Thursday, 16 January 2020

Celebrating John Addison 100th Anniversary

John Addison (1920-99) is best known for his film scores, including Reach for the Sky, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Entertainer and Private’s Progress. More recently he composed the theme tune to the long running TV series Murder She Wrote (1984-96). Of great importance are his concert works which include the ballet score Carte Blanche, a Trumpet Concerto and a Partita for string orchestra. Addison’s music, whether for the recital room or for the screen is always approachable and well-crafted.

Brief Biography of John Addison:
  • Born in West Chobham, Surrey on 16 March 1920.
  • Hailing from a military family, Addison attended Wellington School in Berkshire where the children of many servicemen were educated
  • Entered the Royal College of Music in 1936 where he studied clarinet with Frederick Thurston, oboe with Leon Goossens, piano with Herbert Fryer and composition with Gordon Jacob.
  • Served in the 23rd Hussars during the Second World War. Saw action in Normandy and at Arnhem during 1944.
  • Returned to the RCM in 1946 to complete his studies. He won the Sullivan Prize in 1948.
  • Wrote his first significant concert piece, the Woodwind Sextet in 1949 which was first performed at the 1951 International Society for Contemporary Music in Frankfurt.
  • Composed the Trumpet Concerto in 1949, performed in 1950.
  • Wrote music for his first film score, the dance orchestrations for Brighton Rock (1949) at the behest of Roy Boulting. The main score was by Hans May.
  • Composed his first complete film score Seven Days to Noon, released in 1950.
  • Returned to the Royal College of Music as Professor of Composition between 1950 and 1957.
  • The ballet Carte Blanche with score by John Addison first performed at the 1953 Edinburgh Festival
  • Composed the incidental music for John Osborne’s play The Entertainer starring Olivier in 1957. Was later involved in the 1960 film version. Was known as the ‘Angry Young Man’s Composer’.
  • Wrote the film score to Reach for the Sky (1956) starring Kenneth More playing Douglas Bader. Bader was the composer’s brother-in-law.
  • Completed the Wellington Suite for two horns and piano concertante and orchestra in 1961.
  • Score written for the film Tom Jones. It won an Oscar in 1963 for the ‘Best Original Score.’
  • Relocated to Los Angeles in 1975 where he worked on several scores for television.
  • Composed his final film score, Code Name: Emerald in 1985 and music for the TV mini-series Phantom of the Opera in 1990.
  • Bassoon Concertino completed in 1998.
  • John Addison died, aged 78 years on 7 December 1998 in Bennington, Vermont.

Five Key Works
I have deliberately chosen four ‘concert’ works here as well as one film score. These works are all available on CD or download. It seems a bad idea to recommend pieces that cannot be heard. There are several other works that would appear to demand interest and possible professional recording. I note these as at the end of this list.
  • Concerto for trumpet strings and percussion (1949)
  • Divertimento for brass quartet, op.9 (1951)
  • Carte Blanche: Ballet Suite (1953)
  • Reach for the Sky: Film Score (1956)
  • Partita (1961)
  • Bassoon Concertino (1998)

Other works that demand a professional recording include the Wellington Suite, Harlequin for saxophone and piano, the Sextet for woodwind, a Sinfonietta, a Rhapsody for cor anglais and string orchestra, the Trio for flute, oboe and piano and a Serenade for wind quintet and harp.

There is no formal biography of John Addison. Information must be drawn from Grove’s Dictionary, obituaries, reviews and record sleeves. He does not yet have an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

If you can only listen to two CDs featuring John Addison’s music:
Addison, John, The Film Music of John Addison, I was Monty’s Double: March; Centennial: main theme; Swashbuckler: suite; A Bridge too Far; The Maggie: song of the Maggie; Reach for the Sky; Strange Invaders; The Man Between; Tom Jones: overture; The Charge of the Light Brigade: suite; Brandy for the Parson: Opening and closing titles; Torn Curtain: Titles; Touch and Go: Mirror Waltz; Sleuth: overture; Carlton-Browne of the F.O.; Murder, She Wrote: main theme. BB Concert Orchestra/Rumon Gamba CHANDOS CHAN 10418, 2007.

Addison, John, The Composer Conducts, Carte Blanche: ballet suite, includes Alan Rawsthorne’s Street Corner Overture and Madame Chrysathème: Suite; Richard Arnell’s The Great Detective: ballet suite, Pro Arte Orchestra; Arthur Bliss’ Checkmate: ballet suite, Sinfonia of London; Malcolm Arnold’s A Grand, Grand Overture, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. EMI Classics CDM 764718-2, 1993.

And finally, if you have only time to hear one work:
Carte Blanche: ballet suite (1953)
This entertaining Suite was derived from the ballet ‘divertissement’ first performed at the !953 Edinburgh Festival. It is a vibrant and bright score that holds up well in the concert hall. It has been criticised as being uneven in invention, but the humour and occasional poignancy of the score (especially the Romanza) makes up for a lot. Some of the lively, clownish music nods to Shostakovich.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Some Important British Works that are celebrating their Half-Centenaries

From the point of view of the record collector this list of works composed/completed or premiered in 1970 is a relative disaster. And I guess that concertgoers fare little better. Using my three categories of 1. Music that has solidly entered the repertoire, 2. Works that have largely sunk without trace and, 3. Pieces that have maintained a toehold, it makes a depressing analysis. Any evaluation by this method will be entirely subjective.  
Glancing at this list reveals only a handful of works that have caught the listeners imagination These few compositions (probably) include William Walton’s Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, Benjamin Britten’s opera Owen Wingrave and possibly Peter Maxwell Davies’ Taverner, Arthur Bliss’s Cello Concerto and William Alwyn’s Sinfonietta. John McCabe is well-served by the record industry, with several of these 1970 pieces being on CD. On the other hand, I could find no recordings of the five works by Elisabeth Lutyens.

Whilst preparing this (imperfect) listing I explored several of these works. Sometimes on CD, often on YouTube. I was conscious that many of these largely forgotten works are masterpieces from their time. I include in this category David Bedford’s innovative rock-inspired The Garden of Love, for instrumental ensemble, the Guitar Concerto by Richard Rodney Bennett, Iain Hamilton’s Voyage, for horn and chamber orchestra and Peter Dickinson’s Satie Transformations, for orchestra.
Recordings do exist for several of the remaining pieces, but too many seem to have disappeared into oblivion. Sometimes there is only a single CD of an undoubted masterwork such as Egon Wellesz’s Symphony No.8 and John Joubert’s Symphony No.2.

Time permitting, I may choose to explore some of these works in greater or lesser detail throughout the year.

I have presented the composers in order of seniority. This reflects Eric Gilder’s The Dictionary of Composers and their Music to which I owe much of the information below. I have not included opus numbers.

