the ‘cinema ‘organ.’ It features Reginald Foort on the Wurlitzer. Montmartre (Paris Suite) is another little piece that is pleasant – but somehow does not really remind me of Paris, France or anywhere else. Where is the Can-Can, for example?

The ‘Vienna’ movement from the Frescoes Suite is a good opportunity for the composer to indulge in an enchanting waltz.

In London we are on safer ground and each of the three movements of the London Landscapes hit the target. Nelson (a great hornpipe here), Tower Hill and Horse Guards – what better introduction can there be to the pageantry of the great city of London? And yet there is a wistfulness and even reflectiveness about some of this music that goes way beyond sheer ‘postcard’ writing.

Perhaps the pieces I am least enthusiastic about are the song arrangements. I positively dislike the saxophone solo in Roses of Picardy – yet it may be to someone’s taste. The Bird of Divine Love seems to be something from the past that perhaps does not strike many chords these days. And I Hear you Calling is in fact an arrangement by Haydn Wood of a number by Charles Marshall.

The weightiest piece on this CD is Mannin Veen. This is well described in the programme notes by David Ades as being Haydn Wood’s ‘Manx Tone Poem’. It may not have the depth or profundity of Bax or Strauss yet here is a work that is certainly worth playing and listening to. The title means ‘Dear Isle of Man’ and it is exactly the kind of work I would expect someone who had been brought up on the island to compose. It could be argued that it is in some ways a rhapsody – a concatenation of Manx folk tunes – and this may be true. Yet Haydn Wood uses his material in a way that does not allow us to hear the work as a patchwork. The transitions between tunes are virtually seamless. Much of this music is quite moving but it is never overtly sentimental.

I have only been to the Isle of Man on a couple of occasions. Yet this work strikes a chord with me. I recall walking on Spanish Head in the south of the island one summer’s night. It was nearly dark and we could see all six kingdoms – Blackpool Tower and the Pleasure Beach, the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse in Scotland, the glow of Larne in Ulster, the light off Anglesey and of course the Isle of Man itself. But then there was the sixth – the Kingdom of Heaven! – Not to mention anything about the realm of the fairies. All this magic, I am sure, was in the thoughts of the composer as he wrote this fine work.

I am not a great enthusiast of historical recordings – usually because the thought of noise and scratches tends to put me off. However this is not a problem on this CD. All these tracks have been beautifully re-mastered and restored by Alan Bunting. Of course it is obvious that these are not recent recordings, but there is nothing here to distract from the enjoyment of the music. Naturally those pieces recorded post-war tend to be of a better audio quality than those from the early nineteen-thirties.

Now back to my only criticism. I do wish that Guild had been able to include entire ‘suites’ as opposed to selections. For example we have extracts from Moods, Paris, Cities of Romance, and Frescoes Suites. The London Landmarks Suite is represented by all three movements – Horse Guards, Tower Hill and Nelson’s Column. However they do not follow on in the track-listing, they are not by the same band, nor in the correct order. I accept that this Suite is available elsewhere on CD but do wish it was given again here. Any of the other suites in their entirety would have been great although I concede that they may not be in the sound archives that were used to compile this present release.

There are a number of great bands and orchestras represented here, including the London Palladium Orchestra, the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra and the Debroy Somers Band. However pride of place – at least for historical reasons, must go to the Light Symphony Orchestra’s versions of Horse Guards – Whitehall, Homage March and Mannin Veen – all conducted by the composer himself.

A great CD that captures the spirit of Haydn Wood’s light music. A good introduction that certainly does not supersede, but complements the deleted Marco Polo CDs mentioned above. And the bottom line is this – after listening to this CD you will feel great – the sun will shine – I promise you!

John France

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf

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