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