Egon Wellesz: Symphony No 8
Arthur Bliss: Cello Concerto
Gordon Jacob: A York Symphony, for brass band; A Joyful Noise, for brass band;  The Pride of Youth, for brass band
Edmund Rubbra: Piano Trio No 2
William Walton: Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, for orchestra (premiere)
Lennox Berkeley: Dialogues, for cello and chamber orchestra; String Quartet No 3; Theme and Variations for guitar
William Alwyn: Sinfonietta for strings
Alan Rawsthorne: Oboe Quartet
Michael Tippett: Songs for Dov, for voice and orchestra
Benjamin Frankel
: Overture to a Ceremony, for orchestra
Elisabeth Lutyens: Anerca for narrator, guitars and percussion; Vision of Youth, for soprano and instruments; In the Direction of the Beginning, (Dylan Thomas) for voice and piano; Oda a la Tormenta, for mezzo and piano; Verses of Love, for unaccompanied voices
Elizabeth Maconchy: Ariadne, for soprano and orchestra (1970/1; The Jesse Tree, opera (1969/70)
Robert Still: Piano Concerto
Benjamin Britten: Owen Wingrave, opera (completed)
Wilfred Mellers: The Ancient Wound, monodrama
Peter Racine Fricker: Paseo, for guitar; The Roofs, for soprano and percussion.
Iain Hamilton: Alastor, for orchestra;  Voyage, for horn and chamber orchestra; Epitaph for This World and Time, for three choruses and three organs (composed)
Don Banks: Meeting Place, for jazz group, ensemble and electronics
Wilfred Josephs: Sonata for cello and piano; Night music, for alto and orchestra; Death of a Young Man, for baritone and orchestra
John Joubert: Symphony No 2;
Thea Musgrave: Elegy, for viola and cello; From One to Another, for viola and tape; Impromptu No 2 for flute, oboe and clarinet
Alun Hoddinott: The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe, for orchestra (premiere); Sinfonietta No 3 (premiere); Violin Sonata No 2; Cello Sonata; Fantasy for harp
Kenneth Leighton: Concerto for organ, timpani and strings; Dance Suite No 2
Alexander Goehr: Symphony in one movement; Concerto for eleven instruments; Shadowplay-2, music theatre for tenor and instruments
Hugh Wood: String Quartet No 2
Peter Dickinson: Satie Transformations, for orchestra
Harrison Birtwistle: Nenia on the Death of Orpheus, for soprano and instruments;
Peter Maxwell Davies: Taverner, opera in two acts (score complete); Points and Dances from Taverner (score complete); Sub tuam protectionem, for piano (premiere performance); Ut re mi, for piano
William Mathias: Festival Overture (premiere); Concerto for harp and orchestra; Bless the Lord, for mixed voices and organ; Gloria, for male voices and organ, Warwick Castle, music for a son et lumière; Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis (Jesus Service); Pan Oeddwn Fachgen (A Vision of Youth) for tenor and piano.
Richard Rodney Bennett: Guitar Concerto
David Bedford: The Garden of Love, for instrumental ensemble (originally composed in 1963, revised 1970); The Sword of Orion, for instrumental ensemble
John McCabe: Notturni ed Alba, for soprano and orchestra; Piano Concerto No 2; Sinfonia Concertante; Concertante Variations on a Theme of Nicholas Maw for strings; Canzona for wind and percussion; Studies Nos 3 and 4, for piano; Basse Danse, for two pianos; Norwich Canticles, for unaccompanied chorus
Robin Holloway: The Wind Shifts, for high voices and strings
John Tavener: Nomine Jesu, for voices and orchestra; Coplas, for voices and tape

Friday, 10 January 2020

Elgar’s Falstaff and George Whitefield Chadwick’s Tam O’ Shanter: two works with narrations

It must be recalled that the Falstaff of this Symphonic Study is not the ‘ridiculous wooer’ of the Merry Wives of Windsor, (whom I love dearly) but the large, grand and sometimes heroic companion of Prince Hal. And the tragedy of the entire work is when Harry, now King Henry V rejects his former companion with the words ‘I know thee not, old man: fall to thy prayers…’  The mood of the music does not follow a structured plot as such: it is more of a character study, moulded into the shape of a symphony with four movements. It is an extremely complex score with much thematic manipulation and cross-referencing. It is not necessary to rehearse the titles of the movements here, save to say that they encompass some key biographical events in Falstaff’s life. They are not musical representations of these proceedings but are ‘past times remembered.’ Deeper still, is Elgar’s suggestion that ‘Falstaff is the name [of the work] but Shakespeare—the whole of human life—is the theme.’ This is also personal portrait of the composer himself.

The producers of this CD have utilised the Shakespearian actors Timothy West and Samuel West to recount the words of Falstaff and Prince Harry respectively. These texts are drawn from King Henry IV Parts 1 and 2. I think that these narrations between the sections (or movements) add considerably to the value of Elgar’s music and the structure of the work.
Finally, it is quite possible to enjoy this Symphonic Study with no reference to the plot of Henry IV: it can be understood quite simply as a masterly exploration of several musical themes reflecting emotions generated by sadness, joy, laughter, love of life, rejection and personal tragedy.

American composer George Whitefield Chadwick’s wonderfully evocative Tam O’Shanter -symphonic ballad (1914-15) is sadly overlooked in concert halls, at least in the United Kingdom. Which is a pity. Chadwick has created a splendid portrayal of one of Rabbie (Robert) Burns’ best-loved characters. The music does not follow the story in every detail, but near enough for the listener who knows the poem to follow the action. The score depicts the long journey home, the supernatural carryings-on at the Kirk of Alloway, the chase across the wee brig and, with a twist from Burns’ poem, a sober and reflective Tam at the conclusion. The music is always colourful and well-scored with lots of musical onomatopoeia (jangling bones, bagpipe screeches etc.) and a good sprinkling of ‘Scottish’ sounding tunes.  In this recording Chadwick’s own ‘programme note’ inserted at the head of the score is spoken by Erik Chapman (composer) and Billy Wiz (Rabbie Burns). Despite knowing Chadwick’s overture, I enjoyed hearing the introduction (I had read it before). It is a great context-setter which lasts for just under five minutes and should be included in every performance.

The liner notes give an excellent introduction to both pieces as well as a robust justification for the inclusion of the spoken parts. There is an interesting essay about the relationship between Chadwick and Elgar – two men ‘divided by a common musical language.’
The playing of both works is outstanding by all concerned and ticks all the boxes for quality of sound and interpretive understanding. There are short biographical statements about the conductor and the four narrators.

The ‘bonus’ with this CD release is the inclusion of a ‘traditional’ presentation of Falstaff. In other words, without the spoken parts. This is the same ‘take’ as used in the main event. I guess that this will appeal to listeners who maybe do not want, or need, to associate Elgar’s music too closely with Shakespeare’s character.

