Monday, 16 February 2009

Paul Carr: Air for Strings

It is often not easy to evaluate whether a piece of music should be classified as ‘light’ or otherwise. In fact, it can quite difficult to define exactly what we mean by ‘otherwise’. For example, are Mozart’s Divertimentos or Schubert’s Ländler ‘light’ or are they ‘art’ music? I guess that most critics would be appalled at attaching such a ‘demeaning’ label to Wolfgang or Franz. Yet I believe that much of their music is not designed to be anything other than entertaining. These are not works that are storming the gates of heaven! However, the man or woman on the Clapham Routemaster would probably say - if they knew about such things - that Eric Coates wrote ‘light’ music. And so did Robert Farnon, Sidney Torch and Trevor Duncan. They would almost certainly deny the honour to Elgar or to Vaughan Williams, who they would imagine were perpetually serious. However, the cognoscenti know that both of those composers wrote a deal of music that does not challenge the listeners understanding –Mina, Salut d’Amour, the English Folk Song Suite and so forth. But they are enjoyable and minor masterpieces in their own right.

Now where does his leave Paul Carr’s fine Air for Strings? It has been recently released on an album entitled ‘Light Music Premieres – Volume 5’ by Dutton Epoch – so a definition seems to have already been established – at least in Dutton’s mind. I contend otherwise. Even on the least attentive hearing of this work, it reveals a mood and a style that approaches the depth of Samuel Barber’s ubiquitous Adagio for Strings. And I am not exaggerating to make a point. Paul Carr’s work is profound music that is quite capable of deeply moving the listener and bringing a genuine tear to the eye. It is ‘art’ music at its best – and serious to boot. The listener experiences the sense of deep loss and perhaps even of tragedy. And for the record, let us just say that the emotional and historical background of the piece was a separation, a splitting up from, a beloved partner…

Please read the full article at MusicWeb International


Can Bass 1 said...

This in indeed a problem (one chiefly responsible, in my humble opinion, for the grossly-neglected status of Sir Malcolm Arnold).

John France said...

I agree. To me Malcolm Arnold is as Eric Morecambe would have said, One of the Greats. Yet the intellectuals at the BBC virtually banned his music.