Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Gustav Holst: A Research and Information Guide Mary Christison Huismann


To many lovers of classical music Gustav Holst is the composer of just one work- The Planets: to coin a deprecatory phrase used on Classic FM, he is ‘a one hit wonder.’ Alas, even enthusiasts are probably familiar only with a small portion of his massive catalogue of music. In spite of the enormous popularity of his defining masterpiece, the vast majority of music-lovers know comparatively little about his life and work.  Unfortunately, Holst has suffered neglect compared to his peers in both scholarly and ‘popular’ circles.  The preface to Mary Christison Huismann’s Gustav Holst: A Research and Information Guide suggests that this may be because either he did not found a ‘school’ or that he was a poor ‘self-publicist’.  As detailed information about Holst is likely to be well hidden in archives, both paper and digital, a guide is needed to assist with exploration of this material: Huismann’s book is an ideal companion to this search.

This book is not going to be purchased by the average classical music enthusiast: it is written, I believe, for two types of reader: the academic embarking on a major thesis, dissertation or monograph about the composer and his music, and the ‘populariser.’ By this, I mean the critic, the programme note writer or the scribblers of articles for the musical press and web pages. The ‘populariser’ may not have the resources available to someone studying at Harvard or Oxford. Information can be hard to track down: visits to the major libraries can be expensive and are likely to be infrequent. Instant access to Music Index, the RILM Abstracts of Musical Literature or the International Index to Music Periodicals may not be possible. He or she might be working at home or writing their thoughts on a train. What Huismann has achieved is to do much (but not all) of the searching in the archives for the researcher: they can then spend time following the clues rather than finding them. 

The present book is one of a series of ‘Research and Information Guides’ that have been published over the last couple of decades. These include a wide-range of composers and genres. Certainly the British music enthusiast has been well served by the volumes dedicated to Frederick Delius (2009) – also by Huismann, Benjamin Britten (1996), William Byrd (2005), and Edward Elgar (1993). Other publishers have provided similar material – one thinks of the ‘source books’ for John Ireland, Alan Hoddinott and Alan Bush, published by Ashgate Publishing. Then there are the excellent Bio-Bibliography series from Greenwood, which include volumes on Gerald Finzi, Frank Bridge and Alan Rawsthorne. All these volumes feature their own particular formats, which are largely reflected between books in the series. All are essential tools for anyone interested in these particular composers.

While the literature for Gustav Holst is relatively sparse –compared to a Mahler or an Elgar –it is of excellent quality. Anyone wishing to begin serious study of the composer could do worse than start with Michael Short’s Gustav Holst: The Man and His Music OUP 1990. This is currently out of print. In conjunction with this, Imogen Holst’s A Thematic Catalogue of Gustav Holst’s Music, Faber 1974 and Short’s Gustav Holst, 1874-1934: A Centenary Documentation, White Lion Publishers, 1974 are essential. For musical analysis, the reader may turn to Imogen Holst’s The Music of Gustav Holst 1951, revised 1986, or Holst's Music: A Guide by A.E.F Dickinson and Alan Gibbs, 1995. Most of these books have a bibliography and references to material needed for further study. However, the ‘catalogue’ and ‘documentation’ were written more than 35 years ago. In the succeeding years much (but not enough) has been written about Holst in particular and British music in general. This era has seen the advent of the Internet, with all its potential- good and bad. Music is now heard digitally and not on vinyl. Many works by the composer are available to the listener that would have been beyond their wildest dreams more than a third of century ago. The time had come for a major updating of all this information: Huismann’s book has provided wide-ranging bibliographical information about Gustav Holst up to the end of 2009 –with a few later inclusions.

Gustav Holst: A Research and Information Guide is presented in three principal parts. The first section is biographical, the second is the heart of the work and contains the bibliographical material, and the third section is the discography.
The core of the book is preceded by a preface, which sets out the purpose and scope of the book. This is important, as it could be very easy to expect something from the volume that it was not intended to deliver. For example, Huismann states that there are no references to CD or LP liner or sleeve notes, the newspaper reviews are limited to those easily available in ‘reprint or electronic format’ which in practice means The Times, the New York Times and the Manchester Guardian.

The first section has a mini-biography of Gustav Holst. This is followed by a chronological table marking important events and compositions. Huismann has included a ‘List of Works’ which is based on the above-mentioned Thematic Catalogue. It is presented by genre: - ‘Dramatic works’, ‘Orchestral and band works’ etc. This includes the Opus number where provided, the ‘H’ number, the dates of composition and revision, and finally the reference to the Collected Facsimile Edition where appropriate. I would have rather had a little more discrimination in these lists – for example, ‘Ballets’ and ‘Incidental music’ separated from ‘Operas’ and ‘Concerted works’ from ‘Orchestral’. Included in these entries are the ‘Early Works’ (Horrors), incomplete and fragmentary sketches and finally Holst’s arrangements of other composer’s music.  This is rounded off with an alphabetical listing of works.

The main part of the book, some 168 pages out of 264, is devoted to the bibliographical references. This is ordered in a comprehensive manner and covers virtually every aspect of Holst’s life and works. It is worthwhile noting some of these headings.
Gustav Holst was not a litterateur, but he did write a number of articles for periodicals. Perhaps the most elusive are ‘The Education of a Composer’ published in The Beacon in 1921 and ‘The Mystic, the Philistine and the Artist’ that appeared in The Quest in 1920. Fortunately, this was reprinted in Imogen Holst’s now out-of-print biography of her father. More significantly are the published lectures delivered by the composer to a wide variety of institutions, including Yale University and The Musical Association.  Letters and journals are referenced, although I could not find any location for Holst’s personal diaries. The only allusion is to A Scrap-book for the Holst Birthplace Museum, which contains facsimiles of a number of diary entries.
Other useful source materials noted include listings of archives such the Holst Museum and the Holst Foundation collections. The location of the composer’s holographs is also given. A section on art and photographic images of Holst and his family will be helpful for writers and publishers.

The next major section is devoted to ‘Holst’s Life and Works.’ There is a comprehensive review of biographical sources, including dictionaries and encyclopaedias. This is then followed by the main monographs on the composer’s life. Interestingly, Josef Holbrooke’s chapter in his Contemporary British Composers is not mentioned. Further subdivisions include studies of Holst’s childhood, his death and burial and obituaries.  Family members, friends, colleagues and places associated with the composer all have their sub-sections.
The composer’s career is given considerable coverage, with categories on ‘Holst as Trombonist,’ ‘Holst as Teacher’ ‘Holst as Conductor and finally as a ‘Composer’. An important section is devoted to articles presenting his musical context with citations on ‘Early English Music’, ‘Folk-song’, ‘Literature’, ‘Socialism’ and ‘Orientalism’. There are references to assessments of the composer’s reputation and his music, his compositional style and his working process.