So, the big question – does this work? As an experiment in performance it is extremely effective. I feel that this could be a useful way of presenting these two works to the public. Neither tends to be heard in the concert hall on anything like a regular basis. Falstaff has been given twice at the Proms during the present century: Chadwick’s Tam, has never been heard at that venue. And in these days when Shakespeare and Burns are not taught in schools as extensively as they once were (or should be), these narrations are of considerable help.

Track Listing:
CD 1
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Symphonic Study in C minor, ‘Falstaff’, Op.68, (narrated version) (1913)
George Whitefield CHADWICK (1854-1931) Chadwick’s Introductory Note to Tam O’Shanter; Overture: Tam O’Shanter (1914-15)
CD 2
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Symphonic Study in C minor, ‘Falstaff’, Op.68 (orchestra only version)
Timothy West (narrator, Falstaff); Samuel West (narrator, Prince Henry); Erik Chapman, (narrator, George Whitefield Chadwick); Billy Wiz (narrator, Robert Burns)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Andrew Constantine
Rec. Hoddinott Hall, Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 17-19 September (Falstaff and Tam O’Shanter scores); Henry Wood Hall, London, 8 February 2019 (Introduction to Tam O’ Shanter); Wathen Hall, St Paul’s Boys School, Hammersmith London 17 December 2018 (Henry IV excerpts)
Orchid Classics ORC100103
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Adam Pounds: Symphony No.2 (2019) Premiere Performance

The first performance of a new symphony is always an extremely important event in a composer’s career. On 28 September 2019 Adam Pound’s Symphony No.2 was premiered at a remarkable concert in Great St Mary’s Church, Cambridge. The programme began with Johannes Brahms’s Hungarian Dances nos. 1 and 3, followed by Franz Schubert’s Symphony No.8 in B minor (Unfinished). After the interval Chloe Hanslip was the soloist in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K216. The concert concluded with Pounds new Symphony. The Academy of Great St. Mary’s was conducted by the composer.  For the record, Adam Pounds’ Symphony No.1 was premiered some 34 years previously on 29th November 1985 at the Walthamstow Assembly Hall.

The Symphony No.2 was completed in July 2019. It is written in four relatively short movements and scored for a standard orchestra with the addition of a saxophone and piano.
The work opens with a vibrant ‘allegro’ which the programme notes state deals with the hustle and bustle of urban life. Pounds presents this metropolitan ‘environment’ by writing highly rhymical music that is brassy and strident. Yet, this is ‘edgy’ rather than threatening. The tension barely eases for a second, although there is a slight repose about a third of the way through the movement. Rather unusually, this movement closes quietly, but uneasily, clearly in preparation for the sultry ‘Nocturne.’
This second movement is both the emotional heart of this Symphony as well as its musical highlight. As the title implies, this music meditates on ‘night-time’ in the city. Pounds has introduced a moody and sometimes groovy saxophone, heard alongside music that nods back to Ralph Vaughan Williams’s ‘London’ Symphony. The composer writes that this ‘nocturne’ is not ‘a calm depiction of night’ in a Chopin-esque sense, but a picture of a city in the wee small hours. I think that it reflects the mixed emotions of an individual ‘on the streets’ not necessarily homeless, but with nowhere to go. It is not scary. Nothing bad happens, it is just a picture of temporary desolation and loneliness. The ‘sleazy’ sounds of the saxophone are designed to highlight this feeling of emptiness. Adam Pounds has told me that he “really saw the saxophone solo as our ‘lone character’, the addition of the trumpet (harmon mute) and the piano, are probably a nod back to when I frequented a local jazz club and when I was working (still a student) for Crescendo jazz magazine based in Wardour street.”
After a short pause the third movement ‘scherzo’ begins. This is like the opening ‘allegro’ insofar as it is full of drive and impetus. Again, I hear distinct echoes of RVW.  Pounds makes good uses of an ‘antiphonal’ exchange between the brass and woodwind. The central ‘trio’ of this scherzo is a ‘brutal war march’ rather than a traditionally more relaxed theme. After the march, the music returns to calmer waters. A short woodwind cadenza brings this movement to a close.
The finale opens with a regal fanfare. This is ceremonial music with an edge. Soon the strings are scurrying around, echoing the opening material. Brass comes to the fore here. The original fanfare returns, which the Pounds explains includes a conspectus of themes derived from the entire Symphony. The work comes to a dynamic but not overwhelming close.

Adam Pounds states that the inspiration for his Symphony No.2 came as a result of moving to the centre of Cambridge after living in the countryside. He claims that this new urban environment and the ‘faster pace of life’ was ‘stimulating’ and resulted in ‘more compositional focus.’ I can see where he is coming from, but for me the music does not conjure up Cambridge. The ‘Nocturne’ is more Hudson River, New York than the banks of the Cam and much of the rest of the work would seem to evoke the pomp, circumstance and pizzazz of London rather than an ancient University town. 
The basic stylistic parameter of this work is that it is written in an approachable musical vernacular with several lyrical passages balancing more aggressive and dissonant music.  If the listener is hunting musical comparisons, composers as diverse as William Walton, Arnold Cooke, Malcolm Arnold are alluded to in these pages. It is not an insult to the composer to suggest that there is much of the ‘Cheltenham’ school of symphonic writing about this work: it is technically well-written and approachable by all but the most musically conservative listeners. The orchestration is splendid, with effective use of the brass and the woodwind sections. The saxophone is an inspired touch. My only complaint is that the Symphony is a little too short. There is much excellent musical material in this work: I feel that some of it could have been developed at greater length. 

The final rehearsal of Adam Pounds’s Symphony No.2 was recorded and has been uploaded to the composer’s YouTube Channel.  I understand that it is the composer’s hope that a definitive performance of the work will be released on CD in the future.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Frank Spedding & ‘Glasgow Belongs to Me’

Glasgow Belongs to Me (1966) is one of my favourite British Transport Film (BTF) documentaries. It features my native city at a time when I was slowly becoming aware of my surroundings and was beginning to take an interest in history, architecture and things mechanical: I had recently bought my first trainspotting notebook.  I never saw this film in the cinema at that time and had to wait more than forty years until it was released on DVD. The liner notes give a good precis of the film: ‘A sketch of the emotional quality of life in a great city. The Glaswegian is the product of historical tensions; this film traces his development from the inhabitant of a Clydeside hamlet to the beneficiary and victim of a unique industrialisation.’
The idea for the film was created by the kenspeckle (well-known and easily recognisable) Glaswegian author, broadcaster and historian, Jack House. The screenplay was developed by Laurence Henson and Edward McConnell.

The opening credits feature a wonderful collection of chimney cowls, rooftops and riverside cranes, accompanied by jaunty music which is not Scottish in mood. The ‘plot’ of the film is predicated on the arrival at St Enoch Station of an English businessman, from somewhere ‘down south.’ He attempts to hire a taxi but has no idea where he wants to go. So, the cabbie shows him around. The remainder of the film is an exploration of Glasgow, both culturally and industrially. Only a small amount of this is presented to the Englishman by the Taxi driver.

