Sunday, 19 July 2009

M Mungo-Park: Travelling Along Thirty Short Sudies for Piano

Following on from my recent discovery of Alec Rowley’s piano album called Train Journey, I found another little gem in a second-hand bookshop. This time it is by a composer called M Mungo-Park. Now for people of my generation who were still allowed to have heroes, Mungo Park was the great Scottish explorer of Africa who is credited with being the first white man to see the Niger River. Yet his dates are a wee bit wrong for this music which was published in 1933 by that great Mancunian institution Forsyth Brothers. The explorer died on his travels in 1806.

A web search revealed little about M. Mungo- Park, however I did discover that the composer’s Christian name was Muriel. Nothing else if clear except that she wrote a deal of what appears to be teaching pieces. She seems to have been active between about 1931 and 1948. I guess that she was one of the Forsyth ‘house’ composers who at that time included Leslie Fly, Gladys Cumberland and most famously Walter Carroll. Further biography will have to wait.

Travelling Along is a fine collection of thirty short studies for pianoforte which was “written with the purpose of surmounting a particular technical difficulty”. I sight read them – and tripped up quite a few times. They are not obvious and have a number of little twists and turns designed to catch the over-confident of the unwary. Moreover the foreword to the studies states that these “should be memorised and transposed by ear into all the keys, beginning of course with the easier keys.” Way beyond me and I guess a lot of other amateur pianists!
Technical points explored include rotary exercises, study in five time, arpeggio practice, a modern scale (actually mixolydian) and a legato study on the black keys. Each exercise is given a picturesque title, such as Sad Bells, The Dancing Girl, Spring in a Strange Land and Little White Butterflies.

The work was highly praised by none other than the great Myra Hess: she writes “These are delightful little studies, full of imagination, and instructive both musically and technically.”

However, I guess that is was the fine artwork of the cover that made me part with a pound coin to add this attractive album to my collection of piano music.

3 comments:

Karen said...

Another great find! It is amazing what turns up in used bookshops and antique shops. I have gone through my various reference books and find nothing about Muriel Mungo-Park so it looks like another quest for information about her is called for!! The cover is a gem. Thank you for sharing.
Pam

Michael said...

Just to let you know we still have stocks of this title in the Forsyth publishing department here in Manchester, as well as six other Mungo-Park works. Her 'Alphabet of Exercises' is a classic for beginners and we reprinted it with a nice glossy cover only a couple of years ago! Email us at 'publishing at forsyths dot co dot uk' if you want more information!
Michael

Anonymous said...

I was reading an extract of a wedding certificate for my late Great Aunt. The marriage took place at Somerset House in London and I noticed it was witnessed by a Muriel S Mungo Park and dated 29th August 1923. The other witness was Honor J. Page.