The section of the bibliography devoted to the musical works is divided into two parts.  Firstly, there are ‘Genre Studies’ and ‘Studies of Multiple Works’ which include histories of 20th century music containing sections on Holst, journalism such as Havergal Brian’s and Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music.
The second part presents bibliographical ‘plus’ references for a large number of the composer’s works. For example, the fine First Suite in E flat (H105) has six separate sub-sections – Monographs & Chapters, Articles, Reviews, Dissertations and Thesis, Scores and Videos. The only actual ‘review’ of the Suite cited is found in the September 16 1920 edition of The Times which many people will have on-line’ at their local libraries.  Most of the other articles are contained in dedicated journals such as the Instrumentalist and the Music Educator’s Journal which are probably not on-line but available in University libraries. It was not difficult to find a number of other references to this work in the Musical Times and other magazines and newspapers, but I guess that a subjective decision has to be made somewhere as to what to include, and due to space limitations, omitted. Interestingly both the entries for the ‘scores’ are web-based resources.
However the very next entry in this section is for the relatively minor ‘Part-songs’ (H48): in this instance there are only two references – both in the Musical Times. Therefore, there is a considerable disparity in the citations given for individual pieces.
There is also an imbalance of content for the major works. For example, there is only one reference each for Beni Mora, the Brook Green Suite and the Lyric Movement. The Planets not surprisingly has 66!
I was surprised that there is no bibliographical reference to the delightful Japanese Suite (the Boult recording is noted, however). King Estmere seems to warrant no dedicated citations, apart from the choral score being available on-line at the Petrucci Music Library, even though there were important reviews in The Graphic and the Musical Times.
The bibliography of individual compositions is certainly not as comprehensive as John Dressler’s fine volume on Alan Rawsthorne. When I looked up Rawsthorne’s Concerto for String Orchestra in Dressler’s Bio-bibliography I found some 55 citations. In the present volume, the St Paul’s Suite earns a mere eight references. To be fair there are another 10 citations to this work in other sections of this book.  

The final part of the book is the discography. It has been ‘designed to pick up from where the comprehensive discography compiled by Eric Hughes leaves off’.  Hughes work was published in Recorded Sound No. 59, July 1975 and is deemed to have listed ‘all known commercial recordings of Holst’s music (plus BBC tapes etc.) from the earliest 78rpm through 1974.  Huismann qualifies her discography by suggesting hers is a ‘selective list’ limited to commercially available discs issued between 1975 and 2009: it does not include performance by school groups, ‘music clinics!’ self-issued recordings and streamed audio. This seems reasonable. However, I do worry about the ‘selective’ bit. Furthermore, it would have been good if it had been possible to include Eric Hughes listings – even as a facsimile. I imagine that it might be quite hard for most people to find a copy. I notice that Google have ‘digitalised’ this publication, but it is only available in ‘snippet view,’ which is worse than useless.  Perhaps the copyright laws prohibited ‘full view’?

The book concludes with a comprehensive index, which is divided into three parts. The first is a listing of all the music, in alphabetical order. The second is a general index of names of authors, editors and subjects. Finally, there is a Keyword Index. I find this extremely helpful as it includes a whole host of relevant entries. Some examples are ‘bitonality’ ‘correspondence’ ‘literary sources’ ‘obituaries’ ‘reminiscences’ and ‘Thaxted.’ It is a good place to begin any study of the composer or his milieu.

The book is expensive: £95 is a lot of money by any standards –although Amazon appears to have knocked a ‘fiver’ off the price. The Kindle edition is just shy of £60.  Yet, the sheer volume of up-to-date information makes this book difficult to ignore if one wishes to engage in any kind of ‘Holst Studies.’ It will become the first point of call for all research in the coming decade or so. However, institutions will retain this as a ‘reference only’ book so barring access to the e-book version, all work will have to be done in the library – unless one invests in a copy of this volume.
The book is well bound, printed with a clear type on ‘environmentally friendly’ paper. It is easy to use with the well-thought-out indices quickly guiding the reader to the relevant citations.  
Finally, (and unfortunately) I was unable to find much in the way of the author’s details, save to say that Mary L. Huismann is the Music Original Cataloger at the University of Minnesota.

I do have one huge concern about this book –and many others like it. More and more references to web-based information are included. I looked up one webpage and it had ‘disappeared’. Fortunately, it was possible to find it on the Internet Archive ‘Wayback Machine’ but not everyone will bother to do this. There seems to be a dichotomy here. As more information – journals, newspapers and scores are digitalised, the source documents are in grave danger of being archived, sold off or even destroyed. Let us hope that in 20 years time most of the excellent webpages mentioned are still accessible. The author does suggest that this element of the book is a ‘snapshot’ in time, however, more and more people will expect the web pages to remain as a permanent record. Academia will eventually have to resolve this issue.
Meanwhile, I will be putting this book to considerable use over the coming years: I guess that other people will find it equally worthwhile. In spite of the price, and the reservations noted above, especially about the citations of reviews, this is an essential tool for all who wish to dig deeper into the life and times and music of Gustav Holst. 

Gustav Holst: A Research and Information Guide Mary Christison Huismann
Routledge Musical Bibliographies
Routledge, hardback 264 pages
IBSN 978-0-415-99525-2
£95.00

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Happy 150th Birthday, Fred Delius!

Today, 29th January, is the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Delius. I first discovered this composer back in the early 1970’s on a Decca Eclipse LP. Unlike many people, it was not the First Cuckoo that first impressed me, but the delicious A Song of Summer. This was played by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Anthony Collins. Included on this album was The Walk to Paradise Garden, Brigg Fair and that ubiquitous Cuckoo. I soon discovered that there was another Eclispe record that show-cased Summer Night on the River, In a Summer Garden and the Nocturne: Paris-Song of a Great City.
In 1973, whilst travelling on the back of a lorry to my summer job at a builders yard, I heard the Piano Concerto on Radio Three. It bowled me over. It has remained a favourite ever since.
Five pieces that I have come to love over the years. Any of them could be a ‘Desert Island Disc.’
1.       A Song of Summer
2.       Piano Concerto
3.       In a Summer Garden
4.       Summer Evening
5.       Summer Night on the River.
For anyone wanting an introduction to Delius’ music I could recommend nothing better that Sir Thomas Beecham’s recordings on EMI. The piano concerto is available in a number of recordings including the original version on Hyperion.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Proms 1951: An Old Programme