After some stereotypical pictures of tenements, George Square and football played in a street devoid of cars, Roddy McMillan sings the eponymous song, ‘Glasgow Belongs to Me’. There follow evocative shots of businessmen in bowler hats (my first boss wore one), nurses walking down Castle Street outside the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and people strolling across George Square. This ‘public space’ has been messed about with over the years and is often covered with paraphernalia for various events.
Football plays a big part in this documentary. The film includes some haunting moments from an old firm game at Hampden Park. The narrator explains the ambivalent nature of the Glaswegian: Green and Blue, Highlander and Lowlander, Protestant and Catholic, Irish and native Clydesider. It is mixed blood indeed. But this is what made Glasgow great...

A potted history of the city follows. From the siting of the Cathedral on the banks of the wee Molendinar burn by St Mungo, by way of the tobacco industry, the cotton trade and finally engineering and manufacturing, the history unfolds. Shipbuilding and railway engines are of great importance. The status of the Clyde as a port is emphasised by shots of cargo ships passing a forest of cranes. One vessel, the Tactician, is seen passing a public house, the Old Whitefield Bar in Govan Road. Both, along with most of the shipping, are long gone.
The history section of this film includes quotations from some great Glaswegian men. John Elder, the shipping magnate, who predicted that ships would go ‘further and faster in greater safety and stability than ever before’. James Watt pontificates on the power of steam and Professor Joseph Lister’s understanding that ‘surgery had to be performed without fear of infection.’ And lastly, missionary David Livingstone’s abhorrence of the slave trade is heard.

Frank Spedding creates some haunting sounds to cue the scenes shot in the Necropolis near the Cathedral. It is achieved by a subtle balance of solo horn and percussion. This leads into images of models of ships and railway engines and a slow-motion return to the fitba’. This culminates in the famous Hampden Roar, when Rangers No.10 player scores a splendid goal. It is the perfection of timing prevalent in both sport and engineering which is claimed to be the dominant characteristic of the Glaswegian’s psyche.  Spedding’s music compliments these scenes with passages for brass, accordion and percussion.
The opening music returns to accompany an exploration of travel away from the city. In quick succession some film of a horsewoman in a lineside field racing one of the then new Blue Trains, the railway observation coach probably on the West Highland Line featuring panoramas of hills mountains and lochs.
Then suddenly the viewer is back with the ‘English’ businessman on board a Clyde Steamer. He is now sober and enthusiastically regaling his friends about the industry and achievement of the Glaswegians. As they walk along the deck, they pass the Taxi Driver who is holding his son by the ship’s rail. He says ‘Did ye hear that son? Aye this Glasgow must be a great place right enough.’
After a few action shots of water skiing on Loch Lomond to the accompaniment of accordion and strings, several youngsters are seen dancing to the ‘latest’ tunes. I am not sure if Spedding wrote this sequence. Nevertheless, it is instructive to see what the ‘cats’ were wearing some 53 years ago. This includes a cowboy hat and shades and a girl with black slacks and a long orange pullover. They are dancing the twist. I used to be able to do that, but now the knees won’t let me!
The film concludes with shots of ships sailing ‘Doon the Water’ to Gourock and the mouth of the Clyde Estuary. Spedding provides some big ‘sea music’ here. The narrator explains that many folk left Glasgow for faraway places. However, he finishes with the words: ‘To the Glaswegian all the Clyde is home…yet it is the Clyde that has carried him to the corners of the earth, the bearer of some unique skill or inspiration.’ And in so doing he ‘has taken the qualities of Glasgow to every continent. But he has taken too, a memory of the rough affections of his birthplace: a memory that rarely dies before the man himself.’
The closing credits feature the Glasgow Police Choir lustily singing, unsurprisingly, ‘Glasgow Belongs to Me.’ In the background are views of the Clyde seen at the bottom of tenemented residential street. The final notes of music form a positive triadic chord. 

The film ‘stars’ Phil McCall as the taxi driver and Wallace (Wally) Campbell as the ‘inebriated Englishman.’ It is interesting to recall that Campbell was born in Glasgow, not ‘furth’ of the Border. The narrator of the film was James Bryden Murdoch, best remembered (perhaps) from the original Doctor Finlay’s Casebook. He is never seen in the film. 

The underlying musical thread of this film is obviously Will Fyffe’s well-known song ‘Glasgow belongs to me’. Canny Scots will know that Will came from Dundee. The score is certainly not a set of variations on this tune, but the melody is presented in several ways. From solo accordion to the full-throated sound of the Glasgow Police Choir during the closing credits. Much original music is used that lacks any sort of deliberate ‘tartanry.’ Spedding’s basic plan seems to have been to contrast the ‘song’ with material that has little to do with the subject or tune but acts as a perfect accompaniment to the screenplay.  The Sinfonia of London was conducted by Muir Mathieson.
Frank Spedding was a Scottish composer and academic. His music has been largely forgotten, despite being of high quality. There seems to be nobody looking after his interest.  In addition to several important concert pieces, Spedding dedicated much effort to writing film scores. These feature several documentaries about Scotland. More about Spedding in subsequent posts.
Finally, in 1967 Glasgow Belongs to Me won a Diploma of Merit at the Melbourne Film Festival.

The entire film, which lasts for about 17 minutes, can be seen on YouTube.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

A Happy and Prosperous New Year
To All Readers of
The Land of Lost Content

Some Significant (and less so) British Composer Anniversaries for 2020:

Charlotte Alington Barnard
Alfred Mellon

150 Years:
Archibald Davidson Arnott
Edmund H Fellowes
Cecil Forsyth
Charles Macpherson
Colin McAlpin
Percy Pitt
Ernest Walker

John Addison
Geoffrey Bush
Peter Racine Fricker
Michael S Heming

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Philip Lane: Wassail Dances for orchestra (1973)

Philip Lane (b. 1950) can always be relied upon to come up with some spirited music for any occasion. In this case these three Wassail Dances provide appropriately seasonal fare. They were composed early on in his career in 1973. They were written specifically for the Gloucestershire Youth Orchestra and their then conductor Tony Hewitt-Jones who gave the premiere in 1973. I was unable to find an exact date and venue.
‘Wassail’ is an ancient toast meaning something like ‘Good health!’ to mankind and livestock.  Mulled cider and beer was drunk as part of these festivities, often held on the Twelfth Night of Christmas. The tradition of Wassailing is still observed in parts of England to this day. However, it has been largely superseded by Carolling.
As the work's title suggests, these Wassail Dances are based on old drinking songs once popular in the counties of Somerset, Yorkshire and Gloucestershire.  The composer has explained that all three dances ‘take their theme and stretch it to its rhythmic and harmonic limits, within given parameters.’

