Two substantial symphonies running to 35-minutes-plus
by British composers and both to all intents and purposes unknown
even to enthusiasts and without any performing tradition.
Unlike those of Stanford and Parry, Frederic
Cowen's six symphonies have received little attention. Things
did not start auspiciously for them. The first recording was
an heroic effort recorded at Kosice in 1989 on Marco Polo 8.223273.
This was the version of the Symphony No. 3 The Scandinavian
Adrian Leaper with the CSR State Philharmonic Orchestra. The
whole impression conveyed was predominantly flat and without
zest. At least that's the way I remember it. There was at least
one false start on Symphony No. 6 as well. Shortly after Gough
and Davey, the Hull record shop of yore, had issued three LPs
of rare British music (German Symphony 2, Bantock Hebridean
Holbrooke Song of Gwyn ap Nudd
) there were published
rumours that they had recorded the very same Cowen work issued
In fact the fearless City of Hull Youth Symphony Orchestra
under Geoffrey Heald-Smith had performed the symphony in concert
1979 but if a recording was made by them none was issued.
Lewis Foreman in his notes for this invaluable
issue tells us that the scores for Cowen's first two symphonies
(1870, 1875) have been lost but the other four are available
still so I hope that this venture signals early world premiere
recordings of The Fourth (Cambrian
, 1883) and Fifth (The
In a performance brimming with life Douglas
Bostock introduces us to Cowen's well-named Idyllic
the other symphony here it is in four movements. It recalls
in style and mood the Bohemian lyricism of Dvořák's Seventh
and Eight symphonies and the Serenade for Strings
It has also has a most engaging lightness of orchestration that
is part-Mendelssohn and Schubert and part predictive of Sibelius.
The writing is athletic and often sunny as you might expect from
the title. Without being at all shallow the material avoids the
tragic altogether. This is a reading glowing with bonhommie
There are two recordings of Coleridge-Taylor's
Violin Concerto (Avie and Hyperion). In many reviews the similarities
to Dvořák are commented on.
It is no wonder that British works should carry such accents
since Dvořák was well-loved and much in demand for England's
gargantuan choral festivals in the nineteenth century.
heritage can be discerned clearly enough
in the singing
graces of the allegro appassionato first
movement of his only symphony. There were a few moments when
he had me thinking of Hamish MacCunn but for the most part
the expressive language approximates to Dvořák's late
symphonic manner with tou
ches of Othello
the Symphonic Variations
. There is plenty of woodland
delight in this work which also sounds a little like the
orchestral suites of Ludolf Nielsen rather any barnstorming
stuff. It's an affable work dating from the composer’s student
days. An RCM concert conducted by Stanford saw its first
airing and then it appeared at Bournemouth on 30 April 1900.
outing came in 2005 at a workshop performance in Cornwall
conducted by David Kendall.
A Croydon man, Coleridge-Taylor was from a later
generation than Jamaican-born Cowen. He was a favourite of Stanford
at the RCM whose crippling ire C-T was spared except in relation
to the admittedly rambling but tunefully affable finale. Bostock
and the Aarhus players lend it a sunset grandeur intensely so
in the final few moments.
There are many more British symphonies needing
the attention of Douglas Bostock, ClassicO and friends. We still
need the Cliffe Second, the two from Chisholm, Dunhill, William
Baines, Alfred Corum and the Somervell. I hope that the questing
spirit and enterprising gleam of Douglas Bostock and ClassicO
has not yet been exhausted. This delightful disc is clear evidence
that there is plenty of vitality in this series, and I hope much
more to come.
see also review
by Jonathan Woolf
I read your review of the ClassicO label release
of Cowen's 6th Symphony with great interest, particularly since
recording of a symphony by Frederick Cowen was actually made
by the Hull Youth Orchestra conducted by Geoffrey Heald-Smith
after their concert performance in 1979. It was a recording
made by me for a Cameo Classics LP release, and that recording
had no association with Gough & Davy.
I had started my association with Geoffrey Heald-Smith
as a recording engineer for the three Gough & Davy
releases you mention. This continued when the Havergal
Brian Society sponsored the recordings of HB's complete
orchestral works, released on three Cameo Classics LPs,
and subsequently licensed to Campion.
However the symphony was not No. 6, but the Symphony
No. 4 ("The Welsh" as it is called on my Novello
score), so the world premiere recording of the "Cambrian" was
made nearly twenty years ago.
You are correct in stating that it was not issued. It was
the last recording made by me with the HYSO, which was
not at its prime at that time, as Geoffrey was the first
to admit, and we reluctantly decided it should not be released.
