Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Ralph Greaves: Overture High Halden- a lost work.

At the moment I do not known much about the composer Ralph Greaves. However, I came across this programme note of the first performance at Bournemouth on 23 October 1924. Little critical commentary seems to have been made of this work. Yet the description makes it sound interesting. Maybe the manuscript is out there somewhere. 
If there is any doubt as to how good this work may have been, then consider this. One of Ralph Vaughan Williams' most popular works, the Fantasia on Greensleeves was adapted from the opera,  Sir John in Love and arranged by Ralph Greaves for strings and harp with optional flute(s).

‘This little work has no ‘programme’ in the accepted sense of the word, but was suggested to the composer by the prospect of the Weald of Kent [1] seen from Sutton Hill. In the middle-distance rises High Halden, overlooking the peaceful Weald on one side, and the wide expanse of the Marsh on the other.
The two subjects of the Overture, which may be called ‘Weald’ (First Subject) and ‘Marsh’ (Second Subject) respectively, are designed to portray these two aspects.
The first subject, in 4-4 time, somewhat playful in character, is announced by bassoons, and taken up by the strings. The rest of the orchestra soon joins in; the subject is discussed and enlarged upon briefly, a short link then leading to the second subject.
This is given out by four horns in unison, in 3-4 time, to the accompaniment of spread chords on the strings. This, in turn, is taken up and elaborated by the full orchestra, in the course of which the first subject is introduced contrapuntally by celli and basses. A sudden pause is made, and then the first subject is recapitulated. A short working-out follows during which the second subject is heard given out in augmentation by the trombones. Just before the end there is a moment of calm, the celli and basses doing a muttering pizzicato figure against sustained chords on the horns. The work ends with a prolonged crescendo trill on the full orchestra’.  

Footnotes
[1] Thirty miles south of London and half way to the South coast of England lies an area of outstanding natural beauty combined with a fascinating history called the Weald.  This was, to the Saxons of 900AD, part of Andredesweald (the forest of Andred the Roman fort at Pevensey), that stretched from the marshes of Kent to the New Forest in Hampshire - 120 miles long and 30 miles wide. The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex encompasses the Lancaster Great Park formed in 1372 and renamed as the Ashdown Forest in 1672. From the Weald of Kent Website

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