The opening ‘vivace’ is ‘bucolic’ in mood and relies heavily on colourful orchestration for its jovial effect.  It is based on the Somerset Wassail:
Wassail and wassail all over the town
The cup it is white and the ale it is brown
The cup it is made of the good ashen tree
And so is the malt of the best barley
For its your wassail and its our wassail
And its joy be to you and a jolly wassail
The tune is likely to have been derived from the New Oxford Book of Carols, no.158.

Strangely, the middle movement, an ‘andantino’, is defined by a certain hardness of tone that ‘reflects the harsh landscape of its northern origins.’ The tune used here is ‘Here we come a Wassailing’.  It is alleged that both the words and the original tune were devised, collected or composed around 1850.
We've been a-while a-wandering
Amongst the leaves so green.
But now we come a wassailing
So plainly to be seen,
For its Christmas time, when we travel far and near;
May God bless you and send you a happy New Year.

The finale (vivace) is a lively, boisterous piece that is put through some imaginative twists and turns. It is probably based on the Gloucestershire Wassail:
Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.
Once again, the orchestration is particularly impressive with brass (muted and unmuted) and vast amounts of percussion adding to the effect. It was later reworked as the fifth number of the composer’s Cotswold Dances. 

The Wassail Dances received their first broadcast performance on 11 December 1985 during BBC Radio 3 during a concert played by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Ashley Lawrence. The Matinee Musicale also included Engelbert Humperdinck’s Overture: Hansel and Gretel, Tchaikovsky’s Bluebird pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty and arranged for chamber orchestra by Igor Stravinsky, Matyas Seiber’s Pastorale, a Sonata in C major for flute and piano by Gaetano Donizetti and finally, Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture: The Fair Melusine, op. 32. The flautist was Judith Hall.  

Some 17 years later the Wassail Dances were recorded on the Naxos record label (8.557099) played by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Gavin Sutherland. Other works on this album included Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony, Bryan Kelly’s Improvisation on Christmas Carols and Patrick Standford’s A Christmas Carol Symphony.
Unfortunately, the Wassail Dances have not been uploaded to YouTube. However, they can be heard on Spotify or the Naxos Music Library (accounts needed), They are well worth exploring.

Philip Lane was born in Cheltenham in 1950 which is at the north-western corner of the Cotswolds. Lane’s musical achievement is considerable; however, he is probably best known for his ‘light’ music and his major contribution to the reconstruction of lost film-scores.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Yuletide Greetings

A Merry Christmas
To All Readers and Followers of 'The Land of Lost Content'

David Teniers Winter Landscape with Nativity 

Bethlehem Down
A carol by Bruce Blunt
"When He is King we will give him the King's gifts,
Myrrh for its sweetness, and gold for a crown,
Beautiful robes,” said the young girl to Joseph,
Fair with her first-born on Bethlehem Down.

Bethlehem Down is full of the starlight
Winds for the spices, and stars for the gold,
Mary for sleep, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

When He is King they will clothe him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming, and wood for a crown,
He that lies now in the white arms of Mary,
Sleeping so lightly on Bethlehem Down.

Here He has peace and a short while for dreaming,
Close huddled oxen to keep him from cold,
Mary for love, and for lullaby music
Songs of a shepherd by Bethlehem fold.

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Christmas from Truro: Favourites Old and New

I was listening to this CD a few days ago. It has been in my collection since 2008.  I reviewed it for MusicWeb International, but somehow it never got uploaded to The Land of Lost Content. Some 11 years on, I am still as impressed with this CD as I was then. I believe that this CD is still available.

This CD ranks as my current preferred Christmas Carol recording for three reasons. Firstly, Truro is one of my favourite Cathedrals in the country, secondly the repertoire is based on good, old, solid favourite arrangements from ‘Carols for Choirs’ and lastly the quality of the singing is superb – in spite of the fact the this is a politically incorrect all-male choir! Let me expand.
I first went to Truro Cathedral some thirty-seven years ago. A friend and I had gone to stay with his auntie in St. Ives with the intention of exploring the land of the Pirates of Penzance , which we had just finished performing at Coatbridge High School. Naturally, we did not find the manor of the ‘Very Model of a Modern Major General’ or the pirates’ hideout – but we did discover a number of fine public houses serving St Austell’s Ale! One day we went to Truro and explored the town and Cathedral. I was bowled over by this relatively new ‘gothic’ building- having been designed and built by John Loughborough Pearson in the late eighteen-hundreds. Then. there was the fine Willis organ to impress a young lad. At that time, I was an adherent of the Church of Scotland, however after hearing Evensong at Truro, I had taken the first step on the road to becoming a High-Church Anglican!
In the early ‘seventies, my school had a choir – which used to perform at the end of term Carol Service –and at a number of other times during the year. I think they were called the Junior and Senior Ensembles. I was also singing in my local church choir. In both these venues the music of choice at Christmas were the green and orange ‘Carols for Choirs’ series – edited by David Willcocks, Reginald Jacques and John Rutter. They have become, along with the later volumes three, four and five, the ‘quintessential’ benchmark for carol singers. On this present CD many of the carols – about two-thirds - have been mined from these books. They are favourite arrangements that are known and loved by both churched and un-churched people across the country. They are surely part of the fabric of Christmas.
This recording gives these essential arrangements of ‘Once in royal David’s city’, ‘O come all ye faithful’ (with all the verses!), ‘Hark the herald angels sing’, ‘The First Nowell’ and many more.
The novelty value on this CD is given by ‘Nowell sing we’: each year the Cathedral commissions a new carol for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols and in 2006 it was the privilege of Gabriel Jackson to provide the music. For this piece, the composer harks back to a medieval form of verse and refrain to produce what is a satisfying and timeless offering.
It is good to see William Mathias’s ‘Sir Christèmas’ with its ‘jaunty, boisterous text and music’ included in this selection. It was, I recall in the ‘orange’ book along with Rutter’s ‘Sans Day Carol’. Both these have become classics.
There is a danger in any Carol Concert of two things. Firstly. an out and out attempt to mimic the perfection of Kings College, Cambridge. Alas, this often turns out to be a parody rather than complimentary. The other tendency can be to over sentimentalise the music, sugar coat it, if you like. This is worse than trying to emulate that great choir. The reality is that Christmas is not just about a tiny baby lying wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, but also about the coming of the Risen Christ. Remember the words that Handel used in his Messiah –
‘But who may abide the day of His coming?
And who shall stand when He appeareth?
For He is like a refiner’s fire.’
There is, therefore, also a place in Christmas music for something more positive and less sanitised about the singing. I feel that this all-male choir- both boys and men- make this balance to perfection. The bottom line is that there is nothing overtly sentimental about these performances - in fact they are typically robust but also tender where the mood requires it. Certainly, the last number, ‘We Wish you a merry Christmas’, has all the panache of half remembered carol singers in a Dickensian Street-scene.
The programme notes by Robert Sharpe are extensive for a Carol concert and, more pertinently, the words of all the carols are given in full. All in all, this a fine production that both inspires and impresses. I shall certainly be listening to this CD over the Season!

