Thursday, 26 November 2009

Stanislaus Elliot: The Bicycle Sonata for the Pianoforte.

I give this review without comment, save to suggest that it would make an interesting and novel revival for some enterprising pianist with a good sense of humour! It is from the March edition of the 1881 Monthly Musical Record.

The composer of this piece, fearing some apology may be needed both for the title and the design, would wish, in place of such apology, to call attention to the fact that the greatest Classical composers have now and then employed their powers in depicting grotesque and comical scenes and actions. And perhaps it were to be wished that composers would use other means than trashy dance tunes and comic songs for the expression of the ludicrous. In the sister art of painting, the greatest men have depicted subjects calculated to affect our sense of the ridiculous, and this, too, in true artistic form and without con­descending to the level of the common-place or trashy. Why, then, should not music artists do the same? This little work is written in the strict sonata (binary or duplex) form, necessarily curtailed in the development of the motives, and yet lays no claim to great excellence either of conception or of treatment, the composer only trusting that it will tend to amuse the hearer without degrading the art.
The common-sense view of the composer will commend itself to all thinking minds. There is no argument why music should not be made to minister to innocent fun, and if all who make the venture are as successful as Mr. Elliot, there is no reason whatever that his sonata should not be the herald of a new era in programme music. The majority of the sentimental devices are already worn out, and sentiment itself can only be made palatable when it possesses an element of humour; a little drollery will go a great way, therefore, in ekeing out and setting off a serious thought. Then let composers work this new vein, and be grateful to the proposer.
The Bicycle Sonata, as music, is by no means bad; it is well written, and quite fulfils all the conditions expected in a sonata. There are four movements. The first, allegro, depicts the Bicyclist's first attempt; the andante displays "his despair and return;" the scherzo, his second attempt; and the final rondo, "success at last." The composer has exhibited a fair command over the demands of form, and knows how to write effectively for the pianoforte, and these, united with his humorous plan, give a particular point and character to his sonata; so that if he be encouraged to make, like his bicyclist, a second attempt, it is not at all likely that he will fail to find a second welcome.

The work was published by London: Duncan, Davison, & Co. But does not appear to have been recorded!

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