After a long paragraph of philosophical speculation on ‘beauty unobserved’ and genius unrecognised, the English composer Ernest Austin (1874-1947) begins his review of Thomas Dunhill’s first chamber concert. It was held at the Queen’s Hall recital room as detailed in my earlier post on this event. No additional notes or commentary are required for this review.
The endeavour of Thomas Dunhill to bring to public notice the gifts of his countrymen in musical composition merited a better response than his first concert obtained and it is to be hoped that better attendances will be accorded his concerts on June 14 and June 21. The attendance on June 7 was scarce, not because of any demerit in his programme, but because our days are branded by the curse of indifference to mental pastimes. The mind’s enjoyment appears to be one of the last things to engage public attention, but entertainments that provide by subtle artifice, sufficient charm to engross the more animal senses, are quite certain of success.
Thomas Dunhill brought forward a work of absolute genius, a Sextet for piano and string by Joseph Holbrooke, ‘In Memoriam’, op.32 ‘To the Memory of Frederick Westlake’ The first two movements of this work were charged with that indescribable power by which men’s minds can respond to the infinite beauty and mystery of existence. The perpetual questionings of the spirit regarding the anomalies of human life will always be first thoughts to high-minded musicians and poets, and in this work under consideration I found the tension of great emotion and powerful utterance. My opinion regarding the third movement is that it is out of place in an heroic composition. Musically, it has vast claims, but its gaiety is not of the heroic type, it is too gracious to be accorded its present companionship. This is probably a fastidious opinion, but the sheet power of the first two movements removes one’s outlook to such high ground; and there is nothing in Art or Nature which can afford to despise environment- environment gives force and value, it is the measure of Beauty and Beauty is agreement
Messrs. John Saunders, H Waldo Warner, E.Yonge, J. Preuvners and G. Yate were in charge of the strings in Holbrooke’s Sextet, and they gave it a performance sufficient to satisfy the highest wish of any composer. The work was played with real sympathy and affection.
I did not hear the entire evening’s programme but mention must be made of some excellent piano pieces by James Friskin, Intermezzo in C sharp minor, Prelude in G major, Caprice in A major. There is much first hand beauty in these, but a flavour of Mendelssohn was here and there noticeable.
Ernest Austin: The Musical Standard 15 June 1907