Thursday, 27 October 2011

Haydn Wood: Fantasy Concerto for Strings

Most people who know the music of Haydn Wood will do so because they have purchased the excellent Marco Polo recordings of his 'light' music. (Marco Polo 8.223402 & 8.223605.) A previous generation was enthralled by the melody of 'Roses of Picardy' written when the Great War was at its height. Many people remember the theme from the BBC programme Down your Way - the March: Horseguards, Whitehall.

However, before the success of the ‘Rose’ Haydn Wood had been marked out as a ‘serious’ composer. He studied with Charles Villiers Stanford at the RCM. His catalogue includes an excellent Piano Concerto in D minor (Hyperion 67127) that was published in 1947 and a Concerto for Violin from 1933. There was an early set of Variations on an Original Theme which appeared in 1903. Quite obviously Elgar was the ‘model’.
The Fantasy–Concerto started life as a chamber work. Originally produced for the Cobbett Chamber Music Competition as Phantasie in F minor. It was written in 1905. He was successful in winning third prize in the very first of these prodigious competitions. How many works have been composed for this annual event? Fortunately many have survived into the current repertoire. Vaughan Williams, Bridge and Britten to name three.
The original work was composed for string quartet and was dusted down by the composer in 1949. It was recast into a shorter time frame – 14 minutes as opposed to the original 23 minutes.
It is a wonderful piece. Technically involved – demanding a fine string technique from all the players. There is a touch of Elgar here - one is reminded of the Introduction and Allegro; there are harmonic constructions worthy of Delius. I am left wishing that Haydn Wood had written more music in the 'classical' vein - and let it be hastily added that I am a great fan of his 'light' music. For me he is generally on a par with Eric Coates -if slightly more 'old-fashioned'.

Haydn Wood: Fantasy Concerto for Strings can be heard on Naxos 8.555068 It also features on YouTube

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