Track Listing:
H.J. GAUNTLETT Once in Royal David’s City, vv1-5 harm. A.H. MANN, v6 arr. by David WILLCOCKS [4:45]
Coventry Carol – English trad. arr. Martin SHAW [2:24]
Ding dong! Merrily on high – 16thc, arr. David WILLCOCKS [2:22]
William KIRKPATRICK Away in a manger arr. Gary COLE [2:36]
William MATHIAS Sir Christèmas [1:36]
O little town of Bethlehem – English trad. arr. R VAUGHAN WILLIAMS. Descant by Thomas ARMSTRONG [3:22]
The First Nowell – English trad. arr. David WILLCOCKS [5:19]
Gabriel Jackson Nowell sing we [Commissioned by Truro Cathedral - First recording] [1:55]
Sans Day Carol – Cornish trad. arr. John RUTTER [3:02]
O come all ye faithful – 18thc, arr. David WILLCOCKS [6:16]
Boris ORD Adam lay ybounden [1:19]
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day– English trad. arr. David WILLCOCKS [1:56]
Howard SKEMPTON Rejoice, Rejoice [First recording] [2:05]
The Angel Gabriel – Old Basque, arr. PETTMAN [2:28]
See amid the winter’s snow – John GOSS, arr. Barry ROSE [6:01]
The Truth from above – English trad. arr, R VAUGHAN WILLIAMS [2:31]
Angels, from the realms of glory– French trad. arr. Charles WOOD [4:08]
While Shepherds watched – Este’s Psalter, 1592, v4 arr. Christopher GRAY [2:27]
John WAINWRIGHT Christians awake! v4 arr. Christopher GRAY [3:34]
Felix MENDELSSOHN Hark! the Herald angels sing arr. David WILLCOCKS [3:11]
We wish you a merry Christmas – West Country trad. arr. Arthur WARRELL [1:43]
Truro Cathedral Choir/Robert Sharpe;Christopher Gray (organ)
rec. Truro Cathedral, 28-29 January 2008
REGENT REGCD281 [65:03]
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Thursday, 19 December 2019

André Previn (1929-2019) Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon (1996)

It was with great sadness that the musical community heard of André Previn’s death 28 February 2019. Much coverage of the story was predicated around the ubiquitous appearance on Morecambe and Wise in 1971: I remember that episode well. But it is well to remember the breadth of Previn’s career as a pianist, composer, arranger, conductor and author. His musical interests crossed many boundaries: from jazz, film scores, musicals, concert music and pop. It must not be forgotten that he did so much to encourage interest in classical music, both on his television (Meet Andre Previn and Andre Previn’s Music Night) series and in his published books.
The illustration for this post has nothing to do with the Trio. It is chosen simply because I once owned the LP pictured. Where I got it from, I cannot recall. I wish I had kept it. 

My only ‘war story’ about André Previn concerns a record shop that used to exist just opposite Charing Cross Station on The Strand. I was engrossed in the browsers working my way slowly from right to left, and, working his way from left to right…was the Maestro. We bumped into each other, I apologised; he apologised and smiled. He knew that I knew who he was.
I have never really come across any of his compositions - apart from a handful of piano pieces. I know that he is a composer of considerable stature, diversity and quantity. The Arkiv catalogue currently lists some 46 CDs featuring Previn’s music, some of it from his film scores and ‘jazz songs’ but also including a fair few orchestral works like his piano and violin concertos. If I had ‘nine lives’ these would be areas slated for exploration. several years ago, I was privileged to review one of his most vibrant chamber works. 

Previn’s Trio was composed during 1995 and was premiered in New York on 31 January 1996. This work is a clever synthesis of styles. Poulenc may be the exemplar, but jazz and even moments of ‘pop’ are skilfully blended into the texture. The ‘spikiness’ of Stravinsky is another influence. ‘Elegance’ would seem to be the watchword in the first movement: for anyone who thinks that a bassoon must always play the part of a clown, Previn shows that it can also take the role of philosopher and lover. The slow movement is particularly haunting with its languorous melodies played by oboe and bassoon. The composer lets his hair down in the finale - jazz phrases and ‘breaks’ are the order of the day, always piquant, and rhythmically free but definitely establishing the work in a long line of ‘American’ works from Gershwin to Copland and beyond. This is sophisticated music that is entertaining as well as just occasionally challenging.

A splendid performance of Andre Previn’s Trio for piano, oboe and bassoon (1996) can he heard on YouTube. This is performed by Nancy Ambrose King, oboe, Jeffrey Lyman, bassoon and Michael Adcock, piano. It was recorded live in Britton Recital Hall, Moore Music Building, University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance on Sunday, November 11, 2018.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Frederick Delius: Sleigh Ride for orchestra (1889)

In one sense, little needs to be said about the delightful ‘Sleigh Ride’ by Frederick Delius.  It is popular, evocative and totally satisfying. End of story. But… This short piece has long been a favourite of mine. It conjures up as no other music does - except Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride - the joy of this mode of travel on a cold, frosty winter’s day. It is an ideal ‘secular’ Christmas piece.

‘Sleigh Ride’ is the second number of Three Small Tone Poems for orchestra written between 1888-90.  However, they were not premiered until 18 November 1946, during that year’s Delius Festival. Then, the Croydon Philharmonic Society was conducted by Richard Austin. Thomas Beecham was at the concert and directed several other pieces.
The Three Small Tone Poems musically portray three of the four seasons, with the other two being ‘Summer Evening’ and ‘Spring Morning’. It has been noted that there is some documentary evidence that a final number called ‘Autumn’ was composed, but subsequently lost. ‘Summer Evening’ is my favourite of the surviving pieces. This is a lovely, sensuous number that seems to me to reflect lovers watching a sunset on a warm night probably from a ‘high hill’.
After 1946, Delius enthusiasts did not have another opportunity of to hear ‘Spring Morning’ until the Marco Polo recording in 1986.  It is a gentle piece that evokes the awakening of nature: it is typically restrained before reaching a gorgeous climax. Peace is restored. It is impossible to know if ‘Spring Morning’ was inspired by Florida, England, Norway or elsewhere. It seems a pity that it is hardly known to listeners. Clearly it is ‘a companion piece’ to Delius’s Idylle de Printemps written in 1889 which explores a similar atmosphere.

The story goes that Delius’s Sleigh Ride was originally a piano work, Norwegische Schlittenfahrt (Norwegian Sleigh Ride) since lost. Philip Threlfall (1977) states that the piece was first performed in Leipzig on Christmas Eve 1887. Edvard Grieg, Johan Halvorsen and Christian Sinding (Rustle of Spring fame) attended a party. Lionel Carley (1993) has cited a letter written by Grieg to Frants Beyer (25/12/87): ‘After the meal we were, without exception, all plastered, but the programme had to be adhered to and it offered music, music and still more music! What a Christmas Eve! … Mr Delius played a piano piece which he calls ‘Norwegische Schlittenfahrt’ with great talent.’

