2010: THE YEAR OF RUTLAND BOUGHTON
January 25th, 2010 will mark 50 years since the death
of Rutland Boughton. At the height of his fame in the 1920s
and 1930s, Boughton was as popular as Elgar surpassing, even,
contemporaries such as Vaughan Williams and Holst. His innovative
and highly successful annual festivals at Glastonbury between
1914 and 1926 were the first of their kind in England and his
The Immortal Hour achieved a yet unbeaten world-record
for the number of consecutive performances of any serious opera
written in this country. Yet despite his remarkable success
the composer became an unjustly neglected British composer;
a 'forgotten national hero'.
Hurd talks about Rutland Boughton's Immortal Hour (10mins
rec 1979) recording courtesy of Barry Coward
During the 1960s and early 1970s, attempts were made to revive
interest in Boughton's music which began with the publication
of 'Immortal Hour', the biography by the late Michael Hurd.
There were semi-staged performances of Boughton's The Queen
of Cornwall and Alkestis in the mid-1960s and the
first performance of his Reunion Variations was given
in 1967 as part of a memorial concert by the Aylesbury Orchestra
under lifelong friend, Charles Pope. In 1972, The London Opera
Centre gave a fully staged production of Bethlehem but
all of these were met with only partial success. It was not
until 1978 when Michael Hurd both encouraged the BBC to broadcast
substantial extracts from the music-dramas to commemorate the
composer's Centenary year and helped establish the current Boughton
Trust that real appreciation of Rutland Boughton began.
Through royalties generated from performances and
occasional broadcasts of Boughton's music (such as The Immortal
Hour in 1979 conducted by Vilem Tausky) it was possible for
the Trust to pursue commercial recordings. With the support of
Ted Perry at Hyperion a number of highly successful CDs began
to emerge. These recordings, together with the subsequent broadcast
of the Symphony No 3 in 1986 by the BBC Philharmonic, proved a
revelation and convinced even the strongest critics that Boughton
was a composer worth taking seriously.
In 1985, as part of the 'British Opera in Retrospect', the Trust
part-sponsored Opera 70 in a fully-staged production
of Boughton's The Lily Maid, the fifth opera in the
cycle of Arthurian Music-Dramas. It was conducted by Michael
had spent some months previously preparing the scores for performance.
Following his highly successful recording of Boughton's 3rd
symphony and Oboe Concerto No 1 for Hyperion in 1989,
the late Dr Vernon Handley was appointed President of the Trust.
the same year John Wallace gave the first public performance
of the Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra composed in
1943. This led to him recording the piece with the BBC Scottish
Orchestra some years later. And in 1996, artist and Glastonbury
resident, Paul Branson, created the Glastonbury Arts Festivals,
a charitable organisation to promote the arts and music in
and was based on Boughton's original ideas. There was a revival
of The Immortal Hour at Street in Somerset that was
received with enormous success and in the following year Branson
the Bournemouth Sinfonietta to give the world premiere performance
of the Concerto for String Orchestra. Unfortunately,
he had to withdraw future plans for the Festival because
had gone into liquidation.
In 1993, Michael Hurd revised and republished his biography under
the title of Rutland Boughton and the Glastonbury Festivals.
For the next few years, enquiries of interest in Boughton increased
and various performances of his music materialised, particularly
the 3rd Symphony and 'Bethlehem'. Rutland Boughton
was now firmly on the British musical map again.
Due to financial constraints, the Trust struggled with its main
objective to have The Queen of Cornwall - considered
by many as Boughton's best work for the stage - committed to
Subsequent appeals and fund-raising concerts were organised and
only very recently have sufficient funds been realised to make
the recording of this work a probability.
The loss of Michael Hurd in 2006 was a bitter blow to the Trust.
He was universally recognised as the champion of Rutland Boughton
and his knowledge and understanding of the works are irreplaceable.
However, in recent years the Trust has been fortunate in finding
in Paul Adrian Rooke someone who was not only sympathetic to
Boughton's music but had 'Sibelius' skills that would enable
works to be edited for performance and/or recorded. Since Paul's
involvement, some of Boughton's early works have been explored
for the first time in years resulting in some extraordinary surprises.
These have included the Symphony No. 1 (Oliver Cromwell),
completed in 1904 and originally awbandoned by the composer,
the Songs of the English, last performed by David Ffrangcon-Davies
at the beginning of the 20th century. The symphony
subsequently received its world premiere performance in Hitchin
in 2005 and was quickly accepted for a commercial recording by
Dutton with the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Tod Handley.
A recording of three of the five Songs of the English for
baritone and orchestra soon followed, also featuring the BBC
Orchestra with Simon Yates conducting and Roderick Williams as
soloist. Both recordings proved to be successful ventures under
the able supervision of Lewis Foreman. In 2006, and under its
own label, the British Music Society collaborated with the Trust
to produce a quality CD of 23 songs with mezzo-soprano Louise
Mott and pianist Alexander Taylor.
It was evident to the Trust that by 2010, the year which marks
the 50th anniversary of Rutland Boughton's death, renewed
vigour was required to promote the composer and as a result of
a national campaign, the Trust has been able to compile the following
impressive list of activities:
- A public performance of the Flute Concerto
- the world premiere performance of the Overture to the Cycle
of Arthurian Music-Dramas (completed in 1945/6) plus performances
of the Trumpet Concerto and Symphony No 2 (Deidre)
- extracts from Bethlehem and The Immortal Hour
- Trust sponsored commercial recordings of early symphonic works
on the Dutton Epoch label
- A sponsored commercial recording of The Queen of Cornwall
on the Hyperion label.
- A weekend Festival of Boughton music in Hitchin featuring
chamber music and songs
- exhibitions and displays in Aylesbury, Glastonbury and Newent
- a display of Boughton scores at the Royal College of Music
- presentations by Trust Committee members on the life and music
of the composer to a number of music societies in the UK
- a weekend course devoted to the life and music of Rutland
Boughton at the Farncombe Estate
- the release of a new documentary film about cultural figures
of Glastonbury to include Rutland Boughton
It is also anticipated that Boughton's music will be heard at
the BBC Promenade Concerts and on radio during the coming year,
though any encouragement by enthusiasts would be much appreciated.
2010 promises to be an eventful year for Rutland Boughton and
we hope many BMS members will join us in the celebration. For
information about the above events, please visit the Trust website.
Administrator & Librarian, The
Rutland Boughton Music Trust