Monday, 1 January 2018

A Happy and Prosperous New Year
To All Readers of
The Land of Lost Content

Some Significant British Composer Anniversaries for 2018:

Henry Charles Litolff

150 Years:
Granville Bantock
John W Ivimey
Frederic A Lamond
Hamish MacCunn
John Blackwood McEwen
Joseph Speaight

A J Potter

I guess that I never realised that Henry Charles Litolff, famous for his Scherzo from the Concerto Symphonique No. 4 in D minor, Op. 102, was a British composer. In fact, he was born in London on 7 August 1818 to a Scottish mother and a French (Alsace) father. After studies with Ignaz Moscheles, he made his name as a virtuoso pianist. Litolff travelled extensively throughout the world. He wrote a considerable amount of music, including a dozen operas, five concertos Symphonique, several chamber works and a huge corpus of piano solo pieces. He was the founder of the publishing firm Collection Litolff. He led a colourful life, that included an elopement, several marriages, escape from prison and ‘exile’ in the Netherlands. Litolff died in Paris on 5 August 1891.

Perhaps the biggest celebration this year is the 150th anniversary of Granville Bantock. His name is widely known amongst British Music enthusiasts and needs no introduction. His best-known work is the Hebridean Symphony. Bantock had many influences, including Greek and Roman mythology, Celtic folklore and Eastern traditions.

I imagine that few people will recall the life and music of John W Ivimey over the coming year. Which is a pity. I have ‘read’ his Organ Sonata’ and it is definitely a work that demands revival. His main contribution to music would appear to be comic opera of which he wrote about twenty examples. There is also a ‘grand opera’ The Rose of Lancaster, a symphony, some chamber music and several songs. He was born in Stratford, London on 12 September 1868 and died on 16 April 1961.

Joseph William Speaight is a largely forgotten composer, pianist and organist. There does not appear to be an entry in the current Grove’s Dictionary for him (there is one in the 1966 edition). He was born in Shoreditch, London on 24 October 1868. After study at The Guildhall School of Music under the pianist Ernst Pauer and composition teacher Robert Orlando Morgan, he spent much of his life lecturing at his alma mater, and latterly at The Trinity College of Music, London. Speaight died in Ware, Hertfordshire on 20 November 1947. His catalogue of compositions is extensive, with two symphonies, three symphonic poem, a piano concerto, much chamber music and many piano pieces. I was unable to find any recording of his music.

A trio of important Scottish composers were born 150 years ago this year: Frederic A Lamond, Hamish MacCunn and John Blackwood McEwen. I will be revisiting all of them in the coming year. So, nothing to add at this point. 

Finally, A.[rchibald] J.[ames] Potter is a composer that I had never heard of. An Ulsterman, he was born in Belfast on 22 September 1918 and died at Greystones, County Wicklow on 5 July 1980. Since preparing this blog post, I have made it my business to hear some of his music, which has been released on the Marco Polo label. This includes the beautiful Rhapsody under a High Sky, the Fantasia Gaelach and the Sinfonia Profundis. The Rhapsody has already gone on to my Desert Island Disc list. He is a composer that I will consider exploring in subsequent posts. 


riflet said...

Mr. France -- I appreciate your writing about British music all year 'round. You obviously put a great deal of effort into researching, listening to, and thinking about the music.

I have to thank you for, in this post, pointing out the AJ Potter "Rhapsody Under a High Sky." I invested under a dollar US to purchase the piece from Amazon performed by the RTE Sinfonietta under Proinnsías Ó Duinn. It is indeed lovely and fittingly named.

I admire your work. Happy 2018 to you and yours.

John France said...

Thanks for that