Wednesday, 13 August 2008

English Music: Some Novelties from 1920/21

I was reading about the 1920/1921 Royal College of Music Patron’s Fund rehearsals the other day. I understand that these were opportunities for younger composers to ‘try out’ their compositions within a ‘friendly’ environment.
And what a feast of British Music they were. Starting in November 1920 there were some seven concert rehearsals with twenty seven new works by twenty seven composers. I list them below for interest:-

Monday November 20th 1920
Overture to a Cantata ‘The Ghilly of Christ’ E Norman Hay
Song: Midnight G.H. Sullivan
Symphonic Fantasia York Bowen
Suite Ex Nihilo (third movement) W. C McNaught

Friday November 26th 1920
Excerpts from ‘Macbeth’ for mezzo soprano, baritone and orchestra: L.A. Collinwood
Three Pieces for Miniature Orchestra: Franklin Sparks
Tone Poem ‘Lights Out’: Julian Clifford

Thursday February 17th 1921
Two movements from a Dance Suite: Leslie Heward
Suite ‘In Sussex’ 1) Over the Downs 2) By the Arun (Idyll) 3) A Sussex Fair: (Merrymaking): Harold Rawlinson
Two Studies: Arthur Bliss

Tuesday March 8th 1921
Overture: Sea Chanties: Alfred Pratt
Ballet with words ‘A Bunch of Wild Flowers’: Stanley Wilson
A Little Domestic Suite for small orchestra 1) Dawn Shadows 2) Sorrow 3) Cradle Song 4) Children’s Party : Rupert Erlebach
A North Folk Rhapsody: M. van Someren-Godfrey

Thursday June 2nd 1921
Orchestral Poem ‘The Dream Harlequin’ Frederick Lawrence
Four Poems for voice and orchestra (from the French of Verlaine) 1) Fantastic in Appearance 2) A slumber vast and black 3) Pastorale- a fragment 4) Let’s Dance the Jig Cecil F.G. Coles
Romance and Scherzo, from the Suite for Strings Susan Spain-Dunk
Symphonic Fantasy ‘The Lovers’ Quarrel Paul Kerby

Tuesday June 16th 1921
War Elegy Ivor Gurney
Novellette for orchestra R.O. Morris
Symphony (last movement) Thomas Dunhill
Foxtrot for twenty-six players Hugh Bradford
Chinese Suite 1) Moonlight on the Pagodas of Llisang 2) In the Porcelain Pavilion 3) Summer on the Terraces of Kou-Sou 4) Lanterns Eric Fogg

Thursday June 30th 1921
Suite for a Comedy Edric Cundell
Three Pieces for Small Orchestra 1) Gipsy Children 2) Forest Sleep 3) Lament on the Death of a Child Douglas Clarke
Ballet from the Opera A Perfect Fool’ Gustav Holst
Symphonic Scherzo, ‘A Night by Dalegarth Bridge’ S.H. Braithwaite

The following pieces have survived into the CD age – obviously the Holst Perfect Fool Ballet music; recently the War Elegy by Ivor Gurney was released on Dutton, as was the complete Thomas Dunhill Symphony. Finally Arthur Bliss’s Two Studies have been recorded on Naxos and the Symphonic Fantasia by York Bowen has also appeared on Dutton. It is fair to say that the Holst is the only work that is a ‘household’ piece. The remainder have totally disappeared from view. Whether the scores still exist is the subject of considerable research.

If I were an enterprising CD company I would be especially keen to release the Foxtrot for twenty six players, the Symphonic Scherzo ‘A Night by Dalegarth Bridge, the Dream Harlequin and finally the Suite: ‘In Sussex’. But perhaps I am just being seduced by the evocative titles…

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