I always buy old concert programmes if I see them going reasonably cheaply in second-hand bookshops. The other night I found one dating from September 1951.  It makes fascinating reading and provides an interesting resource for anyone interested in performance history.
In those day, the front cover, which was a kind of blue-green, proudly proclaimed that ‘The BBC Presents the Fifty-Seventh Season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts ‘ And 1951 was the year when the Festival of Britain was held in London and all across the kingdom. My programme was for the concert held on Saturday 1 September.
The inside front cover has an advert for Columbia who modestly claim to be ‘the finest name on record.’ The works being advertised were Rachmaninov’s great Suite for Two Pianos, Op.17, Arthur Benjamin’s Caribbean Dance, his Jamaican Rumba and the Mattie Rag, the ‘Popular Song’ from Walton’s Façade and finally Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche suite. They were all played by the husband and wife duo, Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick. They were recorded well before Smith tragically lost the use of his left hand to a thrombosis. The rear cover was a corporate advert for ‘His Master’s Voice’
One of features of Prom programmes at this period were the articles by Alec Robertson entitled either ‘Next Week’s  Music’ or ‘This Week’s Music’ depending on the day of the week: they did not ‘do’ Sunday concerts in those days.  Robertson ‘looks forward’ to an all Brahms night, to Scheherazade, to Delius Sea Drift and Elgar’s Enigma Variation.  He noted that there were only two concertos in this coming week- Alan Rawsthorne’ s Violin Concerto and Lennox Berkeley’s Piano Concerto in B flat.  He notes that both of them have ‘a large misuser of lyricism that betokens ‘warmth of heart not always hitherto apparent in their music, and very welcome it is.’  One major ‘novelty; to be heard was Alan Bush’s Piers Plowman’s Day.  This was a symphonic suite in three movements evoking the atmosphere of three different facets of medieval life as describe by William Langland in his The Vision of Piers Plowman. A work appears to have disappeared from trace – but perhaps more about that in a later post.
Back to Saturday’s concert: the BBC Symphony Orchestra were performing under Sir Malcolm Sargent. The soloists were Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick – hence the advert.
There were six works in the programme. The first part opened with Roger Quilter’s A Children’s Overture with its delightful compendium of well known tunes – ‘Boys and Girls, come out to play’, ‘Dame, get up and bake you pies,’ ‘I saw three ships come sailing by,’ 'Baa Baa black sheep' and 'Oranges and Lemons'.  This was followed by an extract from Verdi’s opera Un Ballo in Maschera.  Cyril smith was the soloist in Grieg’s ubiquitous Piano Concerto in Minor.  The last work before the interval was Tchaikovsky’s Overture-Fantasia, Romeo and Juliet.
At ‘approximately’ 9.5p.m.  Smith and Sellick gave a performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ well-loved Le Carnaval des Animaux for two pianos and orchestra.  The concert concluded wth Ottorino’s delightful realisation of Rossini’s melodies in La Boutique Fantastique. Sargent chose to play the suite, which contained some of the most attractive movements in including the ‘Tarantelle’, the ‘Mazurka’, the ‘Danse Cosaque’ and the ‘Can-Can’.
A very useful page in the programme gave details of forthcoming ‘novelties.’ This included the already noted work by Alan Bush, Ernest Bloch Scherzo Fantastique and Peter Racine Fricker’s Symphony No.1, which was receiving its first London performance.

A list of artists making their first appearance at a Prom makes interesting reading. These include Herbert Downes, one-time principal of the Philharmonia Orchestra, the contralto Kathleen Joyce, the Welsh bass Howell Glynne and the cellist Vera Canning.
Finally, a list of members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra concluded the material in the programme.  One name that sprang out at me was Sidonie Goossens, the harpist.
Moreover, all this information cost the princely sum of 6d (2½p) which I guess was quite a lot in those days. A man’s wage was probably less than £4 a week.  I paid 50p for this fascinating piece of ephemera.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Peter Hope: Geordie Tunes



One short piece that caught my ear recently was the delightful Geordie Tunes for descant recorder and harpsichord by Peter Hope. They feature on a new CD of works by North Country composers released by Prima Facie. The work consists of five ‘straightforward’ arrangements of Northumberland tunes. I am afraid that I did not recognize the first three, however Peter Hope has kindly sent me this list:-
The five ‘movements’ are based on ‘Go to Berwick, Johnny’, ‘Bonny at Morn’, ‘Fairly Shot of Her’, ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ and ‘Bobby Shaftoe’. For many listeners these ‘tunes’ will bring mind the late Kathleen Ferrier: certainly the beautiful ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ for which she was justly renowned. 

The composer told me that the genesis of the ‘Tunes’ goes back to the 1970s when he ‘collected’ a number of North Country folk tunes with the intention of making orchestral arrangements of them.  This work was not realised. Eventually, in 2009 Hope rediscovered the melodies and felt they would make an excellent set of ‘easy’ recorder pieces.

It is fair to say that these pieces are not simple. It is true that there is little development or variation, but that is not the purpose of the suite. Peter Hope has suggested to me that that the invention there is contained in the idiomatic harpsichord part. I imagine that soloists will have to take great pains in any performance of this work.  I remember a well-known musician once telling me an old adage – easy notes hard to interpret: difficult notes, easier to ‘fake.’ It may not be 100% guaranteed, but it serves as a warning.
One reviewer of a live performance has noted that these ‘tunes’ are ‘delightful and unpretentious, these miniatures are utterly charming, and make a fine entertainment, which pleased us all.’ It is a good analysis. 

There is at least two other arrangements of this work. The first is scored for descant recorder, oboe, guitar, string quartet, harpsichord and piano: Hope doubts that the work will be performed in that format again! The second is for descant recorder, string orchestra and harp. The published version is for descant recorder (or oboe) & piano (or harpsichord with optional cello.
Geordie Tunes was first performed on 2nd October, 2009 in Bury Parish Church with John Turner, recorder, Ian Thompson, harpsichord and Jonathan Price, cello.  
Finally, it is no secret that John Turner suggested the title of the work to the composer. It was an inspired choice. 

The Geordie Tunes are available on Recorder Fireworks PRIMA FACIE PFCD010. The work (in its original version) is published by Forsyth’s of Manchester.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Eric Coates: Television March

Eric Coates’ Television March is a work that has not often been recorded. There are some 15 versions of the Knightsbridge March from the London Suite listed in the Arkiv catalogue. I have found four for this work the march dotted around the ‘net. Not all will be easily available. 
To be fair, the Television March is not in the same class as some of the more famous pieces by Coates. It was composed during 1946 at a time when the composer was musing over the idea of writing an operetta.  The March was completed in May of that year and had been specifically composed for the re-opening of BBC Television. It was destined to be the first music heard on the new service. Geoffrey Self notes that the piece was composed in ‘great haste’ as the BBC had given him little notice. He feels that it is one of the ‘least striking or memorable marches.’ 
I rather enjoy this work. For me it is a piece that is bright and breezy. To be fair the trio of the March may not be up to the standard of his later work for ATV. However the piece fairly rolls along. It is probably hard to for any under the age of 70 to imagine what TV must have been like in 1946. But one thing was sure. It was a time of optimism in the world of broadcasting and, in spite of post-war austerity; it was the beginning of a huge adventure. Eric Coates music does contribute to the excitement of the times. 

