Friday, 13 January 2017

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

Maurice Lindsay continued his exploration (Hinrichsen’s Musial Year Book 1947-48) of music by Scottish composers performed in Scotland by examining the contribution from the BBC.  He began by praising the BBC Scottish Orchestra which had developed from ‘a ragged body of players (long years ago) to a highly sensitive unified instrument…’
He noted that their conductor, Ian Whyte (1901-60) had performed two orchestral works by Francis George Scott 1880-1958) ‘a very distinguished composer, and a figure of European stature.’ The first was the ‘attractive’ overture ‘Renaissance’ (1937) which probably had more to do with the Scottish literary renaissance of the 20th century than that begun in Italy during the 1300s. Apparently, at that period (1945-6) it was frequently performed. The other work by Scott was the ballad for tenor and orchestra, Edward, Edward. (1943) which was a ‘masterly setting of one of the best of the old ballads.’ Scott is now recalled for his songs (where remembered at all) of which he composed more than 300.

The orchestra also gave the premiere of Ian Whyte’s tone poem ‘Edinburgh’ which Lindsay declared a ‘work of considerable intellectual strength which one would want to hear again.’ I have heard this work in a radio broadcast (28 March 1994) and would concur.  It is surely time for a retrospective CD of Whyte’s orchestral music.

Another important work heard during the 1945/6 season was Cedric Thorpe Davies’ First Symphony. This had won second prize in a Daily Express competition to produce a ‘Victory’ symphony. The winner was Bernard Stevens (1916-83) with his ‘Victory Symphony.’ Thorpe Davies’ work had been performed in London under the baton of Constant Lambert and in Liverpool with John Barbirolli.  I have heard this symphony in a recording from a radio broadcast: it deserves a full professional recording.

Finally, Maurice Lindsay notes ‘a significant volume’ of Francis George Scott’s songs which were published in 1945 by Bayley and Ferguson. These eight songs for baritone included settings of texts by several Scottish poets, including George Campbell Hay, Robert Burbs, William Soutar and Hugh MacDiarmid.
Lindsay considered 'The Old Fisherman' and ‘The Kerry Shore-Loch Fyne’ by Campbell Hay, as being ‘the most moving songs I have ever heard.’ He recognised that the use of poetry written in the Scots’ language ‘may keep singers away from his work.’ However, this volume also included four songs in ‘standard English.’  The MacDiarmid poem, ‘Reid-e’en’, is written in that author’s ‘Renaissance Scots’ which was very much his own literary language.

There is a CD of Francis George Scott’s songs issued by Signum Records in 2007. It is reviewed on MusicWeb International. None of the songs in the 1945 album are included on this retrospective. 

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