Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
TWO ACADEMIC COMPOSERS: HUGO ANSON AND THEODORE HOLLAND
Both Anson and Holland spent a considerable part of their lives teaching, the former at the RCM, Holland at the RAM, yet both were also considerable composers.
Particularly was this so of Theodore Samuel Holland, born in Wimbledon on 25 April 1878, who studied at Westminster School, at the RAM (with Frederick Corder) and at the Berlin Hochschüle with Joachim and others. Not until he was nearly fifty was he appointed Professor of Harmony and Composition at the Academy in 1927 but before that he had pursued a career in the theatre, the harvest of which included some incidental music for Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, additional songs for Leo Fall's operetta The Merry Peasant (1909), the children's opera King Goldemar (1902) and a musical play, also composed with children in mind, entitled Santa Claus from which he alter extracted an orchestral suite. Holland's service in the Great War brought two mentions in dispatches and an OBE. He composed in almost all major classical forms. For orchestra he wrote Gavotte Pastorale, a tone poem Evening on the Lake for small orchestra (1908), a Violin Concerto in one movement, Ellingham Marshes for viola and orchestra, which received its first British performance on the BBC in April 1941, a year after its composition, and which enjoyed some popularity, the Spring Sinfonietta of 1943 and - obviously influenced by the Second War - a Threnody for cello and orchestra (1945). Stringed instruments clearly interested him: there was a sonorous Cortege for four cellos, composed in 1939 and published in 1941, a Suite in D for viola and piano (1938) and miniatures for violin and piano such as the Four Fancies (1923), Fireflies Op 18/2, the Variations of 1927 and, written just prior to his death in London on 29 October 1947, Autumn Voices. String Quartets in C Minor and E Minor appeared in 1933 and 1938, piano trios in 1935 and 1943.
Holland also wrote much for solo piano, from the Variations on a Swedish Air (1906) to the Preludes of 1944. He was seemingly attracted to more remote keys, to judge from the Toccata in E flat minor and the Sonatina in F sharp minor, both published in 1938, and the Variations on an Original Theme, also in F sharp minor. His songs showed wide sympathies. The Opus 4 and Opus 6 sets were set to German words - we may mention In Tannenwald, Die Rose and Verloren from the first set and Lament and Chant Funèbre from the latter. Two Shelley songs (1908) date from the beginning of his career, three Flecker songs from 1938. Other titles were A Fairy Tale and The Piper but his most important vocal items were The Songs from Nyasaland, Opus 20, for voice and orchestra, published with piano accompaniment, and the cantata A Pastoral Medley. Holland's music was rather lightish in style but never became very popular, despite its pleasing qualities, maybe because he never "pushed" it to any extent. He worked hard for music generally though, being Treasurer of the Royal Musical Association and serving on the committees of the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Incorporated Society of Musicians.
Hugo Vernon Anson was actually born in New Zealand, on 18 October 1894, and was thus 63 when he died in London on 4 August 1958. He came to England in 1912 and studied (initially economics, medicine and law before settling to music) at Trinity College, Cambridge and the RCM where he taught from 1925 and was Registrar from 1939 (after a spell as Director of Music at Alleyn's School in Dulwich) and followed that with war service in the Admiralty. He composed songs - titles include Full Moon, Last Night and New Zealand - choral music, some it for church use, incidental music, an Idyl and other pieces for violin and piano, cello pieces, a Suite for flute and piano and a String Quartet, but much of his most important work was for piano. This included Five Preludes (1928) with descriptive titles, genre pieces such as The Lonely Sailing Ship and Puck in the Belfry, a doubtless colourful St Tropez Suite for two pianos and, perhaps his chef d'oeuvre, the Concerto for two pianos and string orchestra, premiered by the BBCSO in 1936 and published for the unusual forces of 3 pianos, 6 hands, in the dark days of 1941. Someone must have believed in Anson's music then; precious few have done so since.
© Philip L Scowcroft.
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