Monday, 29 March 2010

Bluebell Klean: Concert of her Music at the Bechstein Hall 15th June 1914

To my knowledge there have only been two concerts devoted to the music of Bluebell Klean. I would be grateful to hear of any more. Both were held at the Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall. The first was on Tuesday 13th November 1906 and the second was Monday 15th June 1914.

The 1914 concert was a genuine retrospective of Bluebell Klean’s music. In fact, every work played was composed by her. The main event of the evening was her important Piano Quintet: the rest of the concert comprising selection of songs and piano pieces. Unfortunately for the musical historian virtually none of these works appear to have survived: COPAC, the library search engine locates only two published pieces. There is no indication (as yet) where the manuscripts, sketches and correspondence have disappeared to. So any evaluation of the concert has to depend on the one or two contemporary reviews.

The performers at that concert were the composer herself playing piano, Madame Ada Crossley, contralto and Miss Xenia Beaver, soprano. The members of the string quartet were the Misses Miran Lucas, Beatrice Eveline, Helen Gough and Dorothy Jones.

The evening began at 8:15pm with two Gavottes – one in A minor (a ‘premiere’) and the other in C minor. Both works were played from manuscript copies for this performance. A reviewer noted that the “spirit of the gavotte (varied considerably in character, and [two played tonight] illustrate two phases of ‘The stately measure of olden day/In which December would dance with May.’
The next part of the concert consisted of three songs sung by Xenia Beaver. ‘Thy Gift’ from the pen of Robert Mortimer was first and this was followed by ‘The Heart of a Rose’ and ‘A Stolen Kiss’ by Harold Simpson. The first and the last are unpublished and were first performances. Ada Crossley sang Klean’s setting of Longfellow’s ‘O gift of God! O perfect Day.’

The highlight of the evening was the Pianoforte Quintet in C minor, for piano, two violins, viola and violoncello. This was a large-ranging four-movement work that would surely be a desideratum for all British chamber music enthusiasts. I have posted the programme notes for this work on my blog.
After the interval, Miss Beaver sang ‘Longing’ to words by Florence Hoare, ‘Your Eyes’ by Rabindranath Tagore and ‘The Water Sprite’ to a text by Lady Alix Egerton. Once again the first two songs were from the holograph and were first performances. The penultimate part of the recital was ‘Fair Flower of Life’ and ‘Rose of the Morning’ with words by Robert Mortimer and ‘A Fancy from Tontenelle’ by Austin Dobson.
The evening concluded with three piano pieces. The Humoresque in G which ‘is a good thing for music that it can be humorous, for humour is the salt of art, and keeps it fresh and sweet.’ This was followed by a Cavatina, which ‘is a song the words and intent of which are best supplied by the imagination of the listener.’ And finally Bluebell Klean played a new Scherzo in B minor. The programme note commented that ‘it has been accepted that “brevity is the soul of wit."’ The meaning of the word ‘Scherzo’ is a joke. Miss Klean’s Scherzo is short [!]
Only ‘A Fancy from Tontenelle’ and the Humoresque appear to be in print, and are available for inspection in the British Library.

The report of this concert was elaborated by Marion Scott and Katharine Eggar writing in The Music Student:-
'A Quintet for the usual allotment of strings and piano, and of more than usual merit, is that by Bluebell Klean. This work has already been heard several times in London, and is both vigorous and agreeable. The first movement opens in virile manner, and its themes are handled with great freedom of style. The second movement, Air Varié, is slightly ‘ordi¬nary’ in its conception, but the extremely vivacious Scherzo is a brilliant movement, very well laid out for all the instruments. The Finale, though of very good ‘finalé’ character at its start, suffers a little from diffuseness, .and from disconnectedness in its very relationships; but the whole quintet is spontaneous, thoroughly musical, and, again to use that unsatisfactory word, most "effective."'
The Music Student Chamber Music Supplement July 1914 p.97 [with minor edits]

The Observer newspaper also picked up on this concert and a short review stated that 'In offering her compositions for criticism Miss Bluebell Klean at her concert in the Bechstein Hall on Monday evening obviously claimed only the consideration that is necessary to a refined type of drawing-room music. The composer has heard much music of a similar kind, had an assimilative disposition, and is capable of reproducing her acquisitions in an emulative spirit that permits an occasional fresh look on her material'.
June 21 1914 Observer [with minor edits]

1 comment:

Pamela said...

This is wonderful, John. You have brought Bluebell Klean back to life and have made many people aware of her music. You've managed to find photos of her so that we have a face to match with the name. Now if we could only track it down her music and and hear it performed again (and recorded). Well done and a much appreciated contribution to the history of women in music.