Thursday 30 June 2022

Julius Harrison’s Viola Sonata – an Unknown Treasure Part III

Performance. It has not been possible to trace the Viola Sonata’s first performance in the literature. It was heard on the 28 June 1946 at the Birmingham Midland Institute School of Music in a recital by Lena Wood (viola) and Tom Bromley (piano). Whether this was the premiere is open to conjecture.

Geoffrey Self (op. cit., p.54) alludes to the fact that Harrison’s one-time teacher, the redoubtable Sir Granville Bantock heard it in 1946. It is not understood if this was a private or public recital. The Sonata appears to have disappeared into the mists of time. It is self-evident that contemporary musicologists tended to see the Sonata as being somewhat light-weight and dated. It was written in a style that manifestly looked back to the past rather than forward to anything vaguely resembling the avant garde! There is not a tone row to be seen in any part of this work!

On Friday, 24 August 1951, Julius Harrison’s Viola Sonata was broadcast on the BBC Home Service. Watson Forbes played the viola and was accompanied by Alan Richardson. The programme also included several songs sung by the baritone, Williams Parsons. A recording of this has been uploaded to YouTube.

Publication & Review. The Sonata was published by Lengnick in 1946 to a good critical reception. The glowing words on the advert are worth quoting – “This Sonata…is characteristic of Harrison’s mature powers, is considered by many judges to be the most notable addition to the Viola repertoire that has occurred within recent years.”

Jean Stewart wrote that working on the Sonata with him [Harrison] was a lesson in itself...’ he had the most acute ear for balance, intonation, phrasing, the colour of different keys, and the give and take of chamber-music playing.’

An unsigned review of the score in the Musical Times (November 1946, p.336) notes that Harrison is not well known as a composer – but as a conductor. Yet the critic was impressed and suggested that it revealed talents that are far from common. He feels that he has a deep understanding of both instruments, and this expresses itself in the technical underpinning of the Sonata. He states that it is important to indulge in “sound melodic writing which does not mean cheap and conventional design but a design that gives the instrument the right opportunity to make use of its best registers.”  He concludes by insisting that the Viola Sonata is an “honest and genial piece of work and a valuable addition to the extremely scanty repertory of viola and piano.”

A later review of the score in the January 1947 issue of Music & Letters (January 1947, p.96) by I.K. was equally enthusiastic. He states up front that “…as long as works of this quality continue to appear the current attraction of players towards the viola should be maintained.” He further points out that it is far from easy to play, yet he feels that it is sufficiently important to encourage the soloist to conquer the difficulties.

It is difficult to know if his prediction came true. Sixty years later this solo instrument appears to be largely ignored in the concert halls and recital room – at least in the United Kingdom.

Recordings. The first (and to date the only) recording of Harrison’s Viola Sonata was made by the British Music Society in December 1992. It was an important release that combined two ‘rare and substantial’ British Viola Sonatas. The other compositions on this CD include the Edgar Bainton Sonata written in 1922 and three short numbers by Frank Bridge. The performances are everything that could be wished for and both Martin Outram (viola) and Michael Jones (piano) present these premieres in a positive and challenging manner. Rob Barnett, reviewing this recording for MusicWeb International, (4 July 2004) states that these “two resolutely strong and poetic sonatas…represent writing and playing of a very high order bursting the bounds of conventionality.” He concludes by insisting that this disc is “certainly a de rigueur purchase for open-minded violists!”

The Julius Harrison’s Sonata for Viola and Piano in C minor has great depth and quality. There are two reasons why attention needs to be given to this work. Firstly, the overall impression of the Sonata is totally satisfying. There is no point at which the listener loses interest. The equilibrium of the movements and the balance of the soloists are superb: the writing for both the violist and the pianist is grateful to both performers - with the exception noted above. And secondly, the composer is beholden to no-one in the stylistic approach of his music. True, a few influences could be discovered at many points in this work. Yet the fact remains that it is quite individual. It can be regarded as Julius Harrison’s meditation on the English Landscape, both physically and spiritually, at the end of the Second World War, the reflection of the sadness of the previous six years and finally the optimism for the coming decades. As such it is entirely successful.

Discography: Edgar Bainton (1880-1956): Viola Sonata, Julius Harrison (1885-1963): Viola Sonata in C Minor, Frank Bridge (1879-1941): Allegretto, 2 Pieces. Martin Outram (viola), Michael Jones (piano). British Music Society BMS CD 415R


Monday 27 June 2022

Julius Harrison’s Viola Sonata – an Unknown Treasure Part II

Antecedents. It is difficult to know whether Julius Harrison conscientiously used any previously existing Viola Sonatas as models or inspiration for his work. Geoffrey Self (Julius Harrison and the Importunate Muse London 1993, p.52) suggests that he was “at least as familiar with the chamber music of Brahms as he was with the symphonies.”  In addition, it can be assumed that he would have been aware of, if not necessarily intimate with, the Viola Sonatas by Arthur Bliss, Arnold Bax and Rebecca Clarke. It is not the purpose of this essay to formally analyse Harrison’s Sonata or to positively identify interrelationships with other works. However a few comments on each of the above named examples may be of interest.

Brahms Sonatas for pianoforte and clarinet (or viola) op.120 were the final chamber music that he produced. They were written in the summer of 1894 and received their first performance the following year. I have never been convinced that the viola and clarinet are interchangeable in this Sonata and would probably prefer to hear them in the wind instrument version. Neither of these Sonatas seems to be an obvious model for Harrison’s essay – certainly from a formal point of view.

Nevertheless, there are some similarities. Brahms’s characteristic of developing strong lyrical melodies from short motives is clearly part of Harrison’s design strategy. Furthermore the present work is not devised for violist and accompanist, but is a sonata written and conceived for two equals: two competent and virtuosic soloists. This surely exemplifies the tradition that exercised the chamber music corpus of Brahms. It is at this level that Harrison appears to have been influenced by the senior composer.

The Viola Sonata by Arnold Bax was completed during 1921/22. It has long been regarded as one of his most important achievements. Stylistically it owes something to the Celtic Twilight movement that influenced much of Bax’s music. In the aftermath of the First World War and, more pertinently, the Irish Civil War, it can be seen a turning away from an earlier idealism. The Sonata has three movements - the quite unsettling scherzo is flanked by two less-stressful outer movements. The mood of this work would not appear to be largely influential on Harrison.

