Aureole etc.




Nimbus on-line




If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

ARTICLE



Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Tudor 7188


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 


Promenade Concert Novelties 1907

A study in survival

How much music ought to survive from one generation to another? Does natural selection operate in the world of music? Are we wrong in working towards the resurrection of pieces of music that ought to be consigned to the dustbin of history? All very deep problems that would require a large tome to do them justice.

I thought it would be a valuable exercise to consider the British ‘novelties’ that were performed at the 1907 Promenade Concerts. It would be enlightening to see what has survived, what did not survive and perhaps consider if any of the lost works ought to be recovered and presented to a 21st century audience.

In his autobiography Henry Wood points out that the Funeral March by Chopin was played twice at the 1907 Promenade Concerts. On the first occasion it was in memory of the great Joachim who died two days before the season opened and secondly for the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. However on a more positive note, Wood picks out certain highlights of the Proms. He refers to Walford Davies’ ‘charming’ Holiday Tunes which was played on 29 August. Later highlights for the conductor were Sibelius’ Danse Intermezzo No.2 and Maurice Ravel’s Introduction & Allegro for Harp and Orchestra. Max Reger also fared well with a performance of his massive Serenade. This works lasts for more than 70 minutes and Wood was forced to present the work over two evenings to make it manageable. Another continental work that Wood noticed was the Symphonie Montagnard for piano and orchestra by Vincent d’Indy.

Apart from the Walford Davies, Wood refers in his book to four British works performed during 1907 – the First Wand of Youth Suite by Edward Elgar, the Piano Concerto by Frederick Delius, the Ode to a Nightingale by Hamilton Harty and finally an aria by Granville Bantock, Christ in the Wilderness - although only one of them, the Concerto was actually given at the Proms.

It is important to remember that Henry Wood’s memoirs of this period were written, or at least published some thirty years after the 1907 season. So it not unnatural that he will best recall the works that went on to be successful. Yet looking at the list above it is Elgar, Delius and Ravel that have had a continuous life of their own since their respective first performances.

However it is with the British works that this article is concerned. The complete list of ‘novelties’ is as follows:-

Frederic Austin – Symphonic Rhapsody, Spring for Orchestra
Granville Bantock - Lalla Rookh No.6 - of Six Tone Poems.
F.C. Barker – Violin Concerto
Ethel Barns – Concertstück in D minor for violin & orchestra.
Havergal Brian – Overture, For Valour and English Suite No. 1
Frank Bridge – Symphonic Poem, Isabella
Garnet Wolseley Cox, Suite No.2 -The Mysterious Rose Garden
Walford Davies – Holiday Tunes
Fred. Delius – Piano Concerto
Marshall Hall - Symphony in Eb
Hamilton Harty – A Comedy Overture
Arthur Hinton – Three Orchestral Scenes from Endymion
Edward Isaacs – Piano Concerto in C# minor
Roger Quilter - New Serenade
Cyril Scott – Overture, Princess MaleineFelix White - Overture, Shylock 

The above list reveals that there were some 17 British Music novelties. Of these it would be fair to say that only a handful of them have remained in the repertoire, whilst a number have been revived in recent years. The balance, for better or worse, appears to have been lost in the mists of time.

Obviously the Delius has remained reasonably popular – at present there are some five versions of this Piano Concerto in the CD catalogues – including the original 1904 version. The Harty Comedy Overture seems to have stayed in the repertoire with recordings available on Chandos and Naxos. Recently, the Frederic Austin Rhapsody was released on CD to some considerable critical acclaim. Chandos has been excellent in providing a virtually complete conspectus of the orchestral music by Frank Bridge. Isabella may not be the most typical work of this composer, but it is an attractive piece that deserves a hearing. It will never become popular. The rest of the list above is a virtually unknown quantity – at least to the vast majority of listeners – including enthusiasts of British Music.

I always remember a distinguished musician telling me that there is nothing more fruitless that trying to talk or write about music that one has not heard. Yet it is important that we consider lost works and try to gain some sense of their potential for revival a century later. We are lucky in so far as one of the major offerings has recently been issued on CD for the first time. For the other works we have little alternative but to study the contemporary reviews where available.

