Many years ago I heard the first broadcast performance of Noël Tredinnick’s Brief Encounter for organ on Radio Three. It was around the time that I had first seen the eponymous film starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, so I guess that I made connections that defined for me the inherently romantic nature of this vibrant work.
It is possible to identify the date of the Radio Three broadcast as 4 October 1976. It was a recording of music played at the Royal College of Organists. Other works heard in this recital included C.P.E. Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, Seth Bingham’s Fantasy [probably the Fantasy in C major, 1949], John Joubert’s Prelude on the tune ‘Picardy’ (from Six Short Preludes on English Hymn Tunes, Op. 125), Liszt’s Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Arthur Wills’ Elevation and two works by Herbert Howells: ‘A Chosen Tune’ and Paean. However, this may well have been a compilation of recordings. The Musical Times refers to the recital given on 29 September 1976 RCO Dinner where Thalben-Ball seemingly included music by ‘[Hubert] Parry, Howells, Noel Tredinnick, John Joubert and Richard Popplewell, with two compositions of his own, ‘Toccata Beorma’ and ‘Poema’’. The two programmes do not appear to tie up.
Tredinnick has indicated (quoted liner notes of Priory PRCD817) that the title of the work suggests the manner in which ‘chords and melodic fragments from varying backgrounds meet together and entwine only for a brief moment’. It is a particularly buoyant piece that is full of energy and irregular rhythms. This is colourful music that includes jazz-like references without becoming a parody. There is nothing particularly modern about this work, and would certainly have been approachable by most listeners at the time –even in the context of a church service. However it is the sheer vitality of the work that makes it memorable.
The work was dedicated to George Thalben-Ball (1896-1987) ‘in admiration’. Thalben Ball himself recorded Brief Encounter on an old Vista album (VPS1046) which was released in 1977. This was played on the organ of All Souls, Langham Place and included music by John Cook, Paul Creston and Julius Reubke magnificent Sonata on Psalm 94.
I cannot find any reference to the sheet music for this work having been published.
There is a performance of Noël Tredinnick’s Brief Encounter on YouTube (skip add) Gerald Brooks is playing the organ [Bishop (1824), Bishop & Starr (c.1864), Hunter (1913), Henry Willis (1951) and Harrison and Harrison (1976)] in All Souls Langham Place. It is taken from the Priory CD (PRCD817) ‘Fantasia’ which was released in 2004. It includes music by Ives, Mendelssohn, Hollins, Bowen, Easthope Martin, Bliss, Eric Coates, Quentin MacLean, Lemare and Pierre Cholley.