The Television March can be heard on YouTube [alas the link has been removed]

Thursday, 19 January 2012

John Cranko: The Lady and the Fool / Pineapple Poll


Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
The Lady and the Fool (arr. Charles Mackerras) (1954) 
Svetlana Beriosova, Ray Powell, Ronald Hynd, 
Royal Opera House Orchestra/Charles Mackerras 
Choreographed by John Cranko (1927-1973) 
Studio recording, transmitted 3 May 1959 
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Pineapple Poll (arr. Charles Mackerras) (1951) 
Merle Park, David Blair, Stanley Holden, Brenda Taylor, Gerd Larsen, cast of the Royal Ballet 
London Symphony Orchestra/Charles Mackerras 
ICA CLASSICS ICAD5040

I do not believe that it is the role of the critic to ‘spoil the plot’ of a ballet or an opera whilst writing a review. Even with a work like Madame Butterfly or Sleeping Beauty it would be presumptuous of a writer to assume that all their readers knew the libretto or the ‘book’. However, a few brief observations are probably in order. For example is it a comedy or a tragedy? Does it tell a story or present a series of tableaux? These are questions worth answering. But to give a complete synopsis in the manner of Kobbé’s Opera or Balanchine’s Festival of Ballet is both redundant and unfair. I will confine my remarks to generalisations and concentrate more on the presentation of the story and music rather than the story itself. 
The two ballets presented here are contrasting tales. One, Pineapple Poll, is a gay, light-hearted romp whilst the other, The Lady and the Fool is bittersweet: both are technically comedies. 

It is useful to give a brief thumbnail sketch of the life and career of John Cranko. He was born in Rustenburg in the Transvaal in 1927. From an early age he was interested in dance and movement, developing puppet shows for his friends. His first stage appearance as a dancer was in 1943 in a performance given by the Cape Town University Ballet. After some early ballet training under Dulcie Howes, he produced his first ballet, The Soldier’s Tale. In 1946 he moved to London and worked as a dancer and then as a choreographer with the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, which was the forerunner of The Royal Ballet. 
Cranko is best known for his collaboration with Charles Mackerras in Pineapple Poll although other triumphs included The Prince of the Pagodas to music by Britten and Harlequin in April with a score by Richard Arnell. Other ballets that he choreographed included Onegin based on music from Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons and Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet. However, his activities were not confined to the ballet. He devised a West End revue called Cranks which opened in 1955 and ran for over 200 performances. He died in 1973 after a reaction to a sleeping pill taken during a transatlantic flight. 

The title The Lady and the Fool along with the intelligence that this is a ‘comedy’ probably gives the game away as to the story line. This work was premiered by the Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet at the New Theatre in Oxford on 25 February 1954. However, the original choreography did not satisfy Cranko: the ballet was reworked for Covent Garden and was first given there on 9 June 1955. This is the version presented on this DVD. 
The score that Charles Mackerras devised is based on music from a number of lesser-known operatic works by Giuseppe Verdi. These include Alzira, Jerusalem, I Lombardi and Attila. I confess to never having heard of these operas! 

There is a tremendous danger that this ballet can sink into sheer sentimentality and any interpretation must try to avoid this. Certainly, there is a degree of melodrama in the present realisation, however it does not become overpowering. The tension between the sympathy the audience will feel towards the poverty-stricken clowns Moondog and Bootface who are asleep on a street bench and the antipathy towards the dashing, narcissistic Capitano Adoncino is the basis of any appreciation of this ballet. Any tendency for the ballet to become morbid is offset by the magnificent ballroom scenes where the heroine La Capricciosa dances with her suitors who represent wealth, gallantry and rank. The ‘pas de deux’ between Moondog and La Capricciosa is the highlight of the ballet and is both moving and beautiful. 
The three principals are superb: Svetlana Beriosova as La Capricciosa, Ronald Hynd as Moondog and Ray Powell as Bootface. All the dancers execute their routines with grace, expressiveness, ease and fluency. However the viewer will be moved by Ray Powell’s presentation of Bootface, the clown who does not win the lady’s love. 

Pineapple Poll is a ballet in three scenes or tableaux - all set in Portsmouth. The story derives from ‘The Bumboat Woman’s Story’ which is from one of W.S. Gilbert’s lesser-known works the Bab Ballads. A ‘bumboat’ by the way is a small vessel that is used to ferry stores between the dock and ships at anchor. The score is a glorious collation of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s music devised once again by Mackerras. The tunes are taken from virtually the entire catalogue of G&S comic operas but also include Cox and Box and the Overture di Ballo. As a score, this work quite simply sparkles like freshly popped champagne. Moreover, Mackerras has presented Sullivan’s great music in a form rarely heard - for full orchestra rather than a theatre ensemble. 
Unlike The Lady and the Fool the title Pineapple Poll gives nothing away about the story. However, it does seem to imply comedy. In fact, this is a comic masterpiece. Any viewer will be impressed with the vivacious dancing and the ‘built in’ humour which pervades the work. The three principal characters are Pineapple Poll, a flower seller, Jasper, a ‘pot boy’ from the local inn and Captain Belaye of the H.M.S. Hot Cross Bun. Other dancers include the captain’s fiancée Blanche and Mrs Dimple, her aunt. 
Merle Park is quite simply stunning as Pineapple. However David Blair makes an excellent captain, a role which he created. Stanley Holden playing Jasper raises the audience’s sympathy. 
Two highlights of Pineapple Poll are the captain’s solo dance based on the hornpipe and the general riot on the deck of the Hot Cross Bun when the scratch crew of women are discovered. Pineapple Poll was first seen at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre on 13 March 1951. 

What criticisms of this DVD can I make? Virtually none. However, a silly bit of wishful thinking: would that it had been in colour! The costumes look as if they would have been absolutely magnificent. Secondly, the studio-based performance means that there is a distinct lack of the atmosphere that an audience would have provided. Thirdly, these performances were created for television over half a century ago with all the limitations that this implies. However, it would be totally wrong to use present day canons of set design and lighting to judge their success or failure. For their time and technical limitations they are definitive. 

It is wonderful to have these two masterpieces of balletomania easily available. At present this is the only version of either work on DVD. It may be for a ballet company in the future to revive one or both of these ballets but at present this is a splendid addition to the catalogues. It is not to be missed by ballet enthusiasts, G&S cognoscenti and lovers of obscure but delightful Verdi! 


