As a pendant to my post on Raymond Premru’s Music for Harter Fell, I found a letter in the January 1980 edition of The Gramophone. Mr. Derek Forss of Dorking Surrey wrote to the editor:
‘At last somebody has written a piece of music inspired by the English Lake District, which is all the more surprising since this delectable area of England has attracted poets and writers over the years, but not composers. I am referring, of course, to the Argo record (ZRG906, reviewed last November), which contains the piece of music by Raymond Premru Music from Harter Fell. I have enjoyed this piece enormously which seems to evoke something of the mystery of the area, but then I am biased towards anything written about the Lake District.
However, one thing puzzles me. The Lake District abounds in name duplications and, you've guessed it, there are two Harter Fells. The most popular Harter Fell is in Eskdale and overlooks the Hardknott Roman Fort, but there is another Harter Fell near Haweswater which is higher in altitude and I feel that Raymond Premru's composition evokes the character of this area more than the Eskdale Harter Fell. Perhaps Mr Premru would care to comment further on his inspiration for composition since the sleeve-note is not forthcoming on this point.’
The editor of The Gramophone was able to reply: ‘A nice prompt response from Decca…says that Mr Premru has been contacted and advises that it is the Eskdale Harter Fell which he knows and which inspired the composition.’ I agree with the author of the letter that the Haweswater Harter Fell seems nearer the mark to the mood of the music,
Perhaps the editor should have brought some of the following pieces to Mr Forss’s attention. Arthur Butterworth composed a set of piano pieces entitled Lakeland Summer Nights, op.10 in 1949. There is a fugitive chamber work by Cyril Rootham entitled In the Lake Country for violin (viola or cello) and piano (1924). My personal favourite evocation of the Lake District is Maurice Johnstone’s impressionistic tone poem, Cumbrian Rhapsody: Tarn Hows (1951) Fortunately, a recording of this work was released in 1999 by ASV Whiteline label on CDWHL 2116. One of the great ‘Lakes-inspired pieces is John McCabe’s Cloudcatcher Fells for brass band: this is a masterpiece of Lake District landscape ‘tone-painting.’ Finally, there was Cecil Armstrong Gibbs’ Symphony No. 3 in B-Flat Major, Op. 104, ‘Westmorland’, composed in 1944.