Rebecca Clarke’s Viola Sonata (1919) by has been re-discovered in recent years. It is easy to compare passages in this work to Brahms – especially the lyrical nature of the themes and the complexity of the interrelationship between accompanist and soloist. In addition the formal structure of the opening movement owes much to the German. Interestingly, Clarke herself declared that Ralph Vaughan Williams was an influence: certainly she appears to indulge in what Liane Curtis, the President of the Clarke Society, referred to as a “modally tinged harmonic language…that is sometimes called English Impressionism.” (Naxos 8.557934 liner notes). It possible to see the influence of Maurice Ravel, John Ireland and Arnold Bax although in no way can it be said that this work is a parody of any of these composers. It is in three movements – with the middle one being a scherzo. Her essay is certainly one of the key British essays in this medium. There is much in this Sonata that would have captivated Harrison – especially the nods to Impressionism.

Arthur Bliss wrote his massive Viola Sonata in 1933. Interestingly, this does have some affinities with Harrison. For one thing, the relationship of the movements is well defined. The equilibrium between virtuosic and lyrical part writing for the soloist is satisfying. The work has a reflective middle movement and the rhythmically exciting ‘furiant.’ Some critics have suggested that this composition is atypical of Bliss’s music and lacking in consistency.

The Julius Harrison Viola Sonata reveals at least three stylistic trends. In the first place there is an obvious pastoral feel to the middle movement. Critics have been quick to point up the similarities to Vaughan Williams’s Lark Ascending and to the Harrison’s own Bredon Hill: Rhapsody for Solo Violin & Orchestra. Yet it would be disingenuous to suggest that the entire work was a rustic meditation on the beauties of the Worcestershire countryside. There is much that is profound here: parts of the first movement are haunted by dark thoughts and some moments are possibly even macabre. The general mood is strangely optimistic.

Geoffrey Self, (Julius Harrison and the Importunate Muse London 1993, p.68) of the composer, is surely wrong in declaring that the Viola Sonata is outside the English Tradition. He qualifies this by correctly declaring that it has little affinity with the direction that music had taken with Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and E.J. Moeran. Self insists it is well and truly in the “Austro-Germanic mainstream.” He likens this stylistic analogy to that of Elgar – with the significant difference that Harrison favours the example of Brahms whereas the Elgar is rooted in both Wagner and Brahms.

Certainly, there is little in the way of folk-song in the Viola Sonata: there is no suggestion of ‘cows leaning over gates’ at any point in this work. Yet there is something that ties this sonata to the landscape of Worcestershire. It is a Britishness that is infinitely less obvious than Seventeen Come Sunday’ from RVWs Folksong Suite, or even his In the Fen Country, but in the same way that Edward Elgar’s Introduction & Allegro breathes the air of the Malvern Hills, so Harrison’s Viola Sonata touches that haunting country.

Analysis. Julius Harrison’s Viola Sonata was completed at Malvern during June 1945. It was dedicated to the violist Jean Stewart. Harrison was a friend of the Stewart family and would often explore the Worcestershire countryside with them. He obviously impressed Jean Stewart with his personality; she wrote that “[he] was a warm hearted man - you can hear that in his music.” (Self, op. cit., p.85) What better compliment can one get?

Jean Stewart was one of the most accomplished violists of her generation. Her talent was multi-faceted and enabled her to both teach and play. She was as equally at home playing chamber music as she was a soloist with orchestra. Several important works were composed for her including Robin Milford’s Elegiac Meditation and Elisabeth Lutyens’ Sonata for Unaccompanied Viola. The best known piece dedicated to her is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Second String Quartet in A minor – the score is inscribed with ‘To Jean on her Birthday.’

Harrison’s Viola Sonata would appear to be the only surviving piece that exploits traditional ‘sonata form.’ It is certainly the only known work to include ‘Sonata’ in its title. There are several missing compositions which may have used the form, for example the String Quartet in D minor from c. 1910 which was destroyed by the Harrison after performances at Manchester and London.

The Sonata is in three movements – ‘allegro energico,’ ‘andante e cantabile sempre’ and ‘scherzo-finale’ (Allegro vivace) and lasts for just over twenty minutes.

The ‘allegro energetico’ opens positively without any ‘introductory fumblings.’ Two short figures are introduced by the soloist providing coherence to the movement. Harrison launches contrasting material that appears to be a processional tune or march which at first hearing would seem to be an attempt at lightening the dark colours of this music. Both subjects are developed with skill and never lacks interest. In the middle of the movement there is a strange section complete with tremolandos and strategic pauses. This is certainly introspective music that is not quite self-pitying but certainly lacks confidence. Yet as the unsigned reviewer in Music & Letters (January 1947, p.96) notes “…it looks a most dangerous proceeding, but it succeeds.”  Geoffrey Self has written that “despite [the] sunny open-air idea” at the start, “a sombre mood pervades the first movement” that gives a “feeling of unease.”

The second movement, an ‘Andante e cantabile sempre’ will bring instant thoughts of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending. I do not believe that Harrison was parodying the older composer, but comparisons are bound to develop in listeners minds. Much of this meditative music is very beautiful and creates a sense of repose. If the first movement was typically sombre, the andante is ‘autumnal’ or even ‘valedictory.’ It has been noted that there is a danger of incoherence – “…unless the violist can be both agile and tender high up the A string.” (Music and Letters, January 1947, p.96). Perhaps Harrison did not consult with Jean Stewart sufficiently to make this middle movement grateful to the soloist? Yet, the net effect is totally satisfying. At no time does Harrison allow the seemingly pastoral antecedents push aside the more romantic underpinnings of his musical language. This is music that evokes either a landscape or the listener’s response to that landscape – it is never descends to a rustic type of rambling or ‘hints at folksong’ so despised by Constant Lambert and Elisabeth Lutyens.

The last movement is really a fine ‘Scherzo-Finale.’  This is full of energy and excitement. The rhythmic structure is extremely varied with constant changes between triple and quadruple time. It is in the closing pages that the works defining characteristic comes to the fore. There is an interruption of the musical argument with a ‘recitative’ passage like that in the first movement. A reprise of the ‘processional tune’ echoes the opening movement, however it has been transformed from a dark, almost anguished, mood to one that is full of confidence and hope for the future.

To be concluded…

Friday 24 June 2022

Julius Harrison’s Viola Sonata (1946) – an Unknown Treasure Part I

Introduction. There are three fundamental reasons why Julius Harrison’s Sonata for Viola and Piano in C minor is not an established part of the repertoire. Firstly, the composer is British, secondly, he wrote his only surviving Sonata for the viola and not the violin or piano and thirdly, there is only one recording available – and that is published by a society rather than a major CD company. Now, before readers accuse me of sour grapes or special pleading let me expand on the above points. 

