It is always interesting to look at the Promenade Concert Premieres for any given year – and see what has survived. In this case I look at 1968. I have only considered British works.
Malcolm Arnold: Peterloo Overture
Arnold Bax/John Barbirolli Oboe Quartet arranged for oboe and string orchestra
Arthur Bliss: Morning Heroes
Benjamin Britten: Overture-The Building of the House (1967) ‘Come you not from Newcastle’, ‘O Waly Waly’, ‘Oliver Cromwell’
William Byrd: Motets- ‘Ne Irascaris Domine’, ‘Civitas sancti tui’, ‘Laudibus in sanctis’, ‘Sing Joyfully unto God’.
Frederick Delius: Requiem
Henry Purcell: Te Deum and Jubilate
Alan Rawsthorne: Concerto for two pianos (BBC Commission)
William Walton Philharmonic Overture N.Y. (Capriccio Burlesco) 1968
The first thing to say is that there are several levels of survival for works premiered at the Promenade Concerts. Few of the ‘novelties’ for 1968 have entered the mainstream classical ‘charts’. I doubt that any piece will have featured on Classic FM, apart from Malcolm Arnold’s Peterloo Overture (possibly) and Britten’s ‘O Waly, Waly.’
The next level up is those works that were premiered at the 1968 Proms several years after their composition and original first performances elsewhere. Presumably Byrd’s motets and Henry Purcell’s Te Deum and Jubilate fall into this category. Certainly, there are several recordings of these in the CD catalogues.
A more problematic work is Frederick Delius’ Requiem (1916). Never one of his more popular pieces, this setting of texts by Heinrich Simon has received very few performances. It had to wait until 1968 before a commercial recording was forthcoming. (HMV ASD2397). At present there are only three CDs of the Requiem listed in the catalogue. One of these is a live performance transferred to disc.
Sir Arthur Bliss’s Morning Heroes is given the occasional performance and has been recorded at least four times. It seems to me that 2018 would have been a great time for a Proms performance of this deeply moving elegy inspired by the horrors of the First World War.
The next group (the largest) is where one or more recordings have been made, and where the work is (relatively) well-known to enthusiasts of the composer. William Walton’s Philharmonic Overture N.Y was originally composed to the 125th Anniversary of the New York Philharmonic. The name was later changed to Capriccio Burlesco. This is a bustling, energetic work that has echoes of Portsmouth Point. There are at least four recordings currently available.
Arnold Bax’s Quintet for oboe, 2 violins, viola and cello was written around 1922 and was dedicated to Leon Goossens. It was arranged as a Concerto for oboe and string orchestra by Sir John Barbirolli and was premiered in this guise at the Free Trade Hall, Manchester on 21 April 1968. The concept of the reworking was approved of by Bax himself, although it was not completed until sometime after the composer’s death. It is available on CD (BBC Legends BBCL 4100-2).
Stephen Lloyd on MusicWeb International (2 September 2002) wrote: ‘The Bax is certainly the most valuable item as it is otherwise unrecorded (and rarely performed). While Barbirolli’s arrangement of the quintet is no improvement on the original, it might at the time have given the work a wider circulation. It is a welcome rarity.’
Benjamin Britten is always popular, yet his Overture-The Building of the House is hardly well-known. It was composed in 1967 for the inauguration of the Snape Maltings concert hall and received its Proms Premiere on the ‘Last Night.’ It is a splendid work that deserves to be better known. The other Britten pieces, ‘Come you not from Newcastle’, ‘O Waly Waly’, ‘Oliver Cromwell’ were performed in arrangements for voice and orchestra. The original piano version has held its own since they were first published. All these works have been recorded, with at least five versions of the Overture currently available.
Equally successful in the recording studio but not in the concert hall is Alan Rawsthorne’s Concerto for Two Pianos. It was written for, and premiered by, John Ogdon and Brenda Lucas. This Concerto has often been regarded as ‘reflecting the decline’ of the composer’s last years: he died in 1971. Certainly, I do not believe that it stands up to the his two earlier piano concertos. Yet this ‘economic’ work is full of excitement and good craftsmanship. Maybe it is time to reappraise what is clearly an intimate and sometimes dark work. There are one recording currently available, with the soloist Geoffrey Tozer. There is also a deleted BBC recording of the work’s Prom premiere.