G.W.L. Marshall-Hall (1862-1915) is a name that is now little known in the United Kingdom. Yet his provenance is second to none. He was born in London and studied with Parry and Stanford. Soon beginning to assume a place of importance in the musical life of London, he wrote a number of important works which reached a degree of popularity. In 1892 he emigrated to Australia to become Professor of Music at the University of Melbourne. He was a ‘character’ – Bohemian would have been the contemporary epithet - and had a colourful career. He was sacked from the University for publishing a ‘sacrilegious’ book. However he was eventually reinstated in 1915, a few months before his death. His catalogue includes operas, chamber music songs and symphonic works.

The Symphony in Eb was written for “his friends and comrades under the Southern Cross.” The composer wrote, “…it represents in purely lyrical form the manifold impressions of various lives upon an ardent, active temperament. Scenes, impressions, passions, activities, continuously succeed each other, as in life itself.” 

The work is certainly impressive and deserves recognition in the concert hall. It is “exuberant and rich in orchestral colours with strong thematic ideas.” This is definitely passionate and approachable music nodding to both Brahms and Wagner with a touch of the forelock to Schumann. The Brisbane Sunday Mail wrote that this symphony “breathes the spirit of romanticism…the slow movement particularly reflecting the Australian outback.”

Felix White’s Overture, Shylock showed ‘great promise,’ according to ‘X’ writing in the socialist New Age Journal. He further pointed out that the composer was only 23 years old and this perhaps explained his tendency to “…wallow in psychological analysis.” I must confess I cannot imagine this discipline rigorously applied to the composition of the Concert Overture! The orchestration was excellent and resulted in some delightful scoring. ‘X’ considered that the construction of the Overture was ‘puzzling’ and he lamented the fact that a ‘programme’ was not provided. He felt that the composer had produced an ‘involved piece of writing.’ The conclusion of the work was doubtless meant to portray the state of Shylock’s mind as Shakespeare leaves him to us at the conclusion of the Merchant of Venice. However it was of concern that the overture ‘petered out’ and this is surely not the emotional state of Shylock at this time. The conclusion of the review has a sting in its tail. Apparently “Mr White might as well have been describing the collapse of a favourite writing desk for all the emotion he squeezes out of the subject.”

Stewart R. Craggs writing in 1984 notes that White regarded his work as being ‘a little Straussy’ here and there. White himself noted that the work was “voted extremely difficult at its first performance.” The Musical Times critic stated that the overture was “a cleverly-scored production that so appealed to the audience that he was recalled to the platform three times. Although the design is entirely modern in conception the development is rational and the scoring clear and exaggerations are carefully avoided.”

This is certainly a work that would bear re-discovery. Although whether it ought to come before some of Felix White’s other orchestral compositions such as the Impressions of England or The Deserted Village, after Goldsmith is a debatable matter.


For the remainder of the English novelties we have little to go on. Walford Davies’ Holiday Tunes which impressed Henry Wood was a suite in some seven movements. It was written to “express the joyous feelings often associated with holidays, but not necessarily restricted to them.” In short this was a meditation on the ‘holiday spirit.’ It is worth quoting the Musical Times reviewer in full on this work. “The opening allegro energico starts with a violin solo announcing the principal theme which, since it is headed estatico, may be intended to express pleasurable anticipations. This at least accords with the spirit of the movement, which is developed at some length. The second number is delightfully humorous and dainty, and has for its chief subject quaint little tune of ingratiating character. A deeper note is struck in the third section and andante con moto of poetic expression, and having a finale of great beauty.” Here the reviewer appears to have lost interest. The remaining four movements are quickly summed up as being of less importance, “consist[ing] of a Presto (in G) of gay character; a short peaceful andante tranquillo; a rocking tune which might be described as a lullaby, since it is based on the composer’s setting of George Wither’s poem ‘Sweet baby, sleep,’ and a bustling finale in march rhythm.”

Holiday Tunes is a work that appears to fall into the category of 'light’ music. Perhaps one of the CD companies that specialise in ‘light music discoveries’ could be tempted to revive this work. I guess it would sit well with Percy Whitlock’s Holiday Suite.

