One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor in Chief: Rob Barnett


Some items
to consider


  • Groundbreaking Weber
  • Today's leading<br>clarinet-piano duo
  • Stellar debut<br>piano recital
  • Clarinet transcriptions Jonathan Cohler
  • French clarinet masterpieces
  • Groundbreaking Weber


CD review L Wright
BBC Prom
CBSO Birmingham

MWI Editor In Chief
Recording of the Year

Orchestral Music

music that will please greatly

Captivating scores

Symphonies - Philippe Jordan
A pleasure to see and hear

vital imagination

A harum-scarum springboard

Always expect the unexpected



The Percy Whitlock Companion
Selected and edited by Malcolm Riley
The Percy Whitlock Trust, 2007, ISBN 978 0 9555669 0 5, £18
288 pp, 38 illus., song, appendices
Obtainable from the Trust;
Malcolm Riley, 32 Butcher Close, Staplehurst, Kent TN12 0TJ
£18 plus £2 p & p. Cheques payable to "The Percy Whitlock Trust"

Malcolm Riley, a great Whitlock champion who has performed his music on disc, was responsible for Percy Whitlock – Organist and Composer published in 1998 and issued in a revised edition in 2003. It offered the first real opportunity to study Whitlock’s life and his work in a comprehensive and cogent way. And for most people, even British Music lovers, Whitlock’s name was just that. His sadly brief life may have been lived mainly on the fringes in Bournemouth but as the appendices to this new volume show he was an active broadcaster, recitalist and appeared at one Prom. This in addition to his daily duties.

The volume covers correspondence to and from Whitlock, a series of articles written by him for certain journals, those valuable BBC broadcast programmes and his recitals for the Organ Music Society. There’s also a recently discovered short story called Country Holiday and an even more recently discovered Song of Bournemouth – just in time for publication as well as it only turned up in January 2007. There is even an article on The South Eastern and Chatham Railway written by the fourteen year old Whitlock in 1920 and though I’m now all at sea on the subject of bogies and heating surfaces it’s good to be reminded of boyish enthusiasms.

Riley and The Whitlock Trust have clearly taken pains to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication between the two volumes and thus they are properly complementary. As Riley notes in his introduction the correspondence is primarily Organic. There is great emphasis on organs played or wondered at, at specifications and sound quality; at meetings with visiting organists, great and small. Correspondents eagerly tell Whitlock of organs they’ve played or heard. The bulk of the correspondence is between Whitlock and his friend Leslie Barnard, still alive at the time of writing, and their knowledgeable bantering gives a spine to the surviving letters.

There are letters about royalty payments (to Hubert Foss) and commissions, on choirboys’ pay, concerts and recitals anticipated or described – mostly done in a light, airy tone in his letters to Barnard. There’s one letter that reveals an anxiety in his relationship with O.U.P. who were his principal publishers. His 1937 reply to a letter of Foss’s makes for interesting reading [pp.120-21] beginning, as it does "…I am not such a fool as not to realise under what obligation I stand to the Oxford University Press…I think also you are mistaking the type of person I am, if you think I am wanting in gratitude." This was in reply to an earlier letter of Whitlock’s noting he’d been approached by Novello and Boosey and Hawkes for contributions and asking O.U.P for advice. Its terse and biting tenor comes unexpectedly in a collection of much more clement and everyday correspondence.

The minutiae of things organic actually include details of fees and percentages, voltage details – true! – specifics of specifications, rebuilds, and the practicalities of a working musical life. There’s a notably pragmatic letter to Norman Peterkin of O.U.P. in 1945 regarding Whitlock’s submission or non-submission of things to the firm and the reasons why. His war service is alluded to as well – a secondment to the Records and Checking department of the Food Office in Bournemouth. We can also follow the deterioration in Whitlock’s health, his increasing blindness and miserably early death when he was only in his early forties.

The text has fortunately has been well illustrated though surely a better photograph of Dan Godfrey could have been acquired. The appendices offer much in the way of repertoire information and this will prove invaluable to researchers. And one final thing; try to hear Amphion PHI CD 147 which has examples of Whitlock’s organ playing – I’m sure finance was a consideration but what a pity that a similar disc wasn’t included as a bonus. Reading about his playing leads one inevitably to want to hear it. But his now stilled written voice comes across intimately in this handsomely produced volume.

Jonathan Woolf




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on

Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sheva £2 off
Sterling 10% off
Toccata Classics

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Editor in Chief
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

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.