Monday, 13 January 2020

Some Important British Works that are celebrating their Half-Centenaries

From the point of view of the record collector this list of works composed/completed or premiered in 1970 is a relative disaster. And I guess that concertgoers fare little better. Using my three categories of 1. Music that has solidly entered the repertoire, 2. Works that have largely sunk without trace and, 3. Pieces that have maintained a toehold, it makes a depressing analysis. Any evaluation by this method will be entirely subjective.  
Glancing at this list reveals only a handful of works that have caught the listeners imagination These few compositions (probably) include William Walton’s Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, Benjamin Britten’s opera Owen Wingrave and possibly Peter Maxwell Davies’ Taverner, Arthur Bliss’s Cello Concerto and William Alwyn’s Sinfonietta. John McCabe is well-served by the record industry, with several of these 1970 pieces being on CD. On the other hand, I could find no recordings of the five works by Elisabeth Lutyens.

Whilst preparing this (imperfect) listing I explored several of these works. Sometimes on CD, often on YouTube. I was conscious that many of these largely forgotten works are masterpieces from their time. I include in this category David Bedford’s innovative rock-inspired The Garden of Love, for instrumental ensemble, the Guitar Concerto by Richard Rodney Bennett, Iain Hamilton’s Voyage, for horn and chamber orchestra and Peter Dickinson’s Satie Transformations, for orchestra.
Recordings do exist for several of the remaining pieces, but too many seem to have disappeared into oblivion. Sometimes there is only a single CD of an undoubted masterwork such as Egon Wellesz’s Symphony No.8 and John Joubert’s Symphony No.2.

Time permitting, I may choose to explore some of these works in greater or lesser detail throughout the year.

I have presented the composers in order of seniority. This reflects Eric Gilder’s The Dictionary of Composers and their Music to which I owe much of the information below. I have not included opus numbers.

Egon Wellesz: Symphony No 8
Arthur Bliss: Cello Concerto
Gordon Jacob: A York Symphony, for brass band; A Joyful Noise, for brass band;  The Pride of Youth, for brass band
Edmund Rubbra: Piano Trio No 2
William Walton: Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten, for orchestra (premiere)
Lennox Berkeley: Dialogues, for cello and chamber orchestra; String Quartet No 3; Theme and Variations for guitar
William Alwyn: Sinfonietta for strings
Alan Rawsthorne: Oboe Quartet
Michael Tippett: Songs for Dov, for voice and orchestra
Benjamin Frankel
: Overture to a Ceremony, for orchestra
Elisabeth Lutyens: Anerca for narrator, guitars and percussion; Vision of Youth, for soprano and instruments; In the Direction of the Beginning, (Dylan Thomas) for voice and piano; Oda a la Tormenta, for mezzo and piano; Verses of Love, for unaccompanied voices
Elizabeth Maconchy: Ariadne, for soprano and orchestra (1970/1; The Jesse Tree, opera (1969/70)
Robert Still: Piano Concerto
Benjamin Britten: Owen Wingrave, opera (completed)
Wilfred Mellers: The Ancient Wound, monodrama
Peter Racine Fricker: Paseo, for guitar; The Roofs, for soprano and percussion.
Iain Hamilton: Alastor, for orchestra;  Voyage, for horn and chamber orchestra; Epitaph for This World and Time, for three choruses and three organs (composed)
Don Banks: Meeting Place, for jazz group, ensemble and electronics
Wilfred Josephs: Sonata for cello and piano; Night music, for alto and orchestra; Death of a Young Man, for baritone and orchestra
John Joubert: Symphony No 2;
Thea Musgrave: Elegy, for viola and cello; From One to Another, for viola and tape; Impromptu No 2 for flute, oboe and clarinet
Alun Hoddinott: The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe, for orchestra (premiere); Sinfonietta No 3 (premiere); Violin Sonata No 2; Cello Sonata; Fantasy for harp
Kenneth Leighton: Concerto for organ, timpani and strings; Dance Suite No 2
Alexander Goehr: Symphony in one movement; Concerto for eleven instruments; Shadowplay-2, music theatre for tenor and instruments
Hugh Wood: String Quartet No 2
Peter Dickinson: Satie Transformations, for orchestra
Harrison Birtwistle: Nenia on the Death of Orpheus, for soprano and instruments;
Peter Maxwell Davies: Taverner, opera in two acts (score complete); Points and Dances from Taverner (score complete); Sub tuam protectionem, for piano (premiere performance); Ut re mi, for piano
William Mathias: Festival Overture (premiere); Concerto for harp and orchestra; Bless the Lord, for mixed voices and organ; Gloria, for male voices and organ, Warwick Castle, music for a son et lumière; Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis (Jesus Service); Pan Oeddwn Fachgen (A Vision of Youth) for tenor and piano.
Richard Rodney Bennett: Guitar Concerto
David Bedford: The Garden of Love, for instrumental ensemble (originally composed in 1963, revised 1970); The Sword of Orion, for instrumental ensemble
John McCabe: Notturni ed Alba, for soprano and orchestra; Piano Concerto No 2; Sinfonia Concertante; Concertante Variations on a Theme of Nicholas Maw for strings; Canzona for wind and percussion; Studies Nos 3 and 4, for piano; Basse Danse, for two pianos; Norwich Canticles, for unaccompanied chorus
Robin Holloway: The Wind Shifts, for high voices and strings
John Tavener: Nomine Jesu, for voices and orchestra; Coplas, for voices and tape

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