Friday, 7 October 2011

Some Lost Works by British Composers from 1908

I recently found this review of the Royal College of Music Patron’s Fund concert which was given at the Queen’s Hall on 14 July 1908. Of the composers represented, I guess that Montague Phillips has survived best: at least a recording of the Piano Concerto is available on Dutton Epoch. Paul Corder is recalled for his piano music and Fritz Hart has songs occasionally performed in the recital room. However Emily Lucas, James Lyon and John St. A. Johnson seem to have fallen by the wayside.
Out of all these pieces the ones that I would most like to hear is Paul Corder’s Morar and Fritz Hart’s Overture: From the West Country.

To all musicians who infuse patriotism into their art, the concerts given under the auspices of the Royal College of Music Patron's Fund possess peculiar interest. For one thing they are open to all composers of British birth who are under forty years of age; therefore it is obvious that these performances gauge the artistic status of our younger creative artists.
The past has shown that, with a few exceptions, the works performed have been those of promise rather than fulfilment. This was the case on July 14 [1908] at the concert given at Queen's Hall, albeit several compositions possessed an excellence that merits their performance elsewhere. In one instance - an effective set of nine Variations with finale on a Sarabande by Handel, composed by Dr. James Lyon: this suggested course has been anticipated, since the work had previously been performed in the provinces. A fantasy overture, entitled From the West Country, by Mr. Fritz Hart, should find a welcome in the West of England, for it is built up with genuine folk-tunes of this district, melodies that are treated with a skill which results in the production of an attractive piece. Another orchestral fantasia, called Morar, by Mr. Paul Corder, stated to have been written in the Western Highlands, shows that this young composer is sensitive to surrounding influences, and that he has admirable command of the orchestra; but over-development suggests that he stayed rather too long at 'Morar.'
A Pianoforte concerto in F sharp minor, by Mr. Montague Phillips, cannot claim great originality in melodic invention or construction, but the work shows a keen sense of what is effective, of the right place for climaxes, and an exuberant if somewhat superficial spirit that, with Miss Irene Scharrer at the pianoforte, fully accounted for the enthusiastic nature of the applause it elicited.
Miss Emily Lucas's Scena, 'Maud,' for soprano and orchestra, the words from Tennyson's well-known poem, is interesting as an example of the excellence of the musical training at the Royal Normal College for the Blind. The vocal part of the work is here and there unnecessarily difficult, and it says much for the skill of Miss Gladys Honey that the scena was so well received. More grateful to the singer were 'Songs of Selma,' by Mr. John St. A. Johnson, who shows great versatility in the appropriateness of his music to three poems of widely different style and sentiment.

The London Symphony Orchestra was specially engaged for the occasion. With the exception of the orchestral accompaniments of the songs, which were conducted by Sir Charles Stanford, each work was presented under the baton of its respective composer.
THE MUSICAL TIMES AUGUST I, 1908 (with minor edits)

1 comment:

Meep said...

Thomas Dunhill's diary for 14th July 1908:

Margaret Sale [& I] dined at the Petit Riche, & went to Queen’s Hall . . . to hear the Patron’s Fund concert. We heard some fine variations by James Lyon, & a striking (though very Tschaikowskyan) piano concerto by Montague Phillips (played by Miss Scharrer), & some rather feeble songs by Emily Lucas (a blind girl from Norwood), & an awful thing, called “Morar,” by Paul Corder. Positively awful it was. Dull, & beastly too