With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.


Saturday, 14 January 2012

Robert Farnon: State Occasion


With the up and coming celebrations for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee it is a good time to reminisce about music that was written to celebrate other occasions in the Queen’s long and glorious reign. Apart from masterpieces like William Walton’s Orb & Sceptre March and Arthur Bliss’s Welcome to the Queen there are other occasional pieces such as the multi-composer a-cappella choral work A Garland for the Queen and Cedric Thorpe Davie’s Royal Mile: Coronation March. 
Amongst the lesser-known pieces is Robert Farnon’s attractive State Occasion. The work was composed in 1953 and has been heard on a number of occasions. Of particular note was a performance given by The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines during the Royal tour of Canada in 1984. This celebrated the bi-centenary of the inauguration of New Brunswick and also the 150th anniversary of Robert Farnon’s birthplace, Toronto. 
Robert Seeley writing in The Gramophone September 1992 suggests that this is a ‘mock-Waltonian march’ and I guess that this is a good description. However it does not quite have the bite and rhythmic drive of William Walton. Yet as the 2002/2003 Penguin Guide to Classical Music points out that ‘this short work could hardly sound more imperially British, and it is appropriate, if maybe not now politically correct...’ My own view is that if anyone is troubled by the ‘political’ nature of this work (or any of the ceremonial marches) then that is their problem!
State Occasion is rather short, lasting just under or over three minutes. The score suggests that the music be played ‘marziale pomposo’ and ‘marziale con maesta’. Certainly the ‘big’ tune (trio) is worthy of Elgar and Walton. Interestingly Farnon does not reprise this tune, which I feel may be a slight ‘drop off’ as I imagine most listeners will be desperate to hear it again.  
The piece is reasonably well represented in the CD Catalogues, including on Marco Polo, Reference Recordings, Naxos and Guild Light Music. Some of these links have a short extract of the work. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The John Ireland Companion Edited by Lewis Foreman


The John Ireland Companion Edited by Lewis Foreman
The Boydell Press, hardback 74 b/w photographs,34 b/w illus. + musical examples: 568 pages.
£40.00
I have had to wait nearly 40 years for this book: it has been very well worth waiting for. I first came across John Ireland when I was still at school. One of the sixth-formers was performing the song ‘If there were dreams to sell’ as a part of his O-level music practical. Shortly after that, I discovered an old Saga LP that had a good selection of Ireland’s music. I got to know ‘Sea Fever’ and had a friend play to me The Island Spell. I was hooked. However, at that time (1973) there was virtually nothing about the composer in print. All I could find to read (with limited access to libraries) was the Schaeffer interview (included in this present volume) and the relevant entry in the then current Grove. What was lacking was a major biography or study of his music such as A.E.F. Dickinson’s volume on R.V.W. which I had recently devoured.  Over the following years I discovered the somewhat sparse literature about the composer, and was lucky enough to be able to add most of it to my library. More about this literature later.

This Companion ought to have a wide currency. Many groups of people will need to own a copy. Firstly, there are the musicologists, both professional and amateur. There is such a wide variety of historical and critical material in this book that demands to be devoured and understood before any further evaluations of the composer can be made. Secondly, there are the performers: gone are the days that a professional pianist or singer can bash their way through a piece of music without gaining a ‘sitz im leben’ of the work. Thirdly it will serve people who have a passing need to understand some aspect of Ireland’s work. I am not suggesting that every ‘Classic FM’ listener will have this book on their bedside tables, however any enthusiast of British music will find it a helpful compendium of material to improve their enjoyment of the composer’ music. And finally, it will be an essential acquisition for all universities, music college libraries and the larger public institutions.  

One of the key problems with any discussion of the composer’s life and music has been the absence of ‘documentation of Ireland’s early and middle years.’ There has always been a ‘strong suspicion that the companion of his later years Norah Kirby...had sanitised the archive, suppressing letters and documents of which she did not approve’. It is a problem that may never be surmounted.
This present book is not a biography of the composer, in spite of it containing a vast array of biographical information and critical data. That volume, along with an edition of the composer’s letters is still eagerly awaited. The raison d’être of the book is an attempt (extremely successful) to shine ‘a succession of searchlights onto the often hazy Ireland scene, and presenting some of the latest research in the light of performances and recordings of almost all the music.’ Certainly this Companion is a handbook rather than a volume to be read from cover to cover.

One of the earliest contributions to Ireland scholarship was by Joseph Holbrooke in his rather idiosyncratic volume Contemporary British Composers (London, 1925).  Apart from a number of articles in the musical press and the essay in A.L. Bacharach’s British Music in our Time, (1951) the first modern attempt at writing ‘biography’ was John Longmire’s John Ireland -Portrait of a Friend (1969) – this is exactly what it claimed to be, a portrait and not a biography or a study of the music. This was followed in 1979 by Muriel V. Searle’s John Ireland- The Man and his Music which may be seen as skirting around contentious issues: it is to some extent hagiographical.  Two major publications included the John Ireland, A Catalogue, Discography and Bibliography produced by Stewart R. Craggs in 1993 and subsequently updated in 2007. The other major contribution to Ireland scholarship was The Music of John Ireland (2000) written by Fiona Richards. This was the first (and so far, only) study of the composer’s music seen in the light of his life, his character and his times. Finally in 2006 Rachel O’Higgins edited a book of letters between her father, Alan Bush and John Ireland.
There are a goodly number of dissertations and doctoral theses that consider the music of the composer, however these are usually difficult to obtain and are often deeply technical and analytical.
The present volume takes a vitally important place in the relatively sparse bibliographical catalogue of John Ireland’s life and music. Its main value is the sheer diversity of important, learned and often unknown or forgotten writings. The content ranges from newly written chapters by ‘various writers of today’ alongside reprints of material that has already been published but may be hard to locate – even in the digital age. There are plenty of challenging and thought provoking views expressed in this book that will cause the reader to re-evaluate much that they have come to understand about this composer.

There is so much information, discussion, opinion and analysis in this book, written by such an impressive array of historians, musicologists, performers and friends that it is well-nigh impossible to discuss each and every chapter fully. However I will try to give a brief overview of some of the material contained in this book followed by a slightly more detailed description.
The book is organised into five major sections.  Part I looks at the life and times of the composer and his friends and colleagues. Part II considers the musical output of John Ireland. Part III allows some of Ireland’s pupils to discuss their teacher. The next section, Part IV, reprints a number of ‘notable articles’ on Ireland and his music. The final section, Part V is dedicated to a comprehensive selection of writings by the composer, both about his own music and that of other composers and performers.
The main sections of the book are preceded by the usual editorial introductions, acknowledgements and an extremely useful chronology of the composer’s life and times.  The end matter presents an important catalogue of Ireland’s music and a comprehensive discography. Finally, there are excellent indices –both general and of the works. Included in the book is a CD containing historical recordings of John Ireland and his music.

