Friday, 3 February 2012

Dame Ethel Smyth: V for Victory

Harold Rutland wrote the the following anecdote for the Radio Times (1947):-
‘I well remember the first performance of Dame Ethel Smyth’s Concerto for Violin & Horn and orchestra [1] in 1929 [2] which the composer directed herself. Addressing the audience from the rostrum, Dame Ethel informed us that in the course of the work the horn soloist, Aubrey Brain [3], would perform the incredible feat of playing two notes at once. The concerto then went merrily along, but just before Aubrey Brain’s great moment, Dame Ethel turned again to face us, and giving a sign that Winton Churchill has since made world-famous indicated to the delighted audience that the miracle was about to happen.'

[1] Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) The Concerto for violin, horn and orchestra was composed in 1927, near the end of Smyth’s composing career.
The Concerto was performed at the Queen’s Hall, London on Saturday 5 March 1927.  Other works included Richard Wagner’s Prelude, Lohengrin, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G and Miaskowsky’s Symphony No. 6, Op. 23.  Henry Wood was the conductor of all works other than Smyth’s Concerto.  The violinist that afternoon was Jelly D’Aranyi. 

[2] Harold Rutland would appear to have mis-remembered the date. Or was he recalling another performance.

[3] Aubrey Brain (1893-1955) was a well-respected horn player who worked with the New Symphony Orchestra, at Covent Garden and as principal of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, He remained there until retiring with ill-health in 1945. He taught horn at the Royal Academy of Music from 1923 until his death in 1955.  Ethel Smyth wrote her concerto specifically for Brain. Aubrey Brain was the father of Dennis Brain, the horn player who was tragically killed in a car accident in 1957. 

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