I recently came across a short booklet entitled William Yeates Hurlstone: Musician and Man by H.G. Newell (London, J. & W. Chester & Co. 1936. Inside the book was a small cutting from an unidentified magazine. A little research showed it to be from the Radio Times issue 1378, March 1950. This was an introduction to ‘Concert Hour’ with the BBC Midland Light Orchestra presented on 18 March 1950. Two works were presented; Sir Thomas Beecham’s charming suite of Handel’s music, The Gods go Begging and William Hurlstone’s Piano Concerto in D. The conductor was Gilbert Vintner (1909-1969) and the solo pianist, Patrick Piggott (1915-1990). The author of the review was Ralph Hill, who between 1933 and 1945 had been musical editor of the Radio Times. It is worth reprinting without comment. The Concerto is a romantic treat that should be well established in the repertoire.
‘Had William Hurlstone [born 1906] not died in 1906 he might well have earned a foremost place in English music today. At the age of eight he impressed Hubert Parry with his extraordinary 'grasp' of music. At nine Hurlstone composed and had published a set of little waltzes. Although self-taught in the art of composition, at eighteen he won a composition scholarship at the Royal College of Music, where he eventually became a professor.
When he died he was only at the beginning of his development as an orchestral composer. Fairy Suite: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Variations on a Hungarian Air, Fantasy-Variations on a Swedish Air, and a Piano Concerto in D are his entire output of important orchestral works.
The Piano Concerto was first performed in 1897 at St. James' Hall with the composer as soloist. Despite its success it was never heard again, since the score and parts were lost. Recently, however, a set of orchestral parts and the original ms. of the solo part, from which a score has been reconstructed by Patrick Piggott, were discovered by Katherine Hurlstone, the sister of the composer. Today this Concerto receives its second performance.
The word 'light' characterises the spirit and texture of the music. Its three movements are clearly and effectively scored, and the piano writing, while being gracious and lyrical in style, has little or nothing of showy virtuosity about it. The first movement is a melodious Andante; the second is a Scherzo with two contrasting trios; the third, opening with a dramatic slow introduction (in the style of Dohnanyi's Variations on a Nursery Theme), pursues the course of a light and airy Rondo, the principal theme of which is suggestive of Grieg.
Deftness and lyrical charm are the outstanding characteristics of this notable concerto, which presumably was intended to please and to entertain rather than to plumb depths of emotion or to titillate the ear with scintillating brilliances of execution as in the cases of so many full-blooded romantic concertos of the nineteenth century’. Ralph Hill.
William Hurlstone’s delightful Piano Concerto is available on Lyrita SRCD.2286 (2 CDs) (2007) and was originally released on Lyrita SRCS.100 in 1979. Erik Parkin is the soloist with Nicholas Braithwaite conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra.