Monday, 27 September 2010

Muriel Herbert: ‘Fountains Court’ – a song to words by Arthur Symons

I recently received a copy of an unpublished review by Marion M. Scott from her biographer Pamela Blevins which she felt would be of interest to me because of a reference to Muriel Herbert. Last year I wrote a major essay about Herbert’s music for the Maud Powell Society Journal Signature and also a review of a CD dedicated to her songs. Muriel Herbert largely wrote for voice and piano, however there are a number of instrumental works in her catalogue, including two unpublished violin sonata and a piano sonata.
However, what I was not aware of is that she also set at least one of her songs for chamber orchestra. In a small part of Marion Scott’s review she notes that, ‘In a handful of new songs with orchestral accompaniment, the “Aubade” by Elizabeth Poston and “Fountain Court” by Muriel Herbert stood out from the others by their freshness of view and sincerity.’ This was performed at a concert held on June 14, 1926. One other work played at that concert at the New Chesil Galleries, Chelsea was Dorothy Howells’ Nocturne.

In Fountain Court by Arthur Symons
The fountain murmuring of sleep,
A drowsy tune;
The flickering green of leaves that keep
The light of June;
Peace, through a slumbering afternoon,
The peace of June.

A waiting ghost, in the blue sky,
The white curved moon;
June, hushed and breathless, waits, and I
Wait too, with June;
Come, through the lingering afternoon,
Soon, love, come soon.

The Musical Times reviewer notes that ‘‘Fountain Court’ is ...atmospheric and fairly successful in catching the feeling of a hot, still afternoon. One or two harmonic commonplaces rather detract from its effect, but it is on the whole a musical and sincere little work.’ The Musical Times October 1, 1927

I have seen a copy of the piano versions of this song, which was published by Elkin & Co. In 1927, however it came as a surprise to me that there is an orchestral version. What undiscovered treasures remain, indeed!

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