Philip Scowcroft describes this as a ‘sparkling’ work; no better adjective could be used. The programme notes tell us that this work received its first performance on 31st July 1934. It is a tone picture of some of the events from A Midsummer’s Night Dream. I suppose that my imagery of this scene is derived from the great fairy paintings by Sir Joseph Noel Paton; this music does nothing to destroy this perception.
There are fairy trumpets at the beginning of the work, somehow metamorphosing into the horn of Oberon. However the Elvish Court soon arrives on the scene – there is a lot of ‘tripping hither and tripping thither.’ The music just bubbles along like a spring stream in spate. There is much fine instrumentation here – especially for the woodwind. It is not quite a moto perpetuo – but it comes close. About a third of the way through this dainty theme gives way to a lovely string tune. For the rest of the work this tune tries to reassert itself but never fully succeeds. There is an interlude where the interplay of strings and woodwind weave a particularly magical spell before a little march takes all before it. Much of this music has a feel of Tchaikovsky about it; it would make an excellent ‘scene de ballet,’ in its own right. The music ends with considerable excitement; quite reminiscent of Eric Coates. Altogether a fine Scherzo that lives up to its promise to ‘depict’ Titania and her Elvish Court.
Montague Philips’ Shakespearean Scherzo -Titania and her Elvish Court can be heard on Dutton CDLX7140