Monday, 18 February 2013

Henry Wood Promenade Concerts 1913 – Novelties.


Soon the 2013 Proms brochure will be out. For me it is always an exciting time of the year. However, it can be fun to look back in time and see what works were given their premieres a century or a half-century ago. It can be a very telling exercise seeing what has survived and what has sunk into oblivion. I will mention on British or Commonwealth works.

Bach (arranged Henry Wood) Toccata in F
Arnold Bax: Two Orchestral Sketches – ‘Pensive Twilight’ and ‘The Dance of Wild Irravel’
Havergal Brian: Comedy Overture – Dr. Merryheart
George Clutsam: (New Zealand): Introduction and Dance from King Harlequin
Eric Coates: Idyll for Orchestra
Thomas Dunhill: Prelude ‘The King’s Threshhold’
Eugene Goossens: Variations on an Old Chinese Theme
Percy Grainger: Irish Tune from County Derry & Shepherd’s Hey
Harry Keyser (Australian): Preludes on Act IV & V of Othello
Mozart (Percy Pitt) Aria for Strings
Henry Purcell: Scene ‘From Rosy Bowers’  Don Quixote
Cyril Scott: Two Poems for Orchestra
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Suite ‘The Wasps’ (Aristophanes)

Looking at the above listings there are three pieces that have successfully survived the passage of time, are available in a number of recordings and are heard in concert halls and on the radio – RVW’s The Wasps and the two works by Percy Grainger.  However a few other pieces have been recorded and are no doubt in the collections of enthusiasts of British music. The Dance of Wild Irravel is available on Chandos 8454. However the Pensive Twilight was revised by the composer and was renamed Evening Piece and is available on EMI 47945. However, as far as I am aware the original Pensive Twilight has not been revived.
Havergal Brian's Dr Merryheart Overture is recorded on Naxos 8572014.  Fortunately Eric Coates Idyll has also been recorded at least once - it is presently found on Lyrita SRCD 213.  Apparently this miniature tone-poem was a great favourite of Sir Edward Elgar. Unfortunately the Two Poems for Orchestra by Cyril Scott do not seem to have been released.  We are lucky to have Eugene Goossens minor masterpiece Variations on a Chinese Theme Op.1. This was released on ABC Classics ABC4767632 and is one of a 3-CD set conducted by ‘Tod’ Handley.  
A surf of YouTube will discover the Purcell and the Bach transcription by Sir Henry Wood. A glance at contemporary reviews suggests that the desideratum in the above list is George Clutsam’s Introduction and Dance from King Harlequin and the Cyril Scott Poems. If I was to suggest just one work to listen to from these ‘novelties’ it would have to be Eugene Goossens Variations on an Old Chinese Theme. Alas, it is not featured on YouTube but is available at Amazon in CD format. Next up will be the ‘novelties’ from fifty years ago -1953. However, I am minded to post a few contemporary reviews for the lesser known works featured above. 

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