Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Gustav Holst: 1927 Festival at Cheltenham Part II

I post a short review of the 1927 Holst Festival in Cheltenham. It was published in The Monthly Musical Record on 2 May 1927. I builds up a picture of what must have been a remarkable and most enjoyable event. I am not sure who the author R.C. was. 

THE Holst Festival at Cheltenham on March 22 was an uncommonly heartening occasion. Gustav Holst is a native of Cheltenham, but it would have been quite natural if the townspeople had ignored the fact for a hundred years.  
That they should have shown the enterprise to honour him while he was here to take part in the ceremony, was to the credit of all concerned, and principally to a little group of local musicians, such as Miss Dorothy Treseder, Mr. Lewis Hann, Mr. W. Lock Mellersh, and Mr. P. J. Taylor, who were at the bottom of it all.   
The proposal at first was to raise a fund for a presentation portrait, but Mr. Holst expressed a wish that the money should go towards providing Cheltenham people with an opportunity of hearing     some of his music well played. Hence the visit of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and the two concerts in the Town Hall. The preliminary subscriptions provided for nine hours' rehearsing. The programme, exactly repeated at the second concert, was as follows:
Somerset Rhapsody, op. 21 (1906).     
Ballet Music, The Perfect Fool, op. 39 (1918).
Fugal Concerto in D, op. 40, No. 2 (1923).     
Two Songs without Words: (a) Country Song, b) Marching Song; op. 2        (1906).
The Planets, op. 32 (1914-16). 
Of this music the Rhapsody was the least familiar. It was in fact unknown except to those with long memories, for it had not been played for years, and has only just been published.
It is a charming little work in pure folksong vein. The four tunes are all from Sharp's Somerset collection. [Cecil Sharp: Folksongs from Somerset (London Simpkin 1904-11)]
The composer has suggested no programme, but there is no mistaking the scene depicted by the music. It opens with a pastoral tune 'Sheepshearing Song", plaintive, lonely, and very quiet. Then there breaks in a hint of marching, and presently a succession of martial tunes (‘High Germany,’ ‘The True Lover's Farewell,’ and ‘The Cuckoo’), irresistibly suggests the passing of a body of troops along the highway. The music swells and dies away. At the end the first pastoral song returns.
It is not one of Holst's greatest works, but it is irresistibly attractive, and all the four folksongs are beauties. Mr. Holst himself conducted this, as in fact most of the concert. (The exception was The Perfect Fool, ballet music, which Mr. Boult conducted.)
The evening performances were the better. The players were warmed up by a packed and highly-strung audience, largely of young people. The interest felt, and the impression made were remarkable, and after that day Holst will count as a celebrity in the mind of all Cheltenham, however little he was known before.
Mr. Holst did not after all leave Cheltenham without a picture. In the afternoon he was presented with a water-colour by Mr. Harold Cox —a Whistlerian night-piece, showing the Planets in a May sky in the Cotswolds. Congratulatory letters were read from Sir Edward Elgar, Dr R. Vaughan Williams, Sir Henry Wood, Sir 'Walford Davies, Sir Landon Ronald, Sir Hugh Allen, the British Music Society [not the current soicety], and the Incorporated Society of Musicians.
R. C.
The Monthly Musical Record 2 May 1927


Pam said...


R.C. would have been Richard Capell, a close friend of Marion Scott's.

Best wishes,

John France said...

Thanks Pam!