Sunday, 13 November 2011

Daily Telegraph Orchestral Overture Competition: 1934

Daily Telegraph Orchestral Overture Competition: 1934 In 1934 the Daily Telegraph ran an Orchestral Competition. I guess one can hardly imagine a newspaper, no matter how ‘broad the sheet’ indulging in such an elitist scheme nowadays. However, on April 21st 1934 the results were announced. The first prize (£100) went to Cyril Scott for his Festival Overture, the second (£75) to Frank Tapp for his overture Metropolis and the third (£50) to Arnold Cooke for a ‘Concert Overture.’
It had certainly been a prestigious competition: the judges included Sir Henry Wood, Sir Hamilton Harty, Frank Bridge and Arthur Bliss. The scores were all submitted under a pseudonym and naturally the judges had no knowledge of the identity of the competitors. In all there were 223 overtures submitted.
All three works were performed on Thursday 30 August 1934 at the Promenade Concerts in the first half of a wide ranging programme of music
Alas two of these works have seemingly not survived to the present day – at least they are not in the concert repertoire, nor have any recordings been made of them. Frank Tapp’s wonderful sounding Metropolis appears to have vanished without trace. Cooke’s Overture had its premiere at a concert at the Royal Manchester College of Music when the Hallé Orchestra was conducted by R.J. Forbes, the college's principal. Yet it has now disappeared.
As for Cyril Scott, the winner, his piece is a little bit of an enigma. It originally began life as the Overture: Princess Maleine, after Maeterlinck’s play, in 1902. This work was premiered at a Prom in 1907. It was subsequently revised with choral part in 1912. It was further amended in 1929 and was finally entered as the ‘Festival Overture’ in the 1934 competition. A recording of the work (1929) is available on Chandos.

Three things spring to mind:-
1. What happened to all the holograph scores of these 223 overtures? Were they returned to the composers? Or do they still lurk in an archive?
2. Is there a list of who entered the competition somewhere out there?
3. And finally, it is a pity that the Daily Telegraph does not have a digital archive (like the Times, Guardian, Glasgow Herald etc. do) It would then be possible to explore this competition in a little more detail.
Perhaps some more info will come to light. Meanwhile I look forward to exploring the reviews of the three overtures that are available.


Graham said...

I've always been interested in musical competitions of this sort. The one that has really interested me, though is the Symphony competition that C. V. Stanford entered his first symphony into (It came second.)

I've not been able to find out much about it though regarding who did win and perhaps more importantly what happened to the manuscripts submitted.

John France said...


Thanks for that! I may investigate. But the chances are that the scores have long gone

I too love the Stanford I