Part I is largely historical and biographical. If I could only read one essay in this book, it would be Colin Scott Sutherland’s ‘John Ireland: A Life in Music’. This would be followed by the same writer’s somewhat briefer study of ‘Arthur Machen and John Ireland.’  It is not possible to fully understand the composer’s music without some knowledge of Machen’s writings.  As Scott-Sutherland remarks, ‘...Machen is not so much an influence as an impact –a catalyst that brought to the surface that spirit of place which Ireland...had felt from quite an early dare.’
Fiona Richards has contributed an impressive chapter on ‘Helen Perkin: Pianist, Composer and Muse of John Ireland.’ It is unfortunate that Perkin is largely remembered only for her connection with Ireland’s Piano Concerto. She had an important career in her own right: it is good that it is recognised here. It may lead to the rediscovery of some of her compositions.
Another key chapter is the dialogue between the pianist Alan Rowlands who is one of the major champions of Ireland’s piano works and the editor. The discussion ranges across the music, the composer’s personality and interests and stories about Rock Mill, the composer’s last home.
I noted above that Murray Schaeffer’s interview with Ireland had been included: it is another good place to begin a study of this volume. The editor has also collected a number of interviews with diverse friends of the composer, including the critic Felix Aphramian, the composer Alan Bush and the Rev. Kenneth Thompson, who was Ireland’s friend and confidant for over 30 years.
The longest chapter in the book is about John Ireland’s relationship with the BBC. Lewis Foreman considers this from the point of view of composer, performer and speaker and his participation in the BBCs musical advisory panel. This is a closely-written chapter with many tables and quotations from letters, but well-rewards study.
Other articles include Freda Swain’s ‘Remembering John Ireland and his World’, a study of the creative relationship between ‘John Ireland and Charles Markes’ by George Dannatt, a short consideration of the composer’s time at Deal by Julie Deller and a look at ‘John Ireland’s Personal World’ from Fiona Richards.
Two interesting essays are provided by the Director of the John Ireland Charitable Trust, Bruce Phillips. The first of these is a discussion of his personal discovery of the composer’s music, his time living at the Mill and his conversations with Ireland’s housekeeper and companion Norah Kirby. The second essay is a helpful, short history of the Charitable Trust and some of the problems associated with Mrs. Kirby’s will.

Part II is concerned with the music in detail. The pianist Alan Rowlands has contributed ‘John Ireland: Some Musical Fingerprints’. Although a wee bit technical this is essential reading for anyone caring to review or comment on the composer’s music. Another advocate of the piano music is Eric Parkin. He provides an excellent overview of the repertoire laced with some anecdotes and recollections of his discussions with the composer.  He also included a useful ‘graded’ list of Ireland’s piano pieces.
Lewis Foreman has collected the programme notes he has written over the years for the orchestral pieces. A similar collection of notes is provided for the major chamber works by Bruce Phillips. Both are extremely helpful to the student and listener.
It is often forgotten that John Ireland wrote an amount of music for the church. Jeremy Dibble explores this repertoire and looks at the works composed for Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, that written at St. Luke’s in Chelsea and also the hymn tunes including ‘Sampford’ and ‘Love Unknown’. Stephen Le Prevost, the Director of Music at the Town Church, St. Peter Port, Guernsey, has given a short article on Ireland’s organ music.

Ireland is probably equally as famous for his songs as for his piano music. In 1973 the late Charles Markes, who was one of the composer’s choristers at St. Luke’s Church, wrote a major essay on the songs. This makes a superb, non-technical introduction to these important and beautiful works. He emphasises the poetic content of the songs, rather than the musical superstructure.  One aspect of Ireland’s music that is usually ignored is the largish number of part-songs. Philip Lancaster has remedied this omission with a good overview of the material. It is to be hoped that these pieces will soon be available on CD.
The well-known baritone, Roderick Williams has made a major contribution to British song in recent years. So it is appropriate that he has contributed an essay on ‘John Ireland and Poetry’ viewed from a ‘singer’s experience. His enthusiasm is palpable he concludes by suggesting the he can ‘think of few better places to start for a singer interested in the English song repertoire’ than those of John Ireland.
Finally in this section Robert Matthew-Walker has given an introduction to the subject of ‘John Ireland on Record’. It is not a discography (this comes later) but an overview. Its aim is not ‘a critique of every important recording...to have been issued in the last one hundred years...but an attempt to trace the more significant achievements of the gramophone in making his art available to the music lover...’     

Part III has two very important chapters by John Ireland’s former pupils. This includes a major essay by the composer Geoffrey Bush from his book Left, Right and Centre (1983). Shorter observations are presented from Richard Arnell, Alan Bush, Benjamin Britten, E.J. Moeran and Humphrey Searle.

Part IV includes two remarkable articles from the author Jocelyn Brooke: there was a mutual admiration between the two men. The first is ‘John Ireland: A Reminiscence’ which is both heartfelt and humorous. The second is a short extract from Brooke’s book The Birth of a Legend, which is a discussion about Ireland and Arthur Machen. Both these pieces are hard to find, as they are buried deep in library archives. Earlier in the book, Brooke’s ‘analysis ‘ of the piano piece Month’s Mind is also given, extracted from his book The Dog at Clambercrown.  
An important analysis of Ireland’s Piano Sonata by the pianist Frederic Lamond is included. It is maybe just a little too heavy on musical examples and light on description, but valuable nonetheless. The musicologist (and composer) Marion M. Scott provides a good review of the Sonata’s first performance by Lamond at the Wigmore Hall.  I am especially grateful for Jack Moeran’s brief introduction to Ireland which was published in The Music Bulletin as part of a series on ‘modern composers’. It is concise, informative and well-written, taking the listener up to and including Mai Dun. However the important essay in this section is by the redoubtable Edwin Evans. This is a reprint of a major two-part article in the Musical Times dating from 1919.
Included in this section are a number of articles, notes or broadcast written or made by John Ireland. Of considerable interest are a small number of programme notes written by the composer. These include the Sonata No.2 in A minor for violin and piano, Sarnia and the Piano Concerto.

