Monday, 29 December 2008

Peter Hope: Petit Point

I was recently having a browse through the ASV Festival of Light Music CD. Although this double disc collection has been in my collection for a wee while, I had never really got down to listening to individual tracks with an intelligent ear. One of the pieces that instantly appealed to me was the lovely Petit Point by the Stockport born composer Peter Hope. Now, I have family connections with Manchester, Stalybridge and Stockport, so I decided to listen up!

Peter Hope told me that Petit Point was composed in the dying days of the era of light music. The score is dated 1962 at a time the Fab Four were just beginning to step into the limelight. On the other hand, Michael Tippett’s opera King Priam had been performed and Francis Jackson’s Intrada had been given its first performance in York.

Petit Point was probably not meant to be a piece of concert music, being heard in its own right, but was most likely designed to be library music. This was music which would be used by documentary and film producers to musically illustrate events, actions or imagery. It meant that music did not have to be composed specifically. As such it was published and recorded by Mozart Edition.

Of course in recent years there has been a revival of interest in light music, and Peter Hope has been fortunate in having most of his orchestral works issued on CD. He is definitely best known for his attractive and evocative Rings of Kerry Suite. However event he briefest of glances at the catalogue reveals quite a few other interesting titles. These include the Mexican Hat Dance, a piece called Kaleidoscope, the Scaramouche Overture, the Momentum Suite and the French Dances. All these pieces are worthy contributions to the repertoire – be it 'light' music or otherwise. Of course Hope has a serious side. There is an excellent Bassoon Concerto and some very interesting chamber music, including the Bramhall Hall Dances and a number of fine songs. The composer is working on a setting of verses from the Song of Solomon for baritone, choir and orchestra and also an Oboe Sonata in memory of Lady Barbiroli. But much more about these another day.

Petit Point opnes with a quiet gentle opening, after which the the harp introduces what is a truly lovely and graceful tune. There are comments on this melody by the flutes and other woodwind instruments. There is a slightly more insistent middle section before the main melody returns on the strings. This is a simple but well-structured and beautifully orchestrated piece.

Of course, there is no particular reason to suggest that the music has any tangible connection with the art of Petit Point – which is the French for ‘small stitch.’ But the music certainly has a certain air of gentility and graciousness about it that evokes images of a world long vanished. Petit Point is one of those pieces of light music that genuinely makes the listener feel happy and good about the world.


Petit Point is available on British Light Music Festival ASV CD WLZ250

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