In the United Kingdom, indigenous classical music still labours under the axiom that we are a ‘Land without Music.’ A brief glance at the programmes of any major UK orchestra reveals a woeful lack of British repertoire. Even the world renowned BBC Promenade Concerts have a relatively small proportion of home-grown works. Of course, there will always be a place for the major composers and their most popular creations. Elgar’s Cello Concerto will be given a hundred performances to every one of that by E.J. Moeran. And chamber music fares little better. Week by week, recital-goers are given a regular diet of Brahms, Mozart and Beethoven. Relatively rarely are the great music of a York Bowen or a Rebecca Clarke heard in these halls. Now clearly, there is a financial element here. The Kreutzer Sonata will always ‘pull in’ more people than Humphrey Procter-Gregg’s Sonata No.3 in F for Violin & Piano. So we have a classic(al) chicken and egg situation. Concert promoters will not risk an unknown or new piece, when a ‘pot boiler’ will fill the auditorium: people are not given the opportunity to get to know new or revived works – so they can never become popular!

And then there is my second point. Harrison wrote this Sonata for the ‘Viola.’ Now, fans of this instrument will be able to reel off dozens of fine chamber works written for this instrument: but ask the ordinary concertgoer and a different picture emerges. I did. I consulted three very musical friends – and by and large drew a blank. One of them knew the ubiquitous Brahms op.120: no-one had heard of those by Bliss, Bax, Bridge, Clarke et al.

And lastly the CD situation: as noted, there is only one commercial recording of Harrison’s Sonata available.

Brief Biography. Julius Harrison was born at Stourport in Worcestershire on 26 March 1885. After showings signs of considerable musical ability he studied with Granville Bantock at the Birmingham & Midland Institute of Music. His interests at that time were directed towards conducting and he was soon to make an appearance on the European Opera scene. He was sent to Paris by the Covent Garden Syndicate to rehearse Wagner operas with Nikisch and Weingartner. Harrison was to develop as an opera conductor, eventually taking up residence with the British National Opera Company and the Beecham Opera Company.

It was his appointment to the Hastings Municipal Orchestra that finally allowed him to establish his own style of conducting and to raise the standards of that orchestra to the same levels as the neighbouring and much more prestigious one at Bournemouth. With the onset of the Second World War, Hastings Town Council disbanded the orchestra for the ‘duration.’ This loss of his position, coupled with the onset of deafness allowed Julius Harrison to concentrate on composition. It also coincided with a return, in 1940, to his home county: he assumed residence in Great Malvern in a lovely house with views across the plain to the evocative Bredon Hill.

Harrison did not write a deal of music. His most impressive works are the Mass in C on which he worked intermittently for over eleven years and the Requiem (1948-1957) Geoffrey Self (Grove’s Dictionary of Music, online version) calls attention to these “conservative and contrapuntally complex pieces,” and notes the influence of Verdi and Wagner. They remain unheard in our generation.

The remainder of his catalogue contain several interesting works for orchestra, some of which have been revived in the past twenty years. His most approachable composition is Bredon Hill: Rhapsody for solo violin and orchestra (1942). It balances the romantic and classical music of previous generations with an attractive but not overstated English Pastoralism. Few chamber works were written or have survived: there are Two Pieces for violin & piano (1915), Prelude: Music for String Quintet (1922) and a Humoresque: Widdicombe Fair for String Quartet (1916). The remainder of Harrison’s catalogue is made up of numerous ‘characteristic’ piano pieces and a large amount of choral music and solo songs. It is a territory that is largely uncharted and unheard in our day.

In addition to the above-mentioned chamber works there was a Phantasy Trio (1907), presumably written for the William Cobbett competition, the String quartet in D minor (1910-1911) and a Dance Orientale for three bassoons and tambourine! (1908) These works have been lost or were destroyed by the composer.

To be continued…

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Full of the Highland Humours 18th century music inspired by Scotland

Full of the Highland Humours is a splendid exploration of works written by Scottish composers such as James Oswald and Thomas Erskine. In addition, several pieces are featured by English and Continental instrumentalists, who were inspired by traditional Scottish music. These include Henry Playford, Giuseppe Sammartini and Francesco Geminiani. This is the debut album by the gifted and exciting London-based Ensemble Hesperi. In this CD they highlight “the infectious charm and dazzling virtuosity of eighteenth century Scottish music.”

I guess that present day listeners will be largely unaware of the popularity and success of Scottish music in the 18th century London scene. It would require some considerable study to begin to understand the perceptions that a metropolitan audience had of Scotland at that time. That period saw the two failed Jacobite rebellions, with the country being “pacified” after 1745. Culture was a two way traffic. English mores headed North, and things Scottish were discovered in London, and elsewhere, including abroad.

Firstly, I listened to the “continental” composers. Francesco Geminiani hailed from Lucca in Italy, Nicola Matteis, violinist and guitarist was (probably) born in Naples, and Giuseppe Sammartini was from Milan. All three came to London and spent much of their careers there. They were all influenced by Scottish music and absorbed stylistic elements of the Caledonian muse into their own works. That said, just how Scottish (as opposed to displaying Italian virtuosity) is Sammartini’s Trio Sonata No.6? I wonder… It opens with a pensive adagio and concludes with a dazzling display of recorder pyrotechnics. The middle movements feature a robust allegro and a harmonically rich Largo. This sonata is scored for recorder, violin and continuo. Despite his Italian background Geminiani’s The Last Time I came o’er the Moor does exude a deliberately Scottish mood.

But things worked in the other direction too. Scottish composers headed down to London, conscious of opportunities that this new Caledonian popularity presented. These included James Oswald, a dancing master from Dunfermline who flitted to London to become a composer, publisher, teacher and impresario. The successful Edinburgh music publisher, Robert Bremner, moved to the Capital in 1762, to open a shop in the Strand. Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie was an instrumentalist and composer who visited London, had considerable success there, but returned to his hometown of Edinburgh. His lifestyle was “dissolute” and would make an entertaining subject for a mischievous novel.

Finally, Englishman Henry Playford published what was probably the first collection of Scottish music in London - A Collection of Original Scotch Tunes: Full of the Highland Humours. This volume gives the title to the present CD.

