Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Harry Farjeon: Hans Christian Anderson Suite

I often come across clippings of reviews of pieces that are tantalizing: I would love to hear these works and wonder if they will ever be revived. With the case of Harry Farjeon, it is not only this Suite that needs reappraisal, but the entire repertoire of the composer himself. However, one can but hope the score of the Hans Christian Anderson Suite turns up one day and some enterprising conductor chooses to give it an airing.

The Westminster Orchestral Society (London) performed on March 21 a new orchestra suite Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales [i]by Harry Farjeon, a son of the novelist. Mr Farjeon, who is quite a young fellow, has carried everything before him in the schools, where he has learned pretty well all they can teach him. His ‘Hans Andersen suite reveals gifts of melody and of humour which cannot be taught. The latter is, perhaps, the rarest of all qualities in a musician.
The promise given in the operette, 'Floretta[ii] played last year at St George’s Hall was redeemed by the performance of the young composer’s orchestral suite in which the spirit of four of Andersen’s tales – ‘The Little Tin Soldier,’ ‘The Nightingale,’ ‘The Mermaid,’ and ‘Big Klaus and Little Klaus’ –is felicitously illustrated in music.
The quaint touch with which ‘The Little Tin Soldier’ positively made me laugh, and it is not many musicians who can do that. Mr. Farjeon knows how to be funny in music, and his suite shows that he also has a pretty fancy. His ‘Hans Andersen’ ought to be popular, and ambitious, will find it neither too unpretentious nor too magisterial a work for them to grapple with.

New York Times 29 April 1900

[i] I believe that the score was never published. The manuscript may be gathering dust in an archive somewhere!
[ii] Floretta : Opera in Two Acts / Libretto by Eleanor Farjeon ; First performance at St. George's Hall, on Monday July 17th 1899 produced by Mr G. H. Betjemann

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