Tuesday, 3 January 2012

1962-2012 – Great British Music reaching their Half-Centenary

The year 1962 was an impressive one for British music. A number of senior composers such as Havergal Brian and Cyril Scott were still producing works of considerable accomplishment. However the new generation were coming to the fore. The Manchester Group of composers, Alexander Goehr, Peter Maxwell Davies and Harrison Birtwistle were flexing their musical muscles. In-between these two poles were a number of more ‘conventional’ composers producing music that was challenging but approachable to most concert-goers. These included Richard Rodney Bennett, William Mathias, Kenneth Leighton and Daniel Jones.
Well-established composers such as Arthur Bliss, Lennox Berkeley, Michael Tippett and Alan Bush were all writing considerable amounts of music.
Readers will note a number of names that appear to have fallen by the wayside: few works by Benjamin Frankel, Iain Hamilton, Elisabeth Lutyens and Wilfred Mellers are heard these days – which is more the pity. I certainly think a ‘Hamilton’ revival is long overdue. Fortunately, Richard Arnell has been reappraised- at least in the world of CDs.
Composers such as Gordon Crosse, Thea Musgrave and Robin Holloway are still actively composing music.
Many thanks to the Eric Gilder and his indispensible Dictionary of Composers and their Music. I have simply presented this list in alphabetical (by surname) order rather that chronological (by composer’s age). Please note that 1962 may be the date the work was composed, completed or received its first performance.
  • Richard Arnell: Concerto for two violins and strings 
  • Richard Rodney Bennett: London Pastoral Fantasy, for tenor and chamber orchestra: Sonata No. 2 for solo violin; Fantasy, for piano 
  • Lennox Berkeley: ‘Batter My Heart’, for soprano, chorus, organ and chamber orchestra; Sonatina for oboe and piano; 'Autumn's Legacy', for voice and piano orchestra;
  • Harrison Birtwistle: Chorales for orchestra (1962-3) 
  • Arthur Bliss: The Beatitudes, cantata 
  • Havergal Brian: The Jolly Miller, comedy overture; Symphony No 20 
  • Alan Bush: The Sugar Reapers, opera; Variations, Nocturne and Finale on an English Sea Song, for piano and orchestra
  • Gordon Crosse: Concerto da Camera, for violin, wind and percussion; Changes, for soli, chorus and orchestra 
  • Peter Maxwell Davies: First fantasia on In Nomine of John Taverner, for orchestra; Sinfonia for chamber orchestra; The Lord's Prayer, for SATB unaccompanied; Leopardi Fragments, for voices and instruments; Four Carols, for SATB unaccompanied
  • Benjamin Frankel: Symphony No 2; Sonata No 2 for solo violin
  • Roberto Gerhard: Concert for Eight, for instruments 
  • Walter Goehr: A Little Cantata of Proverbs; Two Choruses for mixed choir a cappella 
  • Iain Hamilton: Arias for small orchestra; Sextet
  • Alan Hoddinott: Symphony No 2; Variations for flute, clarinet, harp and string quartet; Rebecca, for unaccompanied voices 
  • Robin Holloway: Garden Music, for eight players 
  • Gordon Jacob: News from Newtown, cantata 
  • Daniel Jones: St Peter, oratorio 
  • Wilfred Josephs: The Nottingham Captain, music-theatre; Cello Concerto; Five Fictitious Folk Songs, for woodwind quartet; King of the Coast, musical for children (1962-3)
  • John Joubert: 'Sweet Content', for unaccompanied chorus; Sinfonietta for orchestra; In Memoriam 1820, for orchestra 
  • Kenneth Leighton: Festive Overture; Missa Sancti Thomae, for chorus and organ 
  • Elisabeth Lutyens: Music for Orchestra II; Five Bagatelles for piano
  • John McCabe:  Concerto Funebre, for viola and chamber orchestra 
  • William Mathias: Sonata for violin and piano; Dance Overture; Invocation and Dance for orchestra; Serenade for small orchestra; Partita for organ; All Thy Works Shall Praise Thee, for mixed voices and organ; Variations on a hymn tune for organ
  • Nicolas Maw: Chamber Music for five instruments Scenes and Arias for voices and instruments 
  • Wilfred Mellers: Trio for flute, cello and piano; Cantilena e ciacone, for viola; Noctambule and Sun-Dance, for wind band 
  • Thea Musgrave: Chamber Concerto No.1; The Phoenix and the Turtle, for small chorus and orchestra 
  • Andrzej Panufnik: Piano Concerto; Landscape, for string orchestra;  Autumn Music, for orchestra
  • Alan Rawsthorne: Medieval Diptych, for baritone and orchestra; Divertimento for chamber Cyril Scott: Sinfonietta for strings;  Quintet for piano and wind;  Piano Trio
  • Robert Simpson: Symphony No 3
  • John Tavener: Piano Concerto (1962-3); Three Holy Sonnets, for voice and orchestra
  • Michael Tippett: Concerto for orchestra (1962-3); Praeludium, for brass, bells and percussion; Piano Sonata No 2; Songs for Ariel
  • William Walton: A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table, song cycle 
  • Hugh Wood: String Quartet No 1; Three Elegies, for chorus. 


Paul Brownsey said...


I've just realised that last year was the 300th anniversary of Boyce's birth and you didn't give him a mention. From the Boyce I know, I find him the most substantial and accomplished British composer of that era. I know your speciality is 19th-20th-century composers, but still...

Happy New Year,


John France said...

Thanks for that Paul,

Yes I love William Boyce - especially the Symphonies. Constant Lambert used this music (and bits of the Trios) to great effect in the ballet score 'The Prospect before Us'