Saturday, 8 May 2010

Constant Lambert; Horoscope Suite

One of my Desert Island Discs is Contant Lambert's ballet score Horoscope. I recently found this review on the New York Times and it is worth quoting as it gives a good account of a piece of music that was orginally written for the stage but is equslly succesful int he concert hall.

Constant Lambert’s ‘Horoscope’ suite for orchestra is an arrangement of some ballet music bearing the same title. It bears the stamp of serious and resourceful musicianship on every page. Among British composers Lambert enjoys an enviable and well-deserved reputation based on talents which have been put to the test in many fields. He began to make his name as a composer; he has since conducted important concerts with distinction; his essays in criticism (Music Ho!) have revealed a keen, logical temper and individual outlook. He has thus shown all the qualifications of the modern composer who is expected not only to write music but ot write about music and, if the occasion should demand it, superintend its performance.

This prevailing fashion has historical precedent; but while in the past the majority of composers confined themselves to composition, at present the majority prefers a wider field of action. If it is too early as yet to discover whether the additional tasks of the creative artist have been generally beneficial or otherwise, in the case of Lambert no doubt is possible.
Familiarity with every aspect of concert performances was necessary to make his suite the well-balanced, slick thing it is , as well to resist the temptation to exceed a profitable length and to choose between that which is effective only when heard in conjunction with stage action and music needs no other aid that that of responsible presentation. This is a merit ‘Horoscope' shares with few other suites from ballets.

It is not by any means its only commendation. The musical interest is independent of the story it illustrates; indeed, the story may be ignored altogether, since every movement responds admirably to the aesthetic if not to the academic requirements of a sympathetic compositions.
It is, of course, impossible to foretell how Lambert’s music will stand the test of time and whether it in its composition a just proportion of the only elixir which can prolong life indefinitely – character. But it is most adroitly pieced together and cleverly scored; it runs smoothly from beginning to end; it keeps its interest alive without having to recourse to acrobatics or extravagance.

F. Bonavia New York Times October 16 1938

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