Would you care to say something? The thirty year story of a successful music society by N K Scott CBE, Overleigh Press, Overleigh House, East Cliff,  Preston  PR1 3JE England. pub. 1998 ISBN 0 95341560 0 £25 plus £5.00 postage

This is the story of the BDP Music Society.

"BDP?" you say.

"Building Design Partnership Music Society," I reply.

"Very silly title," you add.


It began with partners in this organisation in Preston and the author Keith Scott, one of the originators of this society, sets out the details which I will not repeat here. I found the introduction a little long and self-indulgent and throughout the text the personal pronoun is used far too much. Nonetheless, details of the society's seasons from 1968-9 to 1995-6 are given with photographs of all the artistes. It is this picture gallery that is the real value of the book, not all the blurb.

The first picture is of the pianist Colin Horsley who was the society's first guest on 15 January 1969.

Throughout the text there are some awful snide remarks which I found unnecessary and tactless. How Leon Goossens needed to pace himself and how he is supposed to have praised Heinz Hollinger but hated every note he played. The author's admiration for Sheila Armstrong, a wonderful singer, is couched in terms of her appearance and physical beauty rather than her splendid voice. He makes sweeping statements which are questionable. Is the Academy of St Martins-in-the-Fields the world's best known chamber orchestra? Well, they could be, but when I listen to them play Rossini's Overture: William Tell, really a miniature symphony, the definition chamber orchestra does not seem to apply.

There is an unflattering picture of Sir Charles Groves on page 21 but a welcome picture of Cyril and Phyllis Sellick. The author refers to the cellist Rohan de Saram trying to make a career in Great Britain. At the time and for several years, he had been in demand and a regular broadcast on the BBC. He was an extraordinarily fine cellist but overshadowed by Jacqueline du Pré who was prettier and often wore miniskirts, of course.

The remarks about Peter Katin on page 30 are utter tosh! "He tended to steer clear of the great classic composers, and it was years before he felt comfortable with Beethoven. Indeed, the concert going public have never been convinced ..."

The author attacks Peter Cropper of the Lindsay Quartet as to his exaggerated mannerisms. He is rude about Gerald English who he calls 'an old fish' and who, apparently, had broken his engagement to Sheila Armstrong and was pursuing another woman in Australia. And the pianist Jan Cap was 'glum'. He then likens that fine baritone Brian Rayner Cook to Bryn Terfel. They are as different as chalk and cheese. For one thing, Brian's intonation is excellent; Terfel's is not. The author speaks of an Alfred Brendel flaw; he talks of Anthony Hopkins as complex and so on.

This is tabloid newspaper stuff. He then speaks of Leon Goossens being short of wind; the Czech pianist, Jana Frenklova, comes in for a verbal bashing. A gentlemanly author would not write like this. There is a lot of praise for Imogen Cooper but he makes the unnecessary point that John and Susan Georgiadis are now divorced. Is that of any relevance to music-making and therefore a music society? He is ungentlemanly again when he refers to Susan's limited pianistic talents. Equally sickening is the audience vote as to who was the better singer between Jill Gomez and others.

And another picture of Imogen Cooper ... this time with the splendid French pianist Anne Queffelec who I have been privileged to see play concertos by Beethoven and Ravel. Their programme on 20 May 1980 included Schubert, Mozart K49, Schumann's Op 66 and Bizet's joyous Jeux d'enfants. Anne returned for a solo recital on 26 November 1985 with a group of Scarlatti sonatas, Beethoven's Sonata in D minor, Op 31 no 2, Ravel's fiercely difficult Miroirs and two pieces by Liszt. She returned in April 1997.

Poor Jorge Bolet comes under the author's hammer being accused of being a possible misogynist. Like Menuhin, Bolet had really bad days in performance but on form he was excellent. Vlado Perlemuter was the same ... a charming man but when he went wrong he did it in a big way.

There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 76! The pianist of the Stuggart Piano Trio is also highlighted ... well, Mr Scott, she is pretty!

And here we go again. 1983-84 saw the visit of the pianist Peter Denshoe whose "attempt at Mozart was frankly awful." Well, I don't know if Mr Scott is a pianist or even a musician. If he is a professional then he has a right to say this although I notice Peter did not play any Mozart at the BDP's evening.

I agree with the author's praise of the Japanese pianist Mitsuko Uchida who gave a recital of Mozart and Chopin on 28 January 1985 but, reader, have you heard her play Bartók?

There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 99!

However, it is the pictures that are interesting reminding us of artistes we used to know. The pictures do show the ageing process particularly John Lill and Christian Blackshaw. There is the obligatory picture of the 'mad' Nigel Kennedy on page 111 and of the finest clarinetist for decades, Janet Hilton, on page 119 and a very welcome reminder on page 124 of the pianist Valerie Tryon.

There is another picture of Imogen Cooper on page 141 - five in all! Oh, and the one on the front cover!

As a picture book this is great. It is nicely produced but I would care to say something ... and I have!


David Wright

There is an "alternative" review of this book by Len Mullenger here

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