Highlights for me include Robert Bremner’s vibrant harpsichord solo Maggie Lauder, so well played here by Thomas Allery. Henry Playford’s two short melodies for solo recorder are particularly poignant: Peggy’s the Prettiest and My Lady Hope’s Scotch Measure. I guess the composer that appealed to me the most here is James Oswald. Several examples are given from his Airs for the seasons. The recital opens with the plaintive The Poppy evoking summer. Equally introspective is the beautiful Autumn Air, The Sweet Sultan with its three sections concluding with a vigorous hornpipe. Springtime brings forth The Ranunculus (buttercup) which begins to bloom as the days get warmer. The Cyclamen reflects winter with its four contrasting sections presenting a chilled mood.

Thomas Erskine’s Sonata IV from his Six Sonatas for two violins and bass, is the longest individual work on this album. Alan Cooper in a review for the British Music Society has suggested that once again this seems to owe more to the Italian tradition than to the Scottish. The reason could be that Arcangelo Corelli was popular at that time in Edinburgh. It is played here with the recorder substituted for one of the violins.

Finally, note the outrageously politically incorrect title of the final track. Bremner has based this short number on a “raucous tune” which delivers some “spirited and humorous variations in a timeless Scots fiddle style.”

As expected from EM Records, the sound quality is ideal. Every note and phrase is clearly delineated. The listener genuinely feels that they are present in the recital room. Equally impressive are the liner notes. Brief biographies of each composer are given in alphabetical order. This is followed by an essay length dissertation on the music. These notes were compiled by Mary-Jannet Leith, the ensemble’s recorderist. One thought: I do wish that the track listing gave the instrumentation of each piece. The cover picture is by Em Marshall and may be “somewhere” in Scotland.

This is repertoire with which I am unfamiliar. I have not heard any other recordings of this music: I do not know to what extent they exist. My overall impression is of the sheer delight and pleasure being communicated to the listener by this exceptionally talented ensemble. I enjoyed every note.

Track Listing:
James Oswald (1710–1769)

The Airs for Summer (1755-56): The Poppy
Giuseppe Sammartini (1695–1750)
Twelve Trio Sonatas for Two German Flutes or Violins (1727): Sonata VI
Nicola Matteis (?–c. 1713)
Other Ayres and Pieces for the violin, bass viol and harpsichord, The Fourth Part (c.1685): Ground After the Scotch Humour
James Oswald
The Airs for Autumn (1755-56): The Sweet Sultan: Siciliana
A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes (1740): Alloway House
Thomas Erskine, Earl of Kellie (1732–1781)
Six Sonatas for two violins and bass: Sonata IV (1769)
James Oswald
The Airs for Spring (1755-56): The Ranunculus
A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes: A Sonata on Scots Tunes (1740): O Mother, what shall I do? Ettrick Banks; She Rose and let me in; Cromlit’s Lilt; Polwart on the Green
Henry Playford (1657–1709)
A Collection of Original Scotch Tunes: Full of the Highland Humours (1700): Peggy’s the Prettiest - My Lady Hope’s Scotch Measure
James Oswald
The Airs for Winter (1755-56): The Cyclamen
Robert Bremner (c.1713–1789)
A Harpsichord or Spinnet Miscellany (1760): Maggie Lauder
Francesco Geminiani (1687–1762)
A Treatise of Good Taste in The Art of Musick Sonata III: The Last Time I came o’er the Moor (1749)
Robert Bremner
A Curious Collection of Scots Tunes with Variations (1759): Hit Her on The Bum
Ensemble Hesperi: Mary-Jannet Leith (recorders), Magdalena Loth-Hill (baroque violin) Florence Petit (baroque cello), Thomas Allery (harpsichord).
rec. 25-27 May 2021 at St John the Evangelist Church, Oxford.
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published. 

Saturday 18 June 2022

William Alwyn: Movements for Piano (1961)

To understand William Alwyn’s Movements for Piano the listener needs to consider some biographical circumstances of the composer. His relationship with is first wife, Olive Pull, had become considerably strained. According to his autobiography, Winged Chariot, he owed his sanity and health to the care and devotion of his future second wife, Doreen Carwithen. He was finding life stressful in London as well, no doubt it was compounded by his marital difficulties. His doctor suggested that it was time for a change; he was advised to leave home and the capital. 

Alwyn had several works in the frame that he felt duty bound to try and finish. In 1959 he had completed his fourth symphony: this was certainly no restful piece of music. He had abandoned a Piano Concerto that he was writing due to the illness of the dedicatee, Cor de Groot. This was to have been played at the 1960 Promenade Concerts. Despite his nervous exhaustion and considerable mental strain he produced music that is “gay and bustling” - the Derby Day Overture. This was first performed at the Proms on 8th September 1960. Currently he was working on his final film score - The Running Man.

Finally, in May 1961, William Alwyn decided to set up home with Doreen Carwithen, who had been his pupil and was herself a composer. They decided to settle in the Suffolk village of Blythburgh with its attractive location near to the coast and the estuary of the River Blyth. 

Sadly, the move was not soon enough to prevent Alwyn from having his nervous breakdown. He also developed a fear of the piano. It was only through the persistence of Carwithen that he was coaxed back into playing. She encouraged him to play piano duet versions of Mozart and Haydn. Soon he was eased back into writing music. 

His reawakened passion emerged with Movements for Piano. It was completed at Blythburgh on 1 September 1961. It is long-ish, lasting some fifteen minutes and consisting of three contrasting yet strangely unified movements. It marks an enlargement of his style. This music is often disturbed and unsettled. It is quite introspective, as if Alwyn were offloading much that had been going on in his life over the past three or so years. It appears to lack light; in fact it largely consists of dark tones and shadowy hues. However it is the balance that he generates between the abstract quality of this music and the extremely romantic feel that much of it generates. There is also a balance between the serial and seemingly tonal elements of this music that give it its complex feel. 

The holograph of Movements carries the subtitle of Sonata No.2. The composer wrote on the score the following note which was latterly crossed out: “This piece is designed as a three movement work to be played as a whole, but each movement is complete in itself and can be used separately as a self-contained concert piece.” The manuscript cares the dedication “To Doreen Carwithen.”  The three movements are: Allegro appassionato, Evocation and The Devils Reel.

The Allegro appassionato is tempestuous. There is an atonal feel to the opening pages of this movement - the tune is given out simply at the beginning and is then developed. There are some percussive Bartokian chords here before the music begins to take on a fervent tone. This is certainly not neo-classical music, but full-blown romantic writing. It is only on the second or third hearing that one realises that there are some warm passages in this stormy opening movement. The central section has some quiet and quite heart easing chords. Yet the underlying tone is turbulent, there is no doubt about that. Much of this Appassionata music is almost Lisztian in sound.