The title of the orchestral piece in the original holograph was written as |Winternacht Charakter Stück für Orchester| |Fritz Delius| |1889|. It was subsequently changed to ‘Sleigh Ride’ which is an equally good, if a little less prosaic title.
The score carries the following note: ‘One Christmas eve I stood in the open air. The moon shone bright over the billowing landscape. The sound of an approaching sleigh was heard from a distance, but it soon rushed by and disappeared. And then gradually it was once stiller and brighter and peaceful.’ (Translated here from the German).

The ethos of ‘Sleigh Ride’ imagines the passing of a sleigh along a country lane in the depth of winter. It is composed in a straightforward ABAB form.  I guess it is seen from the perspective a bystander. The sound of soft sleigh bells are heard as the sled approaches, followed by a gentle pizzicato figure. Then the main theme is heard, initially played on the piccolo. The music rises to a climax. After this subsides, Delius introduces a quieter, more reflective interlude.  Soon, the main theme returns but now gets quieter as the sleigh disappears into the night. Delius concludes his tone poem with another dreamy interlude which evokes the moonlit and snowbound landscape in silence and repose. Who knows what the watcher is thinking? Perhaps they are recalling a winter’s night journey with someone he or she loved many years previously? Whatever the romance or otherwise behind this piece, the listener is in no doubt that this is a very chilly, frosty night.  

It is possible that Delius was paying tribute to his friend Greig. It takes little imagination to hear echoes of the Norwegian Bridal Procession, op.19, no.2 in the main ‘sleigh’ theme. Other influences may have included Nos. 3 and 4 from the Humoresques, op. 6. Andrew J. Boyle (2017) has called attention to ‘idiomatic folk music traits [used by Grieg] including a pedal bass’, used in the slow section of the work. Finally, Boyle notes that in the ‘short coda, Delius borrows a device straight from the Grieg toolbox: chromatically falling lines.’  Boyle suggests that ‘we can easily imagine Grieg standing by the punch bowl that Christmas Eve acknowledging with a wry smile the elegant and humorous gift’ of the original piano piece from his English friend.
Despite these influences Delius has not descended to pastiche or parody. This is a valid composition that provides an admiring and friendly nod to Greig. Interestingly, Delius was to arrange Grieg’s Norwegian’s Bridal Procession, op.19, no.2 for orchestra, completed on 2 December 1889.

A lovely performance of Frederick Delius’s Sleigh Ride can be heard on YouTube. The Royal Scottish Orchestra is conducted David Lloyd.  There are some 17 versions of this work currently listed in the Arkiv Catalogues of CDs. These range from the early Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Thomas Beecham edition released in 1956 to Andrew Davis conducting the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra issued in 2013.

Brief Bibliography:
Boyle, Andrew, Delius and Norway, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2017
Carley, Lionel, Grieg and Delius – A Chronicle of the Friendship in Letters, Marion Boyars 1993
Lee-Browne, Martin and Guinery, Paul, Delius and his Music (Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2014)
Threlfall, Robert, A Catalogue of the Compositions of Frederick Delius (London, Delius Trust, 1977)

Friday, 13 December 2019

Armstrong Gibbs: A Countryman Born and Bred, Angela Aries, Lewis Foreman and Michael Pilkington

People discover composers in various ways. I came across the music of Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (CAG) during the 1970's on a LP of ‘Sea Songs’ performed by Robert Lloyd and Nina Walker (Sea Fever, HMV, ASD 3545). ‘Hidden Treasure’ was one of four songs from the cycle Songs of the Mad Sea Captain alongside the standalone song, ‘Sailing Homeward.’   I guess the title of the song cycle rang some sort of bell: recently I had heard Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King: uncontrovertibly, there was nothing in common between those two works. Most people will know Armstrong Gibbs through just one piece – ‘Dusk’, from the Fancy Dress Suite, op.82. This is regularly played on Classic FM and has been released on many recordings of 'light' music.  
In recent years a few CDs dedicated to Armstrong Gibbs’ music have appeared in the catalogues. Marco Polo presented two symphonies, No.1 in E minor, op.70 and No.3 in B flat, op.104, ‘Westmorland’ (8.223553). In 2010, Guild released a comprehensive account of the complete works for violin and piano (GMCD7353).  An important project from Dutton Epoch gave listeners the opportunity to hear the choral symphony, Odysseus (CDLX7201).  The songs have fared well, with two albums: one from Hyperion (CDA67337) and the other from Marco Polo (8.223458). Another significant release from Hyperion (CDA67093) included a number of orchestral works. Most other recordings of Armstrong Gibbs’ music feature on compilations of songs, piano music and chamber works.

A literature search will find one or two eminently helpful sources. Most recent is Rosemary Hancock-Child's A Ballad Maker, The Life and Songs of Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. This was published by Thames in 1993. As the title suggests, much of the material in this short volume majors on the songs. Other musical works are mentioned only in passing.  The late Ann E. Rust, who was the composer's daughter, produced an essay for the British Music Society Journal in 1989. This was more a 'personal memoir' than a study of the music.
My first introduction to CAGs life was in the pages of Donald Brooks’ charming Composer's Gallery published in 1946. This book is often found in second-hand bookshops and is essential for all lovers of British Music.  A booklet I have not seen is Daphne Woodward’s Essex Composers (1985) which notices Armstrong Gibbs. The current online Grove dedicates less than 500 words to the composer’s life and work: the Wikipedia article is much more comprehensive. I wonder if it was penned by one of the present authors.

A brief sketch of the composer’s life may help put this present book into context. Cecil Armstrong Gibbs was born at The Vineyards, Great Baddow in Essex on 10 August 1889. He graduated in history (1911) and then music (1913) from Cambridge where he studied with Edward Dent, Cyril Rootham and Charles Wood. Due to ill health he was unable to enlist in the forces during the First World War: at this time he taught at the Copthorne School in East Grinstead and then at the Wick School in Hove. After a successful production of the play Crossings (1919) by Walter de la Mare, with incidental music by the composer, he began studies at the Royal College of Music. His teachers included Vaughan Williams and Adrian Boult. In 1921 he joined the staff of the RCM where he remained until 1939.  In the early 1920s CAG moved to Danbury in Essex, although during the Second World War he relocated to Windermere, Cumberland, due to his house being requisitioned as a hospital. He returned to Danbury and stayed there until his death on 12 May 1960.  During this period he was much occupied as an adjudicator for, and eventually Vice-President of, the National Federation of Music Festivals. Much of Armstrong Gibbs music was composed for ‘amateur’ choirs, orchestras and theatres. However, there is a solid core of music that fulfills the requirements of the professional concert hall and recital room. His masterpieces may well be the choral symphony Odysseus, and the Symphony No. 3 ‘Westmorland’, written on the death of his son David in battle near the River Sangro in Central Italy. Singers are surely grateful for his wide range of solo songs: instrumentalists have much to discover in his enormous catalogue of chamber music.

