Thursday, 21 April 2011

New Edition of Manchester Sounds

Manchester Sounds. The Journal of the Manchester Musical Heritage Trust. Edited by David Fallows and David Ellis. Vol. 8 (2009-10). 272p
Volume 8 (2009-210) has just hit the streets. This fine journal published by the Manchester Musical Heritage Trust is an exceedingly worthy production from a city that is renowned for its musical achievement –both past and present. In fact, it must be one of the best musical journals currently available. It balances musical history and musicology but never descends into a ‘faux’ intellectualism or specious analysis that is only of interest to people writing PhDs!

The range of articles is wide and is not simply limited to immediate events and people in the Manchester area. For example Robin Walker gives a good account of an afternoon spent with Michael Tippett in Oxford during 1977, which was shortly after the first performances of that composer’s great Third Symphony. Peter Davison contributes an important study of Manchester’s reception of Gustav Mahler, including a complete list of first performance and recordings made by the Hallé and other local orchestras. We are reminded that Neville Cardus wrote a fine book about the composer – Gustav Mahler: his mind and his music (1972).

One of the essays that most interested me is Peter Willis on ‘Chopin in Manchester’ – an exploration of that composer’s only concert in the Northern city – at the Gentlemen’s Concert Hall, Monday 28 August 1848. It is a study that I have long toyed with doing myself. But I was well and truly beaten to the post! However, the detail and genuine erudition of this essay is stunning. Any efforts of mine would have been fourth rate. It is essential reading for all Chopin enthusiasts and is a model for future articles of a similar vein.

Perhaps one of the most important contributions to Manchester Sounds is the ‘Catalogue of Printed Works’ by Graham Peel. This has been prepared as part of Rolf Jordan’s forthcoming study of the composer. It makes fascinating reading and reveals a man who wrote a deal more music than the few Housman settings that he is ‘relatively’ well known for. It is surely essential that an imaginative CD company consider a 'collected songs' of Graham Peel – akin to that recently released for Jack Moeran. I look forward to reading Jordan’s biography when it is published; meanwhile there are a few piano pieces by Peel that I can play – including the Valses Piquantes.

Some of the other articles which caught my eye in this edition of Manchester Sounds include an overview of Graham Peel’s life by Caroline Densham (is this really Peel on page 129?), John Turner and David Lasocki consider the work of Joshua Collinge/Collins, an Eighteenth-Century Mancunian Woodwind Maker and an important study of the ‘compositional worlds’ of David Ellis and Sir John Manduell by Anthony Gilbert. Ernest Tomlinson, who is well known for his major contributions to the world of ‘light music’ as a composer, performer and historian present aspect of autobiography of a young ‘North County composer.

There are the usual offices reviews and a list of ‘First Performances in the Greater Manchester. The book reviews include a memoir about Sir Neville Cardus by Robin Daniels, Charles Halle: A Musical Life by Robert Beale. Important CD release considers include the Dutton Epoch Concerto Lirico by Thomas Pitfield and the Chandos showcase of music by Edward Gregson.

Included in this volume is a CD interview with the Master of the Queen’s Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies made on 26 November 2009. Alas, I was unable to get my CD player to ‘track’ it. However I am assured that this is an impressive tour de force that ranges across many subjects including his 1960’s compositions, his involvement with the musical grouping New Music Manchester, his public role as Master of the Queen’s Music and the ‘problems facing young composers in the twenty-first century’. It would be a pity if this interview is only heard by readers of this journal – it would appear to be an important addition to the musical history of Great Britain.

This is an excellent magazine which promotes music from the Greater Manchester area. By and large every article is a major contribution to the scholarship of this area. It is a journal that will be referred to again and again by musicologist and music lovers wherever they live.

Manchester Sounds is published by the Manchester Musical Heritage Trust and copies are available from Forsyth Brothers Ltd. 126, Deansgate, Manchester M3 2RG. Price £10-00

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