Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Haydn Wood: Soliloquy


It is possible to distinguish between Haydn Wood as a light music composer and as a 'serious composer. For example the "Dance of a Whimsical Elf" is quite manifestly light, as is the March: The Horseguards, Whitehall which was use in the programme Down Your Way. On the other side of the coin the excellent Piano Concerto is quite definitely serious in design and execution: it is one of the finest of the late romantic British essays in this form. And of course there is the rumour of a 'lost' symphony. In 1905 Wood had taken a prize in the first Cobbett chamber music competition.
However Wood's Soliloquy is a piece that seems to straddle the genres. It is most certainly not of ‘the Potter’s Wheel’ type of tone poem, yet neither does it explore any new musical direction. This is quite simply a moving piece that almost seems to be a retrospective. It was composed when Wood was in his late sixties -in 1948. Wood had been born in 1882 and had witnessed two World War- he had lost a number of friends and relations. He, like all his generation had witnessed huge changes in society –the advent of air travel and broadcasting for example.

The Soliloquy is a work that is at once approachable yet touching deep thoughts and moods. There is nothing difficult about it, but neither does its conservative musical language repel the listener. Even the briefest of hearings reveals more than a touch of Fred. Delius and perhaps even Edward Elgar.

The piece achieved its first performance on the BBC's light programme on 6th January 1948. It was played by the John Blore Orchestra. Ernest Tomlinson quotes a programme note saying "Soliloquy gives the atmosphere of a lazy summer afternoon, with the humming of the bees and the smell of flowers and new mown hay." Yet this is not trifle: Haydn Wood seems to be reflecting on a life of music and looking back over the years. This is not valedictory music - he still had some ten years to live - but it is a million miles away from some of his pot boilers. It reveals a thoughtful and introspective composer who was perhaps writing a work for his own purposes rather than satisfying audience demand.

British Light Music Haydn Wood on Marco Polo

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