Friday, 3 July 2015

Frederic Curzon: Bravada

This is one of light music’s true gems. Full of vivacity, sunshine and sheer optimism, this is music to remind the listener of their last holiday in Spain or to encourage them to make speedy return to the Costa Brava or the Costa del Sol.  Remarkably, Bravada was composed in 1938 at a time when few people would have been considering a holiday in Sunny Spain: it was the height of the Spanish Civil war (1936-39).  
This music clearly is meant to be pastiche. It makes use of a number of ‘clichés’ from Spain and moulds them into a satisfying miniature.  No piece of Iberian music can be complete without the Spanish solo trumpet and the castanets. However, Curzon also makes imaginative use of syncopation and some wayward modulations in what is really a classic paso doble which is traditionally written in duple time. As a dance it is meant to parody a bull-fight.
Bravada was dedicated to Curzon’s friend and colleague Frederic Bayco (1913-70). Bayco was a cinema organist, composer and was a powerful promoter of Curzon’s music.
Interestingly, the liner notes for the Marco Polo recording of this work suggest that this is an ‘invigorating display of confidence’ from a composer who was naturally ‘shy and retiring.’ I have noted before that in spite of the fact the Curzon composed many pieces inspired by this part of the world, including a Spanish Caprice: ‘Capricante’, a Serenade: ‘La Peineta’ and the well-loved suite In Malaga, he never actually visited Spain.

Frederic Curzon was one-time the president of the Light Music Society and the Head of the Light Music Department at Boosey and Hawkes.  He wrote many suites including the above mentioned In Malaga, The Charm of Youth and the Salon Suite. Miniatures include Punchinello, The Boulevardier, Bouffe and The Dance of an Ostracised Imp.

Bravada can be heard on Marco Polo 8.223425 with a selection of Frederic Curzon’s other well-known works including the Robin Hood Suite, The Boulevardier: Characteristic intermezzo and the Spanish Suite: In Malaga.  It can also be found played by Harry Fryer and his Orchestra on the Golden Age of Light Music: Light Music while you Work, Volume 1. GLCD5128

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