Geoffrey retired from his position as Music Advisor to
Humberside in order to teach music in Oban. Last year
he suffered a stroke, paralysing his left side. Following
encouraging rehabilitation he has returned to Yorkshire
to live in Harrogate. Though aged 76, he is still full
of enthusiasm for the task of promoting neglected British
composers, and will recommence conducting this year.
fact we are to re-record the Cowen Symphony No. 4 (?)
this summer in the North.
We shall of course be looking at a comparable work to pair
with it for the CD. Geoffrey has suggested the Piano Concerto
by Leslie Bridgewater. This suits my aim of making CDs
which might approximate to a concert programme, rather
than the more usual recording company projects of pairing,
say, concertos. Rarely would I as a music listener wish
to hear two like concertos one after the other on one CD.
Cameo Classics will continue, in the main, to record
British music from the Romantic era, and welcomes worthy
Contact from the Raff Forums has resulted in the
next project in Belarus, of works by the German Romantic,
Later, Geoffrey will also be travelling to Minsk with
us to record Holbrooke. The Belarusian State Academic
Orchestra is planned as a centre-piece for new recordings
after the success of our world premiere concert recording
there of the Pavel
Pabst Piano Concerto (see review
Following the termination of Cameo Classics as an LP
label (there were just too many returns of faulty pressings,
even though they were manufactured by EMI) I used my
background in music recording, and my years at BBC Television
in London and Granada TV in Manchester, to go into independent
television drama production. So when Cameo Classics resurfaced
as a concept four years ago it would be backed up by
filming all recordings for TV/DVD/Documentaries. We will
have the documentary for "The Pavel Pabst Lost Concerto" ready.
Near-future projects include:
* Ignaz Brull: the Violin Concerto op. 41 (soloist Ilya:
Hoffman) and his Symphony op. 31.
* Holbrooke: "The Bells" op.50 and "Queen
Mab" op. 45 for chorus and orchestra.
* Holbrooke: "Dramatic Choral Symphony" No.1
op. 48 for baritone and orchestra.
* Gernsheim: Violin Concerto and David: Violin Concerto
No.5 (soloist: Ilya Hoffman)
Other works include:
* Cowan: Symphony No.4 (Welsh)
* Ignaz Brull: Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra
* Havergal Brian: Symphony No.5
Individually our choices of music for future programmes
seem daunting - en masse, they frighten the life out of
The conductorship will be shared by Marius Stravinsky and
Geoffrey Heald-Smith, with a mere fifty years separating
76 years of age is not so great for a conductor I guess,
but, during the last few days I have had several hours
of conversations with Geoffrey, and his boundless enthusiasm
and knowledge of British music is just amazing. Sir Adrian
Boult presented him with his score of The Gothic
autographed. Conductor for the Pabst CD, and some of
this years productions, Marius Stravinsky, though British,
Russian, and will assist him with the Russian-speaking
Gareth Vaughan has taken a very pro-active role in our
current projects. He stressed the special interest you
(RB) and Phil Scowcroft have shown in Holbrooke. I have
longed to return to his music since Geoffrey and I recorded
his Piano Concerto with Philip Challis, the last of our
recordings together at that time.
Next year we plan to record the Gothic Symphony by Havergal
Brian - it was always our dream. It will not be the premiere
but it will be a dream fulfilled. That is what life should
I think it will also be most beneficial to the cause, to
produce a documentary series about the recording of the
works of neglected composers, principally British. I do
not find it at all surprising that new recordings by the
big record companies have all but dried up when one of
them, German, boasts of having all the Beethoven symphonies
and concertos recorded on its own label by seven or eight
different conductors. Through the Joachim Raff Society
Forums, I have recently learnt of large numbers of German
Romantic-era concertos which had never been recorded. As
the pianist Panagiotis says in the DVD, it is refreshing
to record a new (old) work that has not been played thousands
of times. ClassicFM have played the last movement of the
Pabst Concerto several times now, and customers for the
CD e-mail us in glowing terms about it. Such a shame it
was his only work for the orchestra. But we have discovered
some original piano compositions of his which Panos will
be recording shortly for his second solo CD. (His first
all-Russian CD is due for release shortly - Stravinsky's
Petrouchka - Rachmaninov's op.23 Preludes - and some Scriabin
and Arensky). We also have recordings made from the original
private wax cylinders made in 1885 of Pabst playing for
his friends. He was after all admired as a pianist even
by Franz Liszt.
We moved to the French countryside two years ago, and we
run Cameo Classics from here, one of the big benefits provided
by the internet evolution. We produce everything here.