Saturday, 17 January 2009

Paul Carr: A Very English Music

It is perhaps unfortunate that only three pieces of Paul Carr’s music are listed on the Arkiv CD database. For the record, as it were, these are the present suite, and two pieces for flute and piano, Summer was in August and Three Blue Pieces. I came across his A Very English Music the other days whilst exploring some of the fine, but largely ignored music on the Naxos English String Miniature series. Volume 6 of this collection has some superb works by Gustav Holst, Henry Purcell, Adam Carse and Paul Lewis. But it was Carr’s piece that caught my eye as it were.
Paul Carr has composed a variety of works – including a number of concertos for violin, viola, piano, flute and guitar. In 2003 he had a ‘hit’ with a wind quintet Diverting Sundays which was premièred at the Brighton Festival. Another side of his career is the writing of film and television music –this includes the scores for Lady Audley’s Secret and Being Considered.

A Very English Music is a short work lasting less than eight minutes, and consisting of three contrasting (sort of) movements that epitomise the English scene. Philip Lane writing in the sleeve notes declares that this work is a ‘paean to the English countryside and way of life’. The listener can hardly hear this Suite without feeling the urgent desire to pack their Ordnance Survey maps and thermos flask into the Morris Minor and head for the ‘Open Road’ in search of the landscapes that inspired this music.

The first movement is entitled Cuckmere Haven (looking towards Beachy Head). Those who have visited this interesting part of the Sussex landscape will know how well the music seems to mirror the image of the river and the Seven Sisters. It is a beautifully written piece that manages to convey the impressions of the traveller as they survey the landscape, perhaps from South Hill, Cliff End or even the Goldon Galleon public house at Exceat Bridge!
The Cornish Air is a celebration of the composer’s birthplace. This is surely summer’s day music. Sad and reflective maybe – but rejoicing in the sounds and smells of the English Riviera. Rob Barnett on MusicWeb points out that there are none of the notorious Cornish winds buffeting the calm and serene landscape! It is a beautiful and moving piece –recalling William Lloyd Webber’s Serenade for Strings and also Edward Elgar in places. A minor masterpiece.
Finally the last movement is to do with hunting-The Hunt Gathering. The programme notes suggest that the composer paints a picture of a meet at the Wiltshire village of Laycock. A number of characters gather here –the huntsmen, the horses, the dogs, the saboteurs and even the occasional fox! It is a fine example of composition that is totally at home in the great English tradition of writing for string orchestra.

Paul Carr’s A Very English Music can be heard on Naxos 8.557753


Anonymous said...

Dear John - I just wanted to thank you for your kind review of my"A Very English Music". You obviously have an understanding and love of all things good about England! There was in fact a mistake in the NAXOS booklet, the annual Boxing Day Hunt in the picturesgue village of Laycock takes place in Wiltshire, not Yorkshire as written in the CD notes. I went again this year - it was all very "English" and memorably so!

You might be interested to know that my OBOE CONCERTO (with Nicholas Daniel) and
AIR FOR STRINGS are recently released on the Dutton label - "British Light Music Premieres, Vol.5" (Dreadful title).I think you or anyone else might be interested in the Concerto in particular, which I feel to be one of my better works.The AIR is a passionate lament for strings.

In the meantime I thank you for your very generous and well imagined thoughts on my "A Very English Music" - it is always of the greatest pleasure reading a good review of ones own work, and I don't have many, so thank you!

With all good wishes,

John France said...

Thanks for that Paul...Yes I have heard your oboe concerto on Dutton! And enjoyed it.
I will change the text from Yorks to Wilts as well.