The Musical Times reviewer was impressed with the Tone Poem No.6 Lalla Rookh
by Granville Bantock. This work is based on a poem by Thomas Moore. The complete cycle of six comprises: 1900: No 1, Thalaba the Destroyer; 1901: No 2, Dante and Beatrice; No 3, Fifine at the Fair; 1902: No 4, Hudibras; No 5, Witch of Atlas; No 6, Lalla Rookh. I have looked at the CD catalogues and although Fifine at the Fair (Hyperion CDA66630), Dante and Beatrice (Hyperion CDA66810), Thalaba the Destroyer (Hyperion CDA67250) and The Witch of Atlas (Hyperion CDA66450) are currently available on Hyperion, the other two, including Lalla Rookh and Hudibras are not. The writer felt that the work was successful and deserved to be heard again. He noted that the piece had been written before the turn of the century and had to wait for some seven years before receiving its first performance. It appears to be in the composer's characteristic style..

The reviewer notes that the tone poem opens ‘quasi languido’ and soon expands into an expressive melody of broad character. This is the leitmotiv of the beautiful princess. The music evolves into a ‘march’ theme which is the ‘bridal procession.’ Soon the character of the music changes again. This section of the work is meant to illustrate how Feramrz, disguised as a minstrel, relates stories to the princess to pass time on the long journey. An oriental dance follows before the finalé musically presents Feramorz revealing that he is in fact the fiancé of Lalla Rookh herself.

The writer notes that the music “becomes very insistent and grandiose, but the close is more tranquil being based on the ‘Lalla Rookh’ theme.” He concludes by stating that the “scoring scintillates with picturesque effects and the instrumentation is perhaps the most remembered attribute of this work.”

Manifestly this work deserves to join the other four tone poems already available.

There is little in the extant literature about Mr F.C. Barker’s Violin Concerto to allow us to make up our minds if it is a candidate for revival. Barker was born in 1871 and latterly studied at the Royal College of Music – presumably under the tutelage of Parry and Stanford. There is no entry in the current Grove and only sporadic references in the Times and musical press. The contemporary reviewer noted that “One expects a good deal from a man who brings forth a work of this character.” So it is no surprise that Barker does not quite come up to scratch. He continues “ If Mr Barker’s thematic material is deficient in significance and force of statement, his melodies are pleasing and expressive up to a certain point, and they are treated with a resource, perception of form, and moderation of style that attest to refinement and musical culture.” The reader is left wondering if this work is really worthy of rediscovery. Yet recently listeners have been impressed with the forgotten concerti by Coleridge-Taylor and Arthur Somervell that had lain in the vaults for nearly a century. So perhaps some interested party will make a one-off revival of this piece. Let us hope that it is well recorded if they do.

Roger Quilter is appreciated for his fine songs and perhaps a couple of orchestral works. The ever popular Children’s Overture which does and should appeal to children of all ages is perhaps the best known. The incidental music to the charming but politically incorrect (at least to people that specialise in this kind of musing) At the Rainbow’s End used to have a good following. In fact my personal view is that both this play and the music are well worth reviving along with St George’s Day. (St. George is the hero of the play)

However the New Serenade given at the 1907 Proms has disappeared into history. The Quilter scholar, Dr. Valerie Langfield has written to me about this piece. The composer withdrew the work after a couple of performances for ‘musical reasons.’ However, Dr Langfield is minded that this is a very attractive piece that does not deserve oblivion. She thinks that perhaps Quilter was too hasty in his rejection of it. Fortunately she has recreated the full score and is awaiting a suitable performance.

Unfortunately I can find no references in the literature to Cyril Scott’s Overture Princess Maleine, Ethel Barns’ Concertstuck in D minor for violin & orchestra and Edward Isaacs’ – Piano Concerto in C# minor. Any notes or information will be gratefully received by the writer.

