Friday, 8 March 2013

Harry Farjeon: Idyll for Oboe & Orchestra

The British musical world is full of music that I have never heard. Alas, it is often the case that I probably never will hear much of it. In the depths of winter, on 7 January 1926, a short Idyll for Oboe & Orchestra by the largely forgotten composer Harry Farjeon was performed at Bournemouth. The soloist was Leon Goossens.
I quote the composer’s programme note as one of the few references to this work to have survived. The two places he mentions, Chanctonbury and Amberley, are forever associated with John Ireland – the Legend and the piano piece Amberley Wild Brooks respectively. It would be good to have Farjeon’s work available for comparison. How did he interpret, musically, this strange and fascinating part of the English Landscape?

'This little work is the outcome of a day on the Sussex Downs: one day among many passed in the high altitudes between Chanctonbury and Amberley and the still less frequented hinterland that lies below and to the south of this country. There are two main themes and an episode of some importance to the design. Four bars of introduction herald the principal subject, given to the solo instrument and accompanied by bassoons. The music is somewhat wistful in character, but brightens at the the episode, which leads to the second main theme, a melody in thirds supported by a figure of dropping fifths of which a good deal of use is afterward made.  This second theme combines with the episode to workup to the climax, after which a return is made to the first subject (shortened). The coda contains a semi-recitative passage for oboe, and the work concludes with a reference to the introductory bars. H.F.'

I was taken to task the other day for using a technical term that one of my readers did not understand. So a brief word about the above mentioned ‘episode.’ An episode is a ‘secondary section’ of a piece of music in which the principal themes are not overtly present. A good example would be the ‘subordinate’ sections of a classical rondo. Sometimes an episode can have material derived from elements of the principal themes.

I was unable to find any reference to this work having been published in either World Cat, COPAC or the catalogue of the Royal Academy of Music (where much of their alumni’s music is stored). So I guess that it is yet another example of a work that has remained in manuscript and has possibly disappeared without trace. 

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