Evocation is ominous and is largely composed of dappled hues and has very much a blurred feel to it. Is Alwyn trying to portray the dawn over the Blyth estuary? Or is he musically expressing the rebirth of his composing career after his nervous breakdown? Once again, the atonal feel of this movement is obvious - especially in the opening and closing sections. Alwyn has made use of a tone row here that is loosely related to that used in his great Third Symphony. Yet, he makes a subtle use of this musical tool: he never allows it to control his thought - he is master of the row. Suddenly, out of almost nowhere there is an attractive melody supported on harmony reminiscent of a Chopin Nocturne. There is often an impressionistic feel in much of this music - especially in the figurations. The music builds to a considerable climax and then subsides; there is a restatement of the original tone row - this time I think portraying moonlight on water. The movement closes quietly with a sense of peace and tranquillity tentatively established. 

The final movement, the Devils Galop, is frenetic. It is rather like a “Night ride” - but not of the Sibelian type - more of Ravel's Scarbo or Berlioz's “gibbet” music. It has rightly been compared to Robert Burns's Tam O' Shanter. Yet it is not quite so demonic as some critics have tried to make out. There are moments when optimism is on the brink of breaking out, often being repressed at the last moment. Although it is seemingly high spirited in places it is angry, aggressive and insistent. Alwyn is economical with his material in much of this movement -there is much circular figuration giving an impression of speed and swirl. There is the same darkness here that pervades the entire composition; much of this writing appears to be ambiguous. There is what appears to be the start of a peroration at the end, signifying the composer' coming through' but this dies down as the last page is reached. The work concludes with four or five aggressive chords. 

Movements for piano was premiered on 23 February 1963 on the BBC Home Service. The piano soloist was Terence Beckles.

There is no doubt that Movements is one of Alwyn’s best piano pieces, he quite clearly re-presents himself as once again being full of life and creativity. He has begun to come through the problems of the past three or so years.

Alwyn, William, Winged Chariot, (Southwold Press, 1983)
Sleeve Notes to Chandos and Naxos Recordings (see below for details)
Dressler, John C. William Alwyn: A Research and Information Guide (Routledge Press, 2011)
ed. Palmer, Andrew, Composing in Words: William Alwyn on his Art (Toccata Press, 2009)
Craggs, Stewart and Poulton, Alan, William Alwyn: A Catalogue of his Music (Bravura Publications, 1985)
Wright, Adrian, The Innumerable Dance: The Life and Work of William Alwyn (The Boydell Press, 2008)

Alwyn, William, Piano Music, Julian Milford, Chandos CHAN 9825, 2000
Alwyn, Willima, Piano Music Volume 2, Ashley Wass, NAXOS, 8.570464, 2008

Wednesday 15 June 2022

Edward Cowie: 24 Preludes for piano

This extraordinary CD of Edward Cowie’s 24 Preludes for piano is a reissue of a rare recording released by the University of Hertfordshire Recordings back in 2008. I am beholden to the excellent booklet notes and personal communication with the composer in preparing this review. The 24 Preludes were composed between late 2005, and mid-2007. They are dedicated to the present soloist, Philip Mead, who gives such a stunning performance on this CD. 

The original CD liner notes give a good basis for appreciating these Preludes. Cowie explains that he has travelled extensively, and that his “memories of landscapes and places in some of those far-flung habitats are as strong as ever, no matter how long ago they were first visited.”  Furthermore, he states that he has “nearly always written music that derives from a direct “on site” interaction with wild places; the voices of the natural world.” The present sequence of Preludes recall twenty four “distinctive yet sometimes related and interconnected locations.” 

No listener will need to be reminded of historical precedents for this procedure. Most obvious is J.S. Bach Das Wohltemperirte Klavier. Equally relevant to this exploration are the cycles of Preludes by Frederic Chopin and there are the early Preludes by Olivier Messiaen which are often forgotten about in any consideration of his music. Most pertinently of all is Claude Debussy who applied titles to his Preludes after he had written them. With Cowie the imagery came first.

There is another aspect to this massive composition. Surprisingly, for a contemporary composer, Cowie wanted to use the 24 major and minor keys of the well-tempered system as a structural basis for the music. I have no access to the score and do not possess perfect pitch, so I wondered if each prelude was written using the precise key signature or if each note had the relevant accidental added. Cowie assures me that “all the key signatures were written as Bach did.”  The progress of the key sequence is C major/minor then the dominant G major/minor and so on. Bach began in C major/minor and then moved up a semitone to C# major/minor etc. So Cowie’s structure is a fusion of key relationships.

What the listener must be aware of is that these are not character sketches, where the composer wrote the music and then dreamed up a catchy and commercial title. Here, each place/event is the fundamental inspiration for the genesis and development of the individual prelude. To understand his methodology, it is essential to recall that Cowie does his preparatory work with four notebooks. The first one records “shape” or “form” of what is round about him, the second puts down colours: those that blend and clash. Notebook three is devoted to representational drawing, and may include landscapes, flora and fauna. The final jotter is where Cowie records the musical notation of what he hears. Using his collection of notebooks, Cowie then creates what is effectively a work of art, combining the various elements of his research. Several of these are included in the CD booklet. It is from these that he completes his score.

Philip Mead has categorised Cowie’s Preludes as being neo-baroque but belonging wholly to the 21st century and balancing a “stark tonality” with a “non-tonal flavour.”  He considers that Bach is the main inspiration for technique – “There is an accent on polyphony, lithe, contrapuntal textures, sometimes even imitation, in strict 2-part writing.”

Several times the word “improvisatory” is used in connection with this music. I asked Edward Cowie about this. He explained that they were all “strictly notated” but allowed a “regular scattering of rubato.” This is a method of playing that allows for “subtle rhythmic manipulation and nuance.” In other words, the performer may “stretch certain beats, measures, or phrases and compact others.”

I did wonder if the composer imagined that the entire cycle would be played at a single sitting. He assured me that he “always imagined they’d be played in whatever grouping the performer likes. Performed in Scarlatti...or perhaps a group of four with one each from the elements...”  On the other hand, like Bach and Debussy these Preludes are “like a series of linked parts to a greater whole.” So hearing the cycle complete is a valid option.