Arthur Hinton’s Three Orchestral Scenes from Endymion were originally composed in 1896 but had to wait until a decade later for their first performance. These three pieces have not survived the ravages of time in spite of the fact that they were well received and were seen as being very pleasing illustrations of episodes from John Keats great poem. The three scenes were entitled ‘Sunrise,’ ‘Shepherds Dance’ and ‘Dance of the Youths and Maidens.’ The impression I get is that this music probably nodded in the direction of Edward German. These works do not appear to have been recorded.


Prior to writing this article I had never heard of Garnet Wolseley Cox. In fact a literature search reveals virtually nothing about him. He is certainly not in the pages of Groves. The reviewer of the 1907 Proms writes as follows: - “A pathetic atmosphere may be said to have surrounded ‘The Mysterious Rose Garden’ heard for the first time on September 10, for the composer was the late Garnet Wolseley Cox, who died while his genius was just beginning to be recognised. The Suite, stated to have been inspired by one of Aubrey Beasley’s pictures, comprise four movements, the first of which is a poetically conceived nocturne entitled ‘Nightfall.’ The second movement is headed ‘Entrance of elves, fauns and satyrs’ who are suggested by a vivacious march. This is succeeded by the ‘Dance of the rose fairies,’ who apparently trip a dainty minuet which gives place to a ‘Dance Bacchantes’ that forms a spirited finale to a charming work.”

Once again this would appear to be a work that we would now regard as being ‘light.’ But not perhaps in the sense of an Eric Coates or a Trevor Duncan: more like Montague Philips or perhaps Edward German.

However the greatest surprise came when I considered the two Havergal Brian works. It appears that it was at the 1907 season of the Proms that Brian become known to the London musical public. Of course it is well known that this Son of Staffordshire was largely self taught. The reviewer, rather parochially, notes that the composer had a number of successes in his native Hanley. Interestingly, the English Suite was not a first performance. It was premiered at Leeds Town Hall at a municipal concert in January of the same year.

The poetical basis of the English Suite is the idea of an old country fair. We would consider it a little patronising nowadays to talk of “rustics assembling to a spirited march.” However Brian managed to bring a degree of humour to this movement primarily by use of orchestral colour including the inevitable ‘loud bassoon.’ The reviewer’s wit shows forth in the description of the next movement. He writes that it is “a waltz, not of modern sentimentality but a rhythmic measure that stirs the pulse; its influence, however, upon the dancers appears to be much the same, since without a break the music passes into an amorous episode [third movement] entitled ‘Love under the beech tree.” He suggests that presumably “the villagers only had one trysting-place, a state of affairs that must have caused occasional inconvenience.” That the beech tree is not far from the dancers is evident from the strains of the waltz that occasionally mingle with tête-à-tête sentences. The fourth movement is really a miniature pastoral scene. It is given as an Interlude but is designed to take the listener away from the fair. Brian has written that it is “an attempt to convey the emotion which arose whilst gazing from the Hanchurch Hills in Staffordshire in the direction of the Wrekin in Shropshire. The whole country suffused in sunlight.” The following section is perhaps evocative of the religious aspirations of the villagers with a ‘hymn-like’ melody dominating. However the fairground apparently returns in the last movement. This is pure ‘rustic revelry.’ Here we have a series of side shows – ‘Punch and Judy, a Sleeping Beauty and a ‘Breathless Lady.’ The only criticism that the reviewer makes about this fascinating piece of pastoralism is that Brian somehow lacks skill at development. This is certainly a skill that does not seem to hamper the composer’s subsequent career!

There is no comment about the Overture - For Valour.

What surprised me was that a recording of both works exist on the Campion label – along with a number of other ‘rare’ Brian works. I have as of yet been unable to locate a copy of this work. Before I wrote the above I dutifully carried out a literature search and also 'Googled.' Nothing came up. It was not until idle moment took me into the Havergal Brian web-page. Lurking amongst the reviews is an excellent piece by David J. Brown. Unfortunately Brown does not really discuss the two works in any detail. It is more a debate on the production of the CD. However I will quote just two sentences from this review: - “…Brian’s young self struts and sparkles, sniggers and guffaws with unfailing inventiveness….This young man thought that he could do anything, one feels, and maybe he could, but maybe he hadn’t yet quite found what was really worth doing. In later years he did, of course.”