Armstrong Gibbs: A Countryman Born and Bred is divided into three parts, preceded by an introduction written by Ann Rust that gives a concise overview of her father’s accomplishment. Sadly, neither she nor her husband Lyndon survived to see publication of this present book.
The first section, by Angela Aries is biographical, the second, by Lewis Foreman examines the music and the final part is a comprehensive ‘List of Works’ compiled by Michael Pilkington.

Angela Aries has assembled a significant biographical study of Armstrong Gibbs: it is by far the largest part of the book. She has made considerable use of family letters and CAGs unpublished ‘autobiography’ and ‘essays.’ Footnotes tie in the many references. Aries has lived in Danbury for many years and used ‘local knowledge’ to advantage as she conducted research for this book. The author was fortunate in having the reminiscences of the composer’s daughter and son-in-law which has provided the narrative with a deeply personal character. One is conscious of a vast amount of information being imparted, with countless references to the great and good in the twentieth century artistic world. Yet the reader is never overburdened. What emerges is an intimate picture of a very busy and fascinating personality. It surprised me was just how ‘alive’ Armstrong Gibbs appears in these pages, bearing in mind he died some 55 years ago and was well and truly a Victorian. It is of huge credit to the author.
The progress of the text makes use of many photographs from the Armstrong Gibbs’ family collection: many are full page plates.
This section of the book is completed with the ‘Biographical Notes.’ I found that this was most helpful, for although some of the personalities quoted in the text are familiar to enthusiasts of British Music, there are many names who have slipped out of historical favour. Included are literary, civic and ecclesiastical figures who play innumerable roles in this story. It is useful to have their dates and achievements at one’s fingertips, rather than having to ‘Google’.
I was a little bit disappointed in the ‘Select Bibliography’. It seems to cite books, but not articles and reviews. I accept that it is ‘select’, however, I believe that a wider range of material could have been listed. There are references to unpublished material such as the above-mentioned composer’s Autobiography (1958) and his collection of Essays (1958): no location of source is given.

The second section, ‘The Music of Armstrong Gibbs’ by Lewis Foreman is a major contribution to scholarship on the composer in particular, and English Music in general.  After noting CAG’s onetime popularity, his prolific catalogue and his musical versatility and diversity, he states that the composer found himself ‘out of time.’ After the Second World War, the musical aesthetic changed, and Armstrong Gibbs did not. After 1960 ‘his music rather faded from sight. It was not the sort of idiom that the newly radical avant-garde…would then consider.’
The main outline of Foreman’s discussion is by genre, beginning with the theatre music. This is followed by the orchestral works, music for strings and small ensembles, chorus and orchestra, and songs – part, unison and solo, church music, chamber music and piano and organ. Within genres it is presented largely chronologically.  Foreman has explored a massive range of Armstrong Gibbs music, both in print and manuscript, in more or less detail. It will certainly be the first place to turn to for artists and reviewers wishing to gain an understanding of a ‘forgotten’ or even ‘recalled’ work.
For example, on page 244 he discusses the Symphony No. 1 in E minor, a work that has been recorded. He begins by setting it into the context of the composer’s life. The date of the first and subsequent performances are given. Foreman then examines the reception history of the work and sets it against the background of other roughly contemporary symphonies such as Bliss’s ‘Colour’ Symphony and Bax’s Third.  He suggests that it was a notable success, but possibly soon to be overshadowed by other examples of the genre such as Walton’s First, Bax’s Fifth, Sixth and Seventh and RVWs Fourth. An unidentified review from the Edwin Evans Collection is printed in full. After this, Foreman gives a readable and approachable analysis of the work and concludes by quoting a draft programme note by the composer. It is an excellent template for musical analysis and this style is kept to a greater or lesser extent for all the works discussed.

The third part of the book was assembled by Michel Pilkington. The ‘Complete List of Works’ is in all honesty overwhelming. I never realised that Armstrong Gibbs wrote quite so much music. The list includes virtually everything composed, with the exception of some juvenilia. It is based on a compilation made by Ann and Lyndon Rust in 1994 which has been revised a few of times over the last twenty years.  The List, which runs to 55 pages is presented by genre, beginning with ‘solo songs. All relevant particulars are given where appropriate. Pilkington notes that the composer was ‘not very methodical in his use of opus numbers…’  Important facts such as the location (or last known location) of the holographs, many of which have been donated to the British Library, The Royal College of Music and the Britten-Pears Archive in Aldeburgh. Where identified, details of the first performance are given. Other information such as the work’s duration, the author of texts, the publisher (where relevant), the instrumentation or vocal forces, and titles of movements are all indicated.
I did find the font size for this catalogue a little small. I had to tackle this with a magnifying glass: I guess that it was produced at this size for economy of space. I would have liked a chronological listing of all the works which is helpful in contextualizing the composer’s career. These are minor complaints: Michael Pilkington’s list of works is a model of its kind.
The index is in two parts- an alphabetical list of works which only refers to Pilkington’s contribution and a general index which includes people, places, institutions and the composer’s music which are discussed in the text. 
The book is well-made and is printed on quality paper. The font of the main text is clear and readable.

Angela Aries, who lives in Essex, has a background in teaching Modern Languages at Tertiary Education Level. She has long been an enthusiastic singer and has belonged to several choirs and choral societies. It was whilst singing with the Lingwood Consort in Danbury that she first discovered CAGs music.  She is presently the secretary of the Armstrong Gibbs Society.
Lewis Foreman needs little introduction to students of British music. He has written and edited many books, essays and articles about a diverse range of composers and musical subjects and has given advice to many independent record and CD companies, most notably Dutton Epoch. Michael Pilkington was on the teaching staff at the Guildhall School of Music. He has produced a series of solo song repertoire studies for English composers including Ireland, Gurney, Delius, Parry and Stanford. Pilkington has edited many volumes of songs for Stainer & Bell and choral music for Novello.

Armstrong Gibbs: A Countryman Born and Bred, has been a number of years in the making. However, for all those interested in British musical history it has been well worth the wait. Readers will make various uses of this book. Clearly, it concentrates on CAG, but anyone involved in music from the first half of the twentieth century will discover a wealth of new material throughout these pages. Musicians wishing to ‘take up’ one or other of the composer’s many works will find it an ideal source for background information and the devising of programme notes.
This book is immediately approachable and does not obscure the composer and his musical achievement with complex, overly-technical analysis. It presents Cecil Armstrong Gibbs as a composer, an adjudicator, a teacher, a conductor and a family man in a highly readable and enjoyable manner that provides detailed facts and rigorous scrutiny of his life and music. 

Armstrong Gibbs: A Countryman Born and Bred, Angela Aries, Lewis Foreman and Michael Pilkington
EM Publishing B002, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-9567753-2-0