As an aid to listening, the Preludes are assembled into four books: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. This elemental structure gives the music a kind of alchemical validity. The geographical reach of this music is impressive. From the opening evocation of O Brook (Devon) to the Blast Furnaces at Port Kembla Steel Works (Australia) and from St Maxime Beach, Provence to the New Year Fireworks, Kassel, Germany, the imagery is striking.

I listened to these pieces a book at a time. And then had a short break. In future I will cheat and pick out some of the places that I know and love such as Glencoe, Loch Carron, Boscastle and Rosedale in Yorkshire. But then, it is possible to extend one’s geographical reach to the Tennessee River, Lake Eacham in Queensland and to 35,000 feet inspired by a view from the flight deck of a jet airliner high above the Straits of Java. I did notice one lovely touch: the cycle opens and closes with an evocation of Glorious Devon. What could be more appropriate?

I have come to expect superlative liner notes to be provided with Edward Cowie’s recordings. And this latest CD is no exception. There is a considerable essay by the composer. This is followed by some important “Personal Thoughts on the Cowie Preludes” by the soloist, Philip Mead. Of interest is the biographical notes on the composer and the pianist. But the added value of this booklet is the artwork. There are four examples of Cowie’s “pre-compositional sketches” for these Preludes. It is safe to say that these are works of art. They feature representational images of the locations, various abstracted designs, and patterns, fugitive text as well as interpolated notational extracts. There is also a photo of a selection of his notebooks. The CD cover features a remarkable painting by Heather Cowie, Cancleave – Sea Mist in oil and cold wax medium on paper. All this material contributes to a satisfying and rewarding experience. For details of the composer’s biography and achievement, please see his excellent website.

Philip Mead provides an ideal, succinct summary of this cycle of Preludes: “One can look for similarities with its predecessors, but this seems to me a fruitless task as these works inhabit a wholly original world which only Cowie could create. Original, yet omnipresent, tonal, yet non tonal, full of movement yet also sometimes of stasis.” They are a splendid addition to the cycles of Preludes of Bach, Chopin, Debussy and Messiaen.

Track Listing
Book 1 – Water

I. O Brook (Devon, England) in C major [3:16]
II. Kiama Blowhole (NSW, Australia) in C minor [2:50]
III. Cancleave (Cornwall, England, sea mists) in G major [3:19]
IV. River Dronne (Dordogne, France) in G minor [1:47]
V. St Maxime Beach (Provence, France) in D major [3:30]
VI. Tennessee River (Tennessee, USA) in D minor [4:38]
Book 2 – Air
I. Boscastle (Cornwall, England, gale) in A major [2:06]
II. Hay Plains Twisters (NSW, Australia) in A minor [2:48]
III. 35,000 feet (Straits of Java) in E major [6:41]
IV. Tapada (Portugal, thermal raptors) in E minor [2:18]
V. Lake Eacham (Queensland, Australia, night breezes) in B major [3:23]
VI. Dartington Gardens (Devon, England, autumn leaf-fall) in B minor [4:14]
Book 3 – Earth
I. Uluru (Australia) in F sharp major [3:29]
II. Crackington Haven (Cornwall, England) in F sharp minor [1:21]
III. Rosedale (Yorkshire, England) in C sharp major [3:07]
IV. Glencoe (Scotland) in C sharp minor [3:25]
V. Brecon Beacons (Wales) in A flat major [1:17]
VI. Shenandoah Valley (Virginia, USA) in A flat minor [4:19]
Book 4 – Fire
I. Sunrise (Loch Carron, Scotland) in E flat major [2:19]
II. Bush Fires (Bluewater, N. Queensland, Australia) in E flat minor [1:00]
III. Home Fire (Garlinge Green, Kent, England) in B flat major [1:56]
IV. Blast Furnaces at Port Kembla Steel Works (Australia) in B flat minor [3:14]
V. New Year Fireworks (Kassel, Germany) in F major [1:34]
VI. Sunset (Dartmoor, Devon, England) in F minor [2:57]

Sunday 12 June 2022

Richard Stoker: Regency Suite Op.15 (1952-1959)

Richard Stoker's attractive Regency Suite op.15 was composed over several years during the 1950s. It is a composite work - with a few early pieces being mined to produce what is a surprisingly well integrated result. 

The opening Scherzo - is a little toccata, in fact, is supposedly based on Picasso line drawings and circus paintings. It was the last piece to be completed for this suite. It is full of little figurations and has a definite and deliberate chaos of tonality. The following Minuet on the other hand was written when the composer was yet a boy. It is quite a concentrated little piece complete with cunning key changes at the cadences. I wondered if it was worked over by Stoker for this suite, as it seems to fit perfectly into the prevailing style. Again the tonality is very free- one almost feels that there is a little tone row somewhere amongst the rather sweet tune.

The Pastoral Andante was written in 1958. It is quite a desolate landscape that this Yorkshire born composer is reflecting on. It is nearer the moors above Huddersfield or the strange country around Spurn Point rather than the smiling fields near York. The 'Gigue' is a fun piece. Lots of contrast and a few sequences, ties this nicely into the old-fashioned feel to the work. The oldest piece of music is the Gavotte, composed when Stoker was a mere 14 years old. Yet it is a piece that deserves to be preserved. Absolutely perfect here. The last piece is a Toccata, and it is apparently very dear to the composer. A fine finish.

There is an interesting little bit of musical history here - the Gavotte and the Minuet were given their first Broadcast Performance on the BBC Home Service in 1953 - by none other than Violet Carson - later to become famous as Ena Sharples in Coronation Street. I never knew she was a pianist.

A critic once wrote that “this is not silk shirted music!" The title Regency Suite "aptly reflects the slightly neoclassical nature of each piece.”

Richard Stoker’s Regency Suite can be heard on SoundCloud. It is played by Erik Parkin.

Thursday 9 June 2022

Arnold, Schonberger, Gipps Horn Concertos

Malcolm Arnold’s Horn Concerto No.2, op.58 was composed in 1956 and dedicated to the legendary soloist, Dennis Brain. It was premiered by him at the Cheltenham Festival on 17 July 1957. Sadly, it was one of Brain’s final performances before his tragic death in September of that year. 

The first thing to understand about this concerto is that there is no contest with the woodwind or brass in the score:  it only uses a string orchestra. And, secondly, it was “designed to exhibit the extraordinary virtuosity of the soloist…” Arnold wanted to test Dennis Brain’s “limits and endurance.” So much so that it is rumoured that Brain had to edit some of the more impossible and challenging passages.