Two extremely important features of this book are the catalogue of the composer’s music and an up-to-date discography. The catalogue is presented by genre – orchestra & band, chamber, solo piano etc. and then in alphabetical order.  Details of the published score or the whereabouts of the holograph are also given. Personally, I would have liked this to have been given chronologically, however as the text points out, for a ‘full historical listing’ the reader is referred to Stewart R. Craggs excellent catalogue. In Craggs’ volume the reader will also find details of first performances and a bibliography for each work.  For this level of engagement with Ireland’s music, both books are absolutely essential.
Stephen Lloyd’s discography is a model of its kind. It includes not only currently available CDs but also cassette recordings, vinyl and 78rpm records. It is presented alphabetically by work. The author denies that the discography is exhaustive: it seems to be pretty thorough to me!
I would have liked to have seen a larger bibliography. However the scope suggests that this is only a ‘complete listing of books, pamphlets and thesis’ and a selection ‘of important articles.’ Once again the serious reader will need to refer to both editions of Craggs’ catalogue.

The CD which is provided at the end of the book is significant. There are some 17 tracks exploring a variety of subjects. Perhaps most important are the voice recordings of the composer, including his recollections of Charles Villiers Stanford and his ‘Introduction to Beethoven’. A number of piano works played by the composer are given, including live recordings and piano rolls.  Interestingly, the well-known Sonatina is played by Helen Perkin. After half a dozen songs recorded in the composer’s lifetime on 78rpm’s there is a version of The Forgotten Rite conducted by the composer. Certainly I found hearing the composer speak was quite moving. A great ‘bonus’ to this volume.

Finally, the reader can be extremely confident that this book has been edited to the highest standards. The editor, Lewis Foreman has been the doyen of British Music for many years and has been responsible for promoting and celebrating composers and their music. He is best known for his masterly Bax: A Composer and his Times he has also recently edited the sister publication to this present volume – The Percy Grainger Companion. Equally important is his commitment to the Dutton Epoch recording projects where he acts as an independent advisor and has overseen the production of a wide range of important, but largely forgotten British music. This present volume is a testament to his industry and dedication to his chosen discipline.

This book is a collection of essays, articles and lists. As such it is hardly likely to be read from cover to cover. However the themed nature of the sections makes it an ideal book to dip into and discover new facts, shades of opinion and clues towards the understanding and interpretation of John Ireland’s music. I imagine that most readers will use this book as a reference tool and source book. The indices which allow the reader to track people and musical works through the volume will make this an ideal tool for study of the music. For example, there are some 50 references scattered throughout the book to The Forgotten Rite, one of my favourite Ireland orchestral scores. Following up on these will suggest further avenues of exploration.

The book is priced at £40 which may appear to be expensive. Nonetheless, for an academic book it is actually very reasonably priced. The reader will be completely satisfied with the format and presentation of this book.  The quality of the paper is excellent although the font is just a little bit small. However, this has (probably) allowed more material to be shoehorned into the number of pages. A striking feature of the book is the huge number of photographs, illustrations in the text and musical illustrations. This is a major gallery of material that will hardly be bettered. Only one drop off: the ‘blurb’ issued by The Boydell Press suggests there are only 448 pages - Amazon notes 600: I counted about 568!

This book is essential reading for all enthusiasts of John Ireland’s music in particular and British Music in general. It is one of a triumvirate of major scholarly productions about the composer–the other two being Fiona Richards’ important study and Stewart Craggs’ Catalogues.
Personally I shall enjoy dipping into this book and using it as a reference tool for many years to come. 
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this book review first appeared.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Highlights from the European Brass Band Championships: 2011


Highlights from the European Brass Band Championships: 2011
DOYEN DOYCD285
This compilation of works played at the European Brass Band Championships 2011 in Montreux cannot fail to impress. There is music here for all tastes – from works especially composed for brass forces through to arrangements of well-known favourites by way of a few novelty pieces. Doyen has wisely left audience sounds and applause on these tracks and this adds greatly to the atmosphere of sheer fun and enjoyment that must have been a huge part of the week’s activities. 
There are a number of major brass band works on these discs that deserve attention. The CD gets off to an impressive start with the Swiss composer Oliver Waespi’s Audivi Media Nocte which was one of the set-pieces. It is a complex and invigorating composition that exploits a volatile mixture of ‘virtuosity and lyricism, frenetic energy and calm expansiveness’. It’s a work that will certainly appeal to the brass band cognoscenti. 
The twenty-year old Jean-Selim Abdelmoula provides a dramatic Toccata for Brass Band which once again is perfectly tailored to the medium. It sounds extremely intricate in design and makes a fine test-piece. 

The first CD ends with Edward Gregson’s large-scale Of Men and Mountains. Gregson’s website notes that the piece ‘was commissioned by the Netherlands Brass Band championships for their tenth anniversary contest in Drachten in December 1990.’ The notes continue by setting the work in context: ‘In July the previous year ... [Gregson] and his wife took the Trans-Canadian Railway from Toronto to Vancouver.’ The journey through the Rocky Mountains was the starting point for Of Men and Mountains. Gregson writes that: 'its high peaks and shafts of sunlight breaking through the clouds, its canyons and ferocious rapids made me understand a little more about the majesty of nature and the fragility of humanity. The eternal struggle between man and nature was personified in the building of this incredible railway hence my title (after Blake).' This is a major piece of work that has staked its claim to a place in the brass band repertoire. Complex, diffuse and often impressionistic it is a worthy challenge to players and listeners alike. 

Old Licks Bluesed Up by Torstein Aagaard-Nilsen is a long, multi-faceted piece lasting some 18 minutes. The composer explores a number of Bach-like figurations but brings them very much up to date: a good balance between the past and present. The percussion section is very much to the fore with some especially good passagework for the vibraphone. 

Jan Van Der Roost’s From Ancient Times was apparently inspired by the Franco-Flemish School of the Renaissance – artists such as Rubens, Van Dijck, Breughel and Van Eyck and musicians such as Lassus, Willaert, Ockeghem, Obrecht, Isaac, Dufay and de Monte. However this is not a pastiche of any historical piece: this is dramatic, vibrant music of the first order. Modern it is, with a whole array of brass clichés that are both exciting and technically extremely difficult. This is one of the best brass band pieces I have heard for a while. 
 Turning now to the shorter, but equally effective pieces. I loved Simon Dobson’s The Dreaded Groove and Hook. This cool, groovy, up-tempo, acid jazz piece is just what the doctor ordered. It is music that one wishes would go on for ever. Let us hope that we hear much more from this composer. Stephen Hodel’s Vortex is the most ‘modern’ or ‘avant-garde’ sounding piece presented these CDs, yet even here there are some beautiful and quite moving moments of a more traditional nature. If anything, there is a wee bit of an imbalance between the stylistic parameters of this work. 
 I enjoyed Peter Graham’s Brillante with its nods to British patriotic songs making it a kind of updated brass versions of the ‘sea-songs’. Good euphonium solos here too. 
 There are a number of arrangements of music which are always interesting from point of view of hearing brass instrumentation applied to works derived from a range of genres. These include Howard Snell’s take on an old Swiss melody ‘The Old Chalet’, a rumbustious version of Karl Jenkins; popular Stabat Mater and a fantasy of Welsh songs written by Gordon Langford and Gareth Woods. This piece certainly swings along with a new twist to some old favourites tunes. 
I was not so convinced by the Duo Synthesis who played an arrangement called Gankino Horo and Benediction by John Stevens. This appears to be a marimba/euphonium combo. Although the music sounds good, to my mind this is a long way off being a brass band! Other good arrangements include Cole Porter’s ‘Be a Clown’, a medieval sounding piece called Agincourt Song by John Dunstable, and aptly arranged by Elgar Howarth, The Lonely Maid arranged by Thomas Rüedi, the nimble Pas Redouble by Saint-Saëns as arranged by a certain Bach – I think Michael and not J.S. or J.C. ‘Es Burebuebli’ Goes Strange is a fun piece of the traditional ‘oompah’ type of tune arranged by ‘James’: it would make a great encore at any brass band concert. 
Finally the double-CD concludes with a good pot-boiler: ‘Hawkins’ arrangement of the ‘Finale’ to William Tell. Certainly a piece to bring the house down. 

