Saturday, 7 January 2017

Maurice Lindsay on Music in Scotland 1945-46: a sketch Part I

In the Hinrichsen’s Musial Year Book 1947-48, the celebrated Scottish author Maurice Lindsay gives an overview of post-war (1945-46) music making in Scotland. After a general report on the activities of the Scottish Orchestra (now, Royal Scottish National Orchestra) and their conductor Warwick Braithwaite, he considers music performed by ‘local composers.’  He believed that ‘Scottish music was better represented during the 1945-46 season than ever before.’ This has been the result of ‘a long campaign waged by a few local music lovers who felt that Scottish composers were wrongfully neglected.’
Lindsay felt that the ‘most satisfying work’ was Hamish MacCunn’s ‘attractive, though Mendelssohnian’ Land of the Mountain and the Flood (there are currently (2016) four versions in the Arkiv CD catalogue). This is still a popular work with record companies and Classic FM: it may be one of very few Scottish works generally known to listeners.  

Interestingly, Lindsay notes that four movements of Erik Chisholm’s ballet score The Forsaken Merman (1936, fp.1940) were also heard performed by the orchestra. This is a work that has been recorded in the composer’s two-piano version. It is a wonderful score that fuses ‘sea-music’ with Scottish tunes. It deserves a full orchestral performance in the concert hall or on CD.
Tantalising references are given to two forgotten works: W.B. Moonie’s ‘light hearted, tuneful rhapsody’ Springtime on Tweed and W.J. Emery’s ‘gracious’ At a Spring Festival. I wonder where the scores are?

More Scottish music was performed by the Dunedin Society that season. This group existed for ‘the encouragement of contemporary Scottish art.’ The John MacArthur Orchestra performed Francis George Scott’s Lament for Heroes, Cedric Thorpe Davie’s The Forrigan Reel, (1945) ‘a suite for strings’, possibly No.2, by W.B. Moonie, [probably] ‘Three Scottish Dances’ (1936) by Ian Whyte.
The Dunedin Society seems to have folded: I can find no current references on the internet.
Other works given under the auspices of this society included Glasgow-born James Friskin’s (1886-1967) Piano Quintet, op.1 (1907). At this time, the composer was living in the United States: he was married to the English composer, Rebecca Clarke.  Three of John Blackwood McEwen’s string quartets were given, as well as his Little Sonata for violin and piano. Horace Fellowes was also the violin soloist in Robin Orr’s Sonatina (1946) and Alexander Mackenzie’s Benedictus (c.1889). This last work is now better known in its beautiful, Elgarian orchestral version. 

Much research would need to be done to uncover the dates, venues and performers of all these pieces. I present this simply as an impressionistic sketch of Scottish music performed during this season. It reveals how little there was, and how little has survived into the repertoire. I guess on the MacCunn (and possibly Mackenzie’s Benedictus) is safely established. The next post will consider what was broadcast by the BBC during the period 1945-46.

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