One thing that struck me about this work is that there are few of Arnold’s lighter fingerprints: a great deal of the music is serious in effect and intent. Much of the concerto’s progress relies on “song-like tunes” specifically designed to “display Brain’s artistry in shaping cantabile phrases, the warmth and purity of his tone and his clarinet-like fluency.” There is little use made of the horn’s lower register, nor of “hunting” cliches. Hugo Cole has noted that Arnold “has paid tribute to the musician as much as the virtuoso.” 

There is some competition for this Concerto, with rival recordings made by Alan Civil (2), David Pyatt and Richard Watkins. The present version is the first for a generation. Sadly, the BBC did not broadcast or record the premiere performance from Cheltenham. There is no known recording of Brain playing this piece or any other by Arnold.

I enjoyed Ben Goldscheider’s account of this Concerto. Especially interesting was the depth of the slow movement with its nod towards Ravel’s Pavane and the exuberance of the finale. It would be good if he gets around to recording Arnold’s first concerto and the Fantasy for solo horn.

I confess that I have not heard of Christoph Schönberger. There are no “hits” for him on MusicWeb International, nor the Presto CD site (this album excepted). The liner notes state that his Horn Concerto in F is written “in a tonal and traditional style.”  Is this his “normal” musical aesthetic? The composer himself states that the “layout of the work is similar to that of a classical concerto with its first movement resembling a sonata form, the second, slow movement in ternary form (A-B-A) and the third movement…being a rondo.” On the other hand, there are romantic formal techniques used here. Without the score, it is more difficult to spot themes that recur in each movement. But their existence suggests a degree of cyclicity in this work. The liner notes analyse the concerto as a series of “stories,” really being an analysis of how the various subjects interact. There is no suggestion of a programme with this music, though there may be one inside Schönberger’s head or heart.

As I did not know this composition, I listened to it twice straight through. I cannot decide whether I like it or not. Certainly, it is tuneful, well-written, generous and grateful to the soloist. There is some gorgeous orchestration, especially in the slow movement.

Overall this is a well-wrought concerto, which seems look to back in time, rather than forward. There is nothing wrong in that. I do wonder if it will “take off” in the concert halls? No information is given about its debut performance: I was unable to locate any reviews of this work. The present recording, unsurprisingly then, is a “world premiere.”

Ruth Gipps’s Horn Concerto, op.58 is an undoubted masterpiece. It was completed in 1968 and dedicated to her son, Lance Baker. The concerto was premiered by him at the Duke’s Hall, the Guildhall, London on 15 November 1969. Gipps conducted the London Repertoire Orchestra. It was one of precious few works for orchestra that she wrote during the 1960s (the other is the Symphony No.3, op.57).

The liner notes sum up the concerto’s aesthetic well: “the figure of the horn as the hero is not introduced until the very end of the work.” Meanwhile, much of the progress is contemplative, introspective and giving the impression of “instability and wandering.”  I do not think that this is in anyway a negative assessment. The entire piece seems to straddle various eras including the classical and romantic. Despite its date, there are no nods to the avant-garde of the day. That said, the horn solo is often characterised by an extensive range, low notes, wide leaps, and triple tonguing, giving the concerto at least a veneer of modernism. Perhaps the most significant asset of this concerto is the compelling orchestration. Regarded as demanding for the soloist, it requires a strong technique and the ability to deal with many interpretive issues. It is relatively short, lasting just under 18 minutes. Yet a lot is packed into this limited space. This is my favourite work on this CD. It is given a superb performance by Ben Goldscheider.

The liner notes are comprehensive. Detailed analysis and information about the Arnold and the Gipps concertos was devised by the soloist, and for the Schönberger by himself. Strangely, there are no overviews of each of the composers. Composer dates are omitted. I concede that 1921 is mentioned in the text as the birth year of Arnold and Gipps, but not the years of their death. No such information is given about Schönberger, who I understand is very much alive. However, I could find no website for him. There is a Twitter account, but I do not have access to that. Brief biographies are given for the soloist, the orchestra and conductor. For further details of Ben Goldscheider, please see his excellent website.

The playing on this disc is superb. Goldscheider gives splendid and authoritative accounts of each concerto. His tone, especially when called for to play cantabile and legato is bewitching. He copes with the technical challenges with great skill and command.

Track Listing:
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)

Horn Concerto No.2, op.58 (1956
Christoph SCHÖNBERGER (b.1961)
Horn Concerto in F (2019)
Ruth GIPPS (1921-99)
Horn Concerto, op.58 (1968)
Ben Goldscheider (horn)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Lee Reynolds
rec.1 March 2021 (Arnold), 16 March 2021 (Schonberger), 15 May 2021 (Gipps), Henry Wood Hall, London

Monday 6 June 2022

A New Yorkshire Musical Genius: A Eaglefield Hull Part II

RECENTLY, THREE NEW ALBUMS OF HIS PIECES have been published: Four Poems and Coloured Leaves (both by Augener) and Silverpoints, with Elkin’s who are also publishing a new set of four pieces containing an “Angelus” (the loveliest of all). [1]

Baines’s imagination takes fire from the glory of colour, the rhythm of sunsets, the glow of flowers and the stories of Poe. Paradise Gardens was written in the summer of 1919, as a result of a few moments’ inspiration derived from a reverie in the gardens near the city walls in York. [2] A glorious sunset drew forth like a magnet all the colour and essence from the flowers, the distant domes [and spires] in the city glittered like oriental palaces.

The Four Poems are a poem-fragment, a delicate little dance movement, in miniature rondo form, with a sylph-like refrain, usually played much too fast; ‘Elves,’ a playful sketch on the upper part of the keyboard; a ‘Nocturne’ which is very characteristic of Baines in harmonic reveries; and a leonine ‘Appassionata.’ The Coloured Leaves book consists of a ‘Prelude,’ capable of many interpretations, all good; an intriguing little ‘Waltz,’ avowedly written for children; ‘Still Day,’ a lento full of rich colouring; and a moorland sketch ‘Purple Heights.’

The Silverpoints album has Labyrinth, a water study in a deep-sea cave, Water Pearls, an exquisite piece of tone-painting over a standing tonic throughout; The Burning Joss-Stick in the Chinese devotional manner, and the purely decorative Floralia – all highly representative pieces.

The composer’s exquisite tastes is shown in the titles of his pieces quite as much as in the contents. He would have likes to call his new set Vistas had he not been forestalled by Cyril Scott.