So what are we to conclude? First of all it is good to see that out of the 17 works listed above that five of them are easily available on CD – namely Austin’s Spring, Delius’ Piano Concerto, Harty’s Comedy Overture Marshall-Hall Symphony in Eb and Bridge’s Isabella. All these can be found in HMV, Harold Moores or the ’Net.

We have no information, contemporary or otherwise, on Cyril Scott’s Overture, Ethel Barns’ Concertstück and Edward Isaacs’ Piano Concerto. Perhaps we can guess that the Scott would be a good piece to revive and I have heard a rumour that Edward Isaac’s Concerto would be a good addition to the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto series.

That leaves seven pieces. I feel that the Walford Davies Holiday Tunes would make and attractive addition to the burgeoning catalogue of ‘light music’ To add to this it would do no harm suggesting the Arthur Hinton Three Orchestral Pieces are possible contenders for a one-off recording.

Obviously anything by Granville Bantock is likely to be recorded at some stage. Lalla Rookh could form part of a projected series of all six of the Tone Poems. I am not convinced that the Wolseley Cox or the F.C. Barker will ever be considered for revival in the concert hall or the recording studio. I can see Felix White’s Shylock Overture being recorded by a company like Dutton Epoch – along with a selection of the composer’s other works. It would form a valuable record of a largely forgotten name.

Finally of all the pieces listed above that have not been performed or recorded Roger Quilter’s New Serenade may well stand the best chance. Dr Langfield has the score prepared and is actively hoping for a suitable venue for performance. Let us wish her success.

All the works performed at the 1907 Promenade Concerts probably do not deserve to be cast into oblivion. But that is the nature of the beast. Perhaps we ought to be glad that a good third of these novelties are still available to us today and are treasured by enthusiasts of British Music.

Appendix 1

Other First Performances at the 1907 Promenade Concerts.

Max Reger – Serenade in G
Jean Sibelius – Valse Intermezzo
Maurice Ravel – Introduction and Allegro for Harp and Orchestra!
Franz Liszt – Concerto Pathetique in E minor for Piano & Orchestra
Johann Pezel – Suite for Three Trombones and Two Trumpets.
Jean Sibelius – Violin Concerto
T.H.H. Verhey – Concerto in D minor for flute & orchestra.
H. Arnends – Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Alexandre Glazounov - Suite for Strings
Vincent d’Indy – Symphonie Montagnard for piano and orchestra
Victor Vreuls – Poème for cello and orchestra
Jean Sibelius – Overture - Karelia.
Karl Goldmark - Symphony in Eb

Appendix 2 

CDs of British music first heard at the Promenade Concerts 1907. 

The British Symphonic Collection No.10

York BOWEN Second Symphony; Frederic AUSTIN Symphonic Rhapsody Spring
Edgar BAINTON
Genesis (from Before Sunrise)
Royal Northern College Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock
CLASSICO CLASSCD 404

The Music of Havergal Brian

Havergal Brian

Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme; Festal Dance; In Memoriam
Two Herrick Songs; Doctor Merryheart English Suite no.1; Burlesque Variations; For Valour
City of Hull Youth Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Heald Smith.

Campion RRCD 1331/2

Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Orchestral Works, Volume 1
Enter Spring; Isabella; Two Poems for Orchestra; Mid of the Night (premiere recording)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox
CHANDOS CHAN 9950

Frederic Delius; Ralph Vaughan Williams; Gerald Finzi
Delius: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C minor
Vaughan Williams Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in C;
Finzi Eclogue for Piano and Orchestra op.10
Piers Lane, piano; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley
EMI CLASSICS FOR PLEASURE 5759832

George MARSHALL-HALL
Symphony in E flat/Adagio from Symphony in C minor
Queensland Theatre Orchestra conducted by Warren Bebbington
MOVE MD 3081

Hamilton Harty
A Comedy Overture; Fantasy Scenes (from an Eastern Romance); Piano Concerto in B minor
Peter Donohoe, piano; Ulster Orchestra conducted by Takuo Yuasa
NAXOS 8.557731
 
John France (© 2007)


 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallé
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.