Saturday, 1 March 2014

‘Encouraging British Music’: Marie Hall & John Ireland, 1922

In 1922 there was a short correspondence with the editor of the Daily Mail. It is largely self explanatory, however, a few annotations are useful as not all the composers and artists are well-known.  Marie Pauline Hall (1884-1956) was an English violinist. 
The interesting thing about this short exchange was that the three works mentioned by Hall have disappeared into obscurity. However, John Ireland’s list of composers and their sonatas are mostly available on CD. There are some four versions of John Ireland’s First Violin Sonata and seven of his Second currently available on CD.

To the editor of The Daily Mail
May I through your columns press my sympathy with Dame Ethel Smyth [1] in the neglect of her music by British conductors and at the same time offer a suggestion that I think might be useful to other composers.
I am very hopeful for the future of British music. During the past 12 months I have given more than usual attempt to it, although there have not as yet been as many big compositions attempted for the violin by our countrymen as there have been vocal and pianoforte works.
I find myself the fortunate possessor of three delightful inspirations which I intend to bring before the public at the Wigmore Hall, February 7. These are Percy Sherwood’s Sonata on C minor, No.3, [2] Gordon Bryan’s Suite for violin and piano, Op.1 [3] and Rutland Boughton’s Sonata in D major [4]. The three composers will be there to play with me, and everything and everybody at the concerts (audience excepted) will be thoroughly British.
I think that it is the spirit Dame Ethel Smyth would like artists and conductors to introduce, for works of merit now lost or hidden would then quickly present themselves to proclaim to the world that England is musical,
Marie Hall
Inveresk, Cheltenham.
Daily Mail [London, England] 17 Jan. 1922.

In response, John Ireland writes:-
To the editor of The Daily Mail
Miss Marie Hall’s letter to The Daily Mail suggests that few works of large scope for the violin have been ‘attempted’ by native composers, and that her twelve months’ search for such works has been unsuccessful.
May I draw her attention to violin sonatas by Bax, Delius, Dunhill (2), Elgar, Goossens, McEwen (2) and Scott, [5] to mention only those which first come to mind?
None of these works has been played to the extent of satiating London audiences. Perhaps Miss Hall has overlooked them.
John Ireland
The Studio, 14a, Gunter-grove, Chelsea.

The editor added a short note:-
Mr Ireland modestly refrains from mentioning that he himself is the composer of two violin sonatas frequently played and justly esteemed among the best in modern music.
Daily Mail (London, England), Thursday, January 19, 1922. 

[1] Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, DBE (1858 –1944) was a British  composer and a prominent member of the women's suffrage movement. I will post the article that led to this correspondence at a later date.
[2] Percy Sherwood (1866–1939) was a German-born composer and pianist of English nationality.
[3] Gordon Bryan (1895-1957) English composer, pianist and arranger.
[4] Rutland Boughton (1878-1960) was a British composer possibly best remembered as attempting to set up an English Bayreuth at Glastonbury. His most famous work is the opera The Immortal Hour, however his Symphonies demand our attention.

[5] I will give a list of these Sonatas in a subsequent post. 

1 comment:

Jolyon50 said...

I happened on your blog when making post on Marie Hall at

Interesting that she was trying to record contemporary music - or what was considered contemporary - this time in her career.