Monday, 18 November 2013

Malcolm Sargent, The Brains Trust and Percy Scholes.

The Brains Trust was a programme first scheduled by the BBC on the Forces Programme during January 1941. The format of the programme was straight-forward. Listeners submitted questions on any topic that were then answered by a panel of distinguished scientists, writers, philosophers and musicians. Panellists included the film actor Will Hay, the biologist Julian Huxley, the philosopher C.E.M Joad and Malcolm Sargent the conductor. The 'referee' was Donald McCullough.
Miss Edna Davies of Little Chalfont asked ‘would the Brains Trust help her form a library by recommending a book every week on some useful subject’. McCullough responded by noting that ‘at that rate, numerically, it would take about two years for The Brains Trust to list all the books they have written.
Dr Sargent responded:- ‘ If you want a book on music, I think probably the best one you can get hold of at the moment is the Oxford Companion to Music by Percy Scholes, which has been produced quite lately by Oxford University Press, and is an extremely good book. It has all sorts of things in it that most dictionaries have not, and it is very concise. It is full of information and very accurate indeed. I think if you just want a book on music, that is the one I would plump for straight away.’

According to WorldCat there have been 41 editions of Percy Scholes Companion published since 1938, the last being in 2000. It has been translated into two languages and is in 2180 libraries works wide.  The book has been superseded by a new volume with the same title edited by Alison Latham; however this draws extensively on Scholes achievement. This was published in 2002. I have had a copy of the orignal since 1972 and it is a work that I refer to, and browse in, on a regular basis.  


Paul Serotsky said...

Regarding the "Companion", I have a copy of the Ninth Edition (1955, reprinted with corrections 1956). In his brief entry on Mahler, Scholes observes, ". . . he wrote symphonies (of a sort) . . ." - for someone as learned and sober as Scholes, that's quite an astonishingly curt dismissal!

I wonder, had he come to moderate or otherwise revise his opinion by the time he published your edition, in the wake of the massive Mahler "revival" of the 60s?

John France said...

Hmm...I make not sure really...poor old Percy died in I guess that that would be a wee bit late for him to re-assess. Of course, he could have been writing with his tongue in his cheek...
...if it were me I may pen, 'Mahler symphonies are probably great works'...(I have not yet 'discovered' him)
But ought editors bring personal feelings into their work? Another question...