Friday, 24 January 2014

Percy Whitlock: The Ballet of the Wood Creatures

The Ballet of the Wood Creatures is a deliciously scored miniature wholly in the tradition of British light music. Straight away on the opening one is reminded of Tchaikovsky’s ballet music, then somehow it slips effortlessly into a delicious essay of all that is best in miniature writing. The scoring is delightful - with lovely gentle cymbal clashes creating the emphasis in a typically 'light' tune. The woodwinds are playing little figurations like falling leaves or perhaps chirruping insects. Every now and again there is an image of Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream. And I suppose this is what it is all about. The wood creatures are not specified, however it is quite manifestly an adult looking at the 'magic' woods with the wistful eye of a man slowly approaching middle age. I should not wonder that these 'creatures' speak. I could imagine this music being used to accompany a 'dance' based on Wind in the Willows. Another work that springs to mind, not only in this piece but in much of Percy Whitlock's other orchestral music is the incidental music to ‘'Where the Rainbow Ends' by Roger Quilter. It has the same pensive qualities. I mentioned Mendelssohn, and it is actually quite strange that Whitlock chooses a 'motto' from the Hebridean Overture. The piece ends rather wistfully. Perhaps the creatures have gone to sleep?
The piece was reworked shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. It belies the imminent crisis in its innocent portrayal of a magic wood. It is just too short, and one is constantly wishing for another movement. What a pity that Whitlock did not compose a full ballet. It would have been a treasure.

Percy Whitlock’s The Ballet of the Wood Creatures is available on Marco Polo 8.225162

No comments: