Saturday, 2 February 2008

Novelties at the 1908 Promenade Concerts

W.H. Bell:Prelude Agamemnon
York Bowen: Piano Concerto No. 3
Herbert Brewer: Two Pieces for Orchestra ‘Age & Youth’
Claude Debussy Song ‘Le Jet d’Eau'
Henri Duparc: Song ‘Phidyle’
Balfour Gardiner: Symphony in Eb
Percy H. Miles: Concerto in D for violoncello & orchestra
Montague Phillips: Song with Orchestra ‘Fidelity’
B. Luard-Selby: A Village Suite.

The Promenade Concerts for 1908 were held between 15 August and October 24 at the Queen’s Hall under the conductorship of Henry Wood. The works above are the novelties that were first head at that season. It is interesting to see how they have fared!
Naturally, this blog is less interested in the two French works, although it is pleasing to see that they are well represented in the CD catalogues.
Unfortunately the British (and Commonwealth) works appear to have been largely lost in the mists of time. As far as I am aware there are no recordings of these works presently available. However I understand that Hyperion is soon to release Bowen’s Third & Fourth Piano Concertos – so that is a huge bonus.

W.H. Bell was a British composer who emigrated to South Africa and spent most of his career there. Some of his music has been recorded, but not the Prelude. Herbert Brewer is more associated with the organ loft at Gloucester than with orchestral music, so the Two Pieces would be an interesting and unusual revival. I know that the score is still available.
I understand that the score Balfour Gardiner Symphony -which is by far the most substantial novelty- is presumed lost – which is a great loss to British music. Montague Phillips is quite well represented on CD; however the song Fidelity does not appear to have been recorded. Luard-Selby is another composer who was an organist - at Rochester Cathedral: The Village Suite appears to be a rare foray into non liturgical music.
The work that intrigues me most is the Percy Miles ‘Cello Concerto. There are so few British examples of this work around (Moeran, Finzi, Leighton, Britten and of course Elgar) that it would be a wonderful thing if it could be recovered and performed. I must investigate.


Anonymous said...

You may still (2 years on!) be interested that the reduced score of Miles's cello concerto has just turned up in an uncatalogued box of mss at the RAM. I don't think it was ever performed, since in David Cox's "The Henry Wood Proms" a list of 1908 novelties (otherwise identical to yours) doesn't include it. I'm negotiating to photograph it.

Anonymous said...

John - are you receiving me? I've now started transcribing and "orchestrating" this concerto, which sounds very promising. Unfortunately as an unpublished ms it's under copyright until 2039, unless it was publicly performed. Where did your information come from? Percy left no direct descendants, and although I've been in touch with family members in Canada and Australia none of them have been able to identify his heir.