Thursday, 15 July 2010

Promenade Concert British Novelties for 1960

In 1960 there were some eleven novelties at the Promenade Concerts: the same number as at the 1910 season. However, I have counted the great Spanish composer Roberto Gerhard as an honorary Briton, due to his refugee status during the Spanish Civil War. From a recording point of view we are luckier than the centenary series for only three of these novelties are not available on CD (Goossens, Searle and Musgrave). In fact, Britten’s Nocturne has not only survived on recordings but is a regular feature of the concert hall and recital room, and the Tippett is still occasionally heard as a part of the fully staged opera. However, most of the other works have only a tentative hold on the musical public’s attention and are probably largely unknown to folk who are not British music enthusiasts. It surprises me that Hamilton’s Scottish Dances does not have a regular place in the concert hall – it is certainly as accomplished and enjoyable as Malcolm Arnold’s set of dances with similar title. In fact, I would have though Hamilton’s work would have made an ideal ‘last night’ offering north and south of the border.
William Alwyn: Derby Day – overture (BBC commission) (Chandos, Lyrita and Naxos recordings available)
Lennox Berkeley: Four Poems of Theresa of Avila (Chandos recordings available)
Arthur Bliss: Pastoral – Lie Strew the White Flocks (Chandos and Hyperion recordings available)
Benjamin Britten: Nocturne (many versions available)
Roberto Gerhard: Violin Concerto (Lyrita recording available)
Eugene Goossens: Phantasy Concerto for violin & orchestra
Iain Hamilton: Scottish Dances (ASV recording available)
Alun Hoddinott: Concerto for piano and wind (Lyrita Recording available)
Thea Musgrave: Triptych – for soloists and orchestra
Humphrey Searle: Poem for twenty-two strings
Michael Tippett: Sosostris’ Aria from The Midsummer Marriage (Nimbus recording available of the aria)

If I could have one of these works played at the 2010 Promenade Concerts, my prejudice would have to satisfied with the Goossens Fantasy, although I also feel that the Gerhard is probably the most important work here. However, there must be a place for Searle’s music and also feel that the Hoddinott would be enjoyed by listeners who are not normally attuned to his music.

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