Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Patron’s Fund Rehearsal: works by Gurney, Dunhill, Morris, Bradford and Fogg.

I recently came across a copy of this review by Marion M Scott in the Christian Science Monitor. It bears posting here with minimum comments. However it is important to note that the The Patron’s Fund Rehearsal was organised by the Royal College of Music to give young composers an opportunity to hear their orchestral scores played by a competent, professional orchestra. It is an area of musical history that bears exploration. Two of these works have been recorded and two remain unheard in our generation. It would be good to know if the scores of the Bradford, Fogg and the Morris survive.

The following pieces were played:-
War Elegy Ivor Gurney
Novellette for orchestra R.O. Morris
Symphony (last movement) Thomas Dunhill
Foxtrot for twenty-six players Hugh Bradford
The Golden Valley: a Chinese Suite 1) Moonlight on the Pagodas of Llisang 2) In the Porcelain Pavilion 3) Summer on the Terraces of Kou-Sou 4) Lanterns Eric Fogg

The Patron’s Fund Rehearsal which took place at the Royal College of Music in June 16 proved to be one of the best that has been given for some time. Adrian Boult was conductor-in–chief, the new Queen’s Hall Orchestra supplied the band and five new works were rehearsed. They were a hopeful crop of compositions. Though none was impeccable, the general level stood high, and their virtues were positive as well as negative. On the negative side they were free from the turgid thought, motiveless emotion and inordinate length which have so often weighted down both music and listeners at these rehearsals previously. On the positive side they were sincere, purposeful, and often illuminated with real beauty. Each had something distinctive about it; all were different.
The first, a War Elegy by Ivor Gurney, is comparatively short but produces an impression of great aims. The themes are heartfelt and sincere, their treatment is grave and sensitive, and the opening and closing sections of the work are eloquent. Toward the middle, the music loses its grip and wanders around rather than holds the direct onward flow. It will probably gain by being rewritten.
In R.O. Morris’ Novelette for orchestra, one detects the hand of a composer habituated to all the colours of the orchestra and fastidiously sparing in their use. There is indeed a curious affinity between his literary and musical styles, for the critical faculty pervades both. In the Novelette the melodies seem like folk tunes set forth delicately in austere tones by the woodwind. The harmonic problems that arise from the progression of the parts are solved with the taste of a gentleman and a scholar: and the whole effect is pleasing, reflective, and refined, with just a tang of acerbity.
Only one movement, the finale, was played from Thomas F. Dunhill’s Symphony. Referring in memory to the earlier portions of the work, played at previous rehearsals, one would judge this to be an admirable conclusion. The fact that the subject matter has some links with the type favoured by Parry need not spoil its cheery charm. The orchestration seems over-rich; its effect is almost overpowering in a resonant hall.
A Fox-Trot for 26 players by Hugh Bradford proved a lively and well-managed affair. While it would obviously not have been written if Darius Milhaud had never done his Cinema Symphony, it stands well upon its own merits. The composer exhibits a real and unusual ability to think in long dance rhythms. The fox-trot is in two keys at once- one presumes to represent the partners- and they are cleverly opposed. The work is both audacious and delightful and the composer made a decided hit with it.
Eric Fogg’s Chinese suite, called The Golden Valley, is lacking in continuity. As a succession of queer experiments in orchestration, however, there is quite a lot to be said on its behalf. If the composer develops ideas later on he will know how to use them.

Marion M. Scott The Christian Science Monitor July 16 1921.

5 comments:

Pamela said...

Gurney's War Elegy has been edited by Philip Lancaster and Ian Venables and is now available on the Dutton Epoch CD The Spirit of England, featuring Elgar's title work along with Frederic Kelly's moving Elegy in memory of Rupert Brooke, and Lilian Elkington's evocative Out of the Mist a tone picture that portrays the arrival of the ship carrying Britain's Unknown Soldier home from France. An excellent CD with tenor Andrew Kennedy and soprano Susan Gritton.

Pam

Mathias Richter said...

John,
according to this interview with Martin Anderson, R.O.Morris's complete orchestral works have been recorded for Toccata Classics:
http://mstation.org/martin_anderson.php
Perhaps you may ask him for details!

Pamela said...

When I gave a copy of this review to Martin some years ago, Morris's Novelette was not listed among his known works and Martin had not heard of it. I don't know if he was able to track it down.

Pam

Mathias Richter said...

That's sad. To me the title (Novelette)sounds more like a piano piece. Maybe an orchestration? (Just an idea...)

John France said...

Hmmm
Yes Mathias, that does seem like an idea!
Thanks