In spite of the excellent music and fine recordings, this CD gives the listener and the reviewer a number of problems. Firstly there is a lack of dates – for composers and for their music. Both are essential for a good understanding of the music. I do not believe that it should be necessary to spend much time looking for details on the Internet which should be part of the liner-notes or track-listing. Who, for instance are the arrangers ‘Hawkins’ or ‘James’? It would be good to know. Secondly, the designers of the CD package should take note of the fact that the track-listing is in such a tiny font (black on grey/pink) that it is hard for anyone with any kind of sight impairment to read. Over and above this Doyen have overprinted photographs with text. My eyes are not that bad, but I needed a magnifying glass. Finally, after listening to this CD on my ‘hi-fi’ I wanted to import it onto my iPod for further study. However, the details seemed to come up in Japanese! So end of that idea. 
 All this is a pity, for this is a great compilation of tunes that were given at The Auditorium Stravinski, Montreux. I will not suggest that I enjoyed every single track but on the whole it is an impressive series of performances that explore a huge variety of music. It will be essential listening for all brass band enthusiasts.

With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published



 

Friday, 6 January 2012

Neville Cardus on William Walton & British Music


I recently found the following comments about William Walton in the ‘Autobiography’ of Neville Cardus. They are worth posting. In his day, Cardus was regarded as being equally important on the worlds of Music and Cricket. (See the extract from Wikipedia below). His thoughts concern the Symphony in B flat minor completed by Walton in 1935 and the lack of ‘passion’ in contemporary (1946) British music.  

‘As proof that I was not, as Manchester Guardian [1] men in bulk are said to be, a friend of every country but his own I must record here that I welcomed with arms not less open than those of my colleagues the advent of an English composition not debilitated and merely ‘cultured.’ Already in 1931 I had praised Belshazzar's Feast [2] in enthusiastic language: ‘It is certain,’ I wrote, after the first stupendous performance at Leeds under Malcolm Sargent, ‘that nowhere on the Continent of Europe at the present time would one be likely to hear a composition of more convincing power than Walton's Belshazzar's Feast.’
To my sorrow and no doubt to my loss, the Walton Symphony has not retained for me its power; the vitality I feel has too quickly hardened into a formula of insistent rhythm and harmonic emphasis, with an obvious disinclination to be easeful, quiet and simple. But at least Walton composes like a man with something to say, even if he is in labour while saying it. [3]
The output of his contemporaries is destined before we are much older to go the way of the mightily conceived tone-poems and choral odes and music dramas of Holbrooke, Bantock, Holst [4] and the rest. If only our Brittens and Tippets and Berkeleys [5] could think of a single melody that would take possession of the memory, one chord that would once and for all pierce the musical consciousness. If only they could hurl us, whether we were ready to be hurled or not, into a new work-as Strauss hurled his contemporaries into Rosenkavalier at one swift attack of the horns, or as Elgar hurled us into the Violin Concerto. Even the admirers of our present-day ‘protégés’ don't pretend they are ever ‘hurled’ rather, they are persuaded by taste and fashion to give their cultured ears to the various ‘Diversions’ and ‘Sinfonias’ and ‘Sinfoniettas’ and the rest. By the side of Kodaly's Psalmus Hunqaricus even the Belshazzar of Walton is the Old Testament in musical Technicolor. I can think of few examples of convincing English music composed in the last dozen years or so.
Neville Cardus Autobiography (1947) p.262 (with minor edits)

Sir John Frederick Neville Cardus CBE (3 April 1888 – 28 February 1975) was an English writer and critic, best known for his writing on music and cricket. For many years, he wrote for The Manchester Guardian. He was untrained in music, and his style of criticism was subjective, romantic and personal, in contrast with his critical contemporary Ernest Newman. Before becoming a cricket writer, he had been a cricket coach at a boys' school. His writing about the game was innovative; turning what had previously been in general a purely factual form into vivid description and criticism.  Wikipedia

[1] Manchester Guardian was founded in 1821. In 1959 the title was changed to The Guardian to reflect ‘its national distribution and news coverage.’ The offices were relocated in London.
[2] As noted, the Belshazzar's Feast was first given at the Leeds Festival on October 8 1931. The work has remained one of Walton's best loved works and is one of the most popular works in the English choral repertoire.
[3] Interestingly, there are some 30 recordings of Walton’s First Symphony in the catalogues. This compares to 12 recordings for the Second Symphony.  William Hedley writing in the pages of MusicWeb International sums up the current critical acceptance that Walton’s First is a masterpiece:-
'The earliest performance is that of the First Symphony, set down in 1951 with Walter Legge as producer. What a work it is! Walton reportedly had trouble finding a way of ending it, and the first performance was given without the finale. In spite of its somewhat episodic structure, and even a bit of note-spinning, I have never subscribed to the view that the finale is an anti-climax. The slow, triple-time opening is wonderfully majestic, and the close, with its cruelly taxing trumpet solo, is as impressive a symphonic peroration as one will hear anywhere. The third, slow movement is marked to be played “with melancholy”, and the second movement scherzo “with malice”! This is all wonderful music, but the first movement is the most impressive of all. A quarter hour of constant development of two short motifs, it seems to have been conceived in, as it were, a single breath.'
[4] Bantock and Holbrooke have been reappraised in our day, and are not found wanting. The ‘mightily conceived tone-poems and choral odes and music dramas’ are beginning to establish themselves in the repertoire – at least amongst British music enthusiasts.  I wonder which works he is referring to in regard to Gustav Holst?
[5] Nowadays we would not criticise these composers for not ‘hurling’ the listener. However we can possibly see where Cardus was coming from.