Thursday, 10 September 2009

Susan Spain-Dunk: A Note in The Music Student

In Miss Susan Spain-Dunk [Mrs Henry Gibson] we have a composer of real promise, and one who ought to count for something in the progress of women chamber music writers. In her Violin Sonata, her Phantasy for Pianoforte Trio, and her String Quartet in the usual four-movement form, we have music which is the direct result of an impulse toward expression. One feels that something is being expressed-not merely that a structure of notes has been laboriously compiled. The Trio would appear to be the earliest opus, and this astonishes one with the amount of ideas which it contains. There is no question of paucity of material-no flogging of a dead horse, no dressing up of lifeless dummies. Real vital subjects spring into sound and clothe themselves in appropriate technical vesture without appearance of effort. The Violin Sonata is perhaps a little commonplace, a little monotonous in subject; but here again one is glad to notice the nice musical instinct which makes an idea develop naturally, which keeps the music alive and growing. The String Quartet is undoubtedly the best work of the three. Each of the four parts has an individuality, and there is a significance in all the phrases which marks a great advance in musical thought. Points of imitation are made, not because they are "something for the instruments to do," but because they contribute to the musical argument; and other effective details, such as some special treatment of the 'cello or viola, occur, not haphazard, but at the bidding of a refined musical sense. The imagination has been at work all through, and, marvellous to say, the Scherzo shows a sense of humour!

By Marion M Scott - originally published in The Music Student Chamber music supplement July 1914 pp.97-8 [with minor edits]

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