Thursday, 7 October 2010

A Pause for Thought: Some Lost Choral Works

I recently found a copy of Hamish MacCunn’s dramatic cantata The Lay of the Last Minstrel in a second-hand music shop. It is one of the many published by Novello in the distinctive buff and carmine cover.
However it was not this particular piece of music that immediately demanded my attention: it was the list of the Novello Edition of Oratorios, Cantatas, Operas and Masses that take up some eight pages at the back of the score and listing some eight of nine hundred works. Naturally some are famous – many of Bach’s cantatas, Elgar’s contributions to the world of choral singing and Masses by Schubert, Mozart and Palestrina. However it is the dozens of works that have totally and utterly disappeared that interested me. These fall into two main categories – forgotten composers and their music and composers who are still appreciated and listened to (even if only sporadically), but whose essays in these categories have been largely lost in the mists of time. I will give ten examples of this latter category and then list ten pieces by the former composers that seem to promise much.

Granville Bantock: The Great God Pan
Rutland Boughton: The Skeleton in Armour
Samuel Coleridge Taylor: Bon-Bon Suite
Benjamin Dale: Before the Paling of the Stars
Gustav Holst: King Estemere
C.H. Lloyd: Sir Ogie and the Ladie Elsie
Alexander Mackenzie: The Witch’s Daughter
Hubert Parry: The Pied Piper of Hamelin (from many)
Charles Villiers Stanford: The Battle of the Baltic
Arthur Sullivan: The Exhibition Ode

The ten works by forgotten composers are based simply on the attractiveness of the title and not any objective evidence as to their style and musical quality. Hubert Bath is recalled for his Cornish Rhapsody and Percy Fletcher still holds a position in the world of brass bands –but they are hardly household names!

Hubert Bath: The Wake of O’Connor
Hugh Blair: Trafalgar
W.H. Cummings: Fairy Ring
Percy E. Fletcher: Toy Review (for children)
M.R. Foster: Bonnie Fishwives
Alan Gray: The Legend of the Rock-Buoy Bell
J.A. Moonie: Killiecrankie
R. Luard Selby: Summer by the Sea
J.M. Smieton: Ariadne
A.G. Thomas: The Sun-Worshippers

The list could go on and on. I guess that we will never hear these works this side of paradise. But it is a sobering thought to imagine that each of these works and the dozens of others were once deemed worthy of publication. Each and every one of the above pieces must have raised the spirits of their composers.


Anonymous said...

There is a recording of Holst's King Estmere on Hyperion...

John France said...

Yes you are absolutely correct!!!! I will dig it out and have a listen...

...thanks for that...