Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Captions (Five Glimpses of an Anonymous Theme): a couple of references

I reported the other day about this tantalising work that I discovered in the programme books of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. As I surmised, there is little 'paper trail' of this work in the ‘archives.’  However Eugene Goossens in his fascinating autobiography Overture & Beginners (Methuen, London 1951) gives a very brief account of the work’s première at the Goossens Chamber Concerts at the Aeolian Hall, London.  He writes:- 'The programme of the fourth concert was chiefly conspicuous for the first performance of a suite for chamber orchestra entitled Captions, being Five Glimpses of an Anonymous Theme. [Herbert] Bedford perpetuated the theme, and the ‘glimpses’ in the form of variations were as follows:-
Arthur Bliss: ‘Twone, the House of Felicity’
Herbert Bedford: ‘The Lonely Dancer of Gedar’
Eugene Goossens: ‘The Strange Case of Mr. X’
Felix White ‘Lament for a Long-Cherished Illusion
Gerrard Williams ‘Valsette Ignoble’
...and a finale to which, I think we all contributed anonymously. My own variation, which parodied every (up till then) known jazz device, was dedicated to Ernest Newman [1], who loathed jazz, and pretended to see its influence on the contemporary trend of the group. The rest [of the variations] including my own, were all too, too clever, and would probably be repudiated by their composers today.’

Finally I found a review in The Musical Times 1 June 1925. The reviewer, reviewing the Fourth Bournemouth Musical Festival noted that ‘the work called Captions, which was played on April 23, is amusing. It is described as five 'glimpses' of an anonymous theme-in other words, five variations of a simple theme, which are by Arthur Bliss, Herbert Bedford, Eugene Goossens, Felix White, and Gerrard Williams. Arthur Bliss is, as usual, very cheerful, Eugene Goossens brilliantly clever, and Felix White is cryptic and melancholy.’

[1] Ernest Newman (30 November 1868 – 7 July 1959) was an English music critic and musicologist.

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