Friday, 5 March 2010

Montague Phillips: Four Dances from the Rebel Maid

The Rebel Maid is Montague Phillips’ best known work; there are still many people around who have sung in amateur performances of this operetta. It is a work that I have never heard, although I have worked my way through a few of the piano arrangements of the dances. Although it was composed during the Great War it was not until 1921 that it was given its first performance at the London Empire Theatre. It was not an instant success – perhaps more to do with the effects of the coal strike; people were unable to travel into town for pleasure. The best known song is 'The Fishermen of England'. It is interesting to note that the lead role was written for his wife, the soprano Clara Butterworth. The composer extracted this present set of Dances from the work shortly after the first performance - they are Jig, Gavotte, Graceful Dance and the Villagers’ Dance. They are delightful miniatures in their own right. They have all the attributes of good light music: good tunes and contrast between sentimental and gay moods.
Most important of all, the scoring has a lightness of touch that reveals the hand of a considerable master of orchestration. I suppose my favourite is the Gavotte – perhaps because I have known the piano version of this for many years. However, all the dances deserve to be aired a bit more often.
The Four Dances from The Rebel Maid can be hear on Dutton CDLX 7140

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