I can think of no better way of ending this little sketch than by quoting the close of my British Music Bulletin pamphlet:

“Well, sirs, you need not take your hats off yet; but I would fain have you in the mood for doing so.”

P.S.  Just after I had finished this article, the following appreciation which I had asked Mr Frederick Dawson to write for The Bookman, came:

It is a great joy to an artist to find work so individual in idea and expression as the music of William Baines. Like all the best writers for the pianoforte, Baines owes much to Chopin (who himself derived from John Field) and indubitably he has been considerably influenced by the revolution in modern harmonic thought, but he is in no sense a copyist, he has created for himself a wholly personal and original medium (his pianoforte technique is often that of a daring virtuoso). His outlook is entirely modern; still very young his youth and enthusiasm are apparent in all his work., but nowhere is there any trace of immaturity. On the contrary, his subtle appreciation of tone values and his skill on securing an exact atmosphere everywhere proclaim the master of his means; strikingly remarkable are his wonderful endings, which at first hearing may sound unexpected, perhaps even startling, but prove in closer acquaintance to be the only satisfying, the inevitable, conclusions.

“He possesses an inexhaustible fancy and the enviable gift of translating into terms of sound his love of Nature and his joy in the beautiful.”

[1] Angelus was included in an album of Three Pieces. The other titles were Ave! Imperator and Milestones: A Walking Tune. It was published by Elkin & Co. in 1922.
[2] The gardens referred to, were the policies of the Station Hotel. Once idyllic, they have been largely sacrificed to the god automobile. Fortunately, there is sufficient remaining to give a clue to the impact on William Baines.

Friday 3 June 2022

A New Yorkshire Musical Genius: A Eaglefield Hull Part I

Arthur Eaglefield Hull (1876-1928) was a British music critic, author, organist and composer. He wrote for many periodicals, including The Monthly Musical Record. His books include an early biography of Cyril Scott (1919) and Modern harmony, its explanation and application (1915). He edited the organ works of Alexander Guilmant. His life ended in tragedy when he fell in front of a train at Huddersfield Railway station. The coroner reported “Suicide whilst of unsound mind.”

I have provided a few footnotes and have made a few orthographical changes to the text.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, THE WORK OF WILLIAM BAINES would have been impossible in England. Fortunately for him, as for many others, the whole artistic outlook has now changed, not only in Britain, but all over Europe. In 1914 the great Russian composer, Scriabin, replied to an article by Briantchaninoff in the Novoe Vremia [1] on the educational significance of the war, saying “You have voiced and old idea of mine, that at times the human mass needs to be shaken up in order to purify itself and to fit it for the reception of more delicate impressions (vibrations) than those to which it has hitherto responded.” The upheaval of the war was not however the only cause of the improved outlook; but it was the chief contributory one.

In the realm of British music tocsins [bells] were rung by Parry with his Prometheus Unbound in 1880, Stanford with his Irish Symphony in 1887, and by Mackenzie with his Britania Overture in 1894; but the nation at large was unable to respond – perhaps because the ringers themselves could not be quite wholehearted on their summoning, for they were all three trained on German lines. And the land rested for another term of years until Elgar came with his Gerontius in 1900, speaking at last in the pure English musical tongue, and Bantock followed with his Omar Khayyam, flinging the door wide open to the East, and Holbrooke with his Ulalume, rating an indolent public for its bovine deafness. Then the war shut off our musical intercourse with Germany for seven lean years, during which times we discovered the new musical schools of Belgium, France, Spain, Italy and Finland, the significance of India and Japan in art, and incidentally our own national musical soul, with its shallow musical hypocrisies, its immense inheritances, and its glorious possibilities. We discovered Bax, Ireland, Bridge, Butterworth, Goossens, Holst, Vaughan Williams and many others. And during their naissance, a small boy reared in circumstances so humble that they allowed no musical training, only sparse opportunities of hearing good music, hardly any books ever, was weaving music of an unusual beauty and a rare originality, out of nothing.

One day in January 1920, I arrived home late at night tired out by a long journey. Turning listlessly over a stack of new music on the piano, the title Paradise Gardens caught my fancy, and the first few bars arrested my attention. Here was an unknown composer writing in all the splendour of Scriabin’s piano style, but with an individuality swung in an altogether different direction. I played through Paradise Gardens with keen interest and repeated it with wonder and admiration. A rare melodic gift, an originality of expression, a dainty but logical harmonic invention, an attractive personality, and a Japanese exquisiteness of perfection, all floated out from the tones of my Blüthner grand. The piece was a well-sustained reverie, full of delicious motives and fragrant tone-colours. I turned to the only other copy of Baines in the stack of new music, a set of Preludes, wondering who the new composer could be. These proved to be seven delightful miniatures in varying moods. The first had some Scriabinic turns of harmony yet possessed individuality. The second written in a convent garden, [2] contrasts the delicate sounds of a blackbird’s notes with the turmoil of the composer’s ow feelings, concluding with a waft of organ sound. The third is an eight-bar harmonic miniature, a gem of the rare order of the Chopin C minor prelude. In the fourth I found a whirl of gyrating patterns of harmonic play, like a sun dust dance; the fifth a sketch of poppies gleaming in the moonlight; the sixth, an exquisite piece like nothing else in the world; the final piece, I thought, spoilt a lovely set. The first six pieces all moved with a delightful life. The style was thoroughly steeped in the essential colour of the piano but was free of the Chopin morbidezza. [3] Only Debussy and Scriabin has written for the piano. I placed the pieces aside to show to my friend William Murdoch who was visiting me on the following night.

He read them off at sight in a wonderful way, was impressed, and promised to put them into his programmes. Meanwhile I wrote to the publishers and found that the composer was a youth of nineteen, living in a small Yorkshire town, Horbury and was on the point of moving to York where his father was fulfilling an engagement as a cinema-pianist. Baines came and stayed with me, bringing shoals of unpublished manuscripts, quartets, songs, a symphony - more piano pieces. I was confirmed in my hope and was pleased meanwhile to read an unusually appreciative notice of two Baines pieces, by Mr Dunton Green in the Arts Gazette. I could not conceive how the other critics had overlooked such striking music; so, I determined to sound a loud fanfare, and opened an article on the new pieces in the British Music Bulletin (March 1920), [4] which I then edited, with the ecstatic cry of Schumann over Chopin’s early pieces, “Hats off, gentlemen, a genius!” Since then, the composer has become widely known in the North, giving recitals of his own music to a large and ever-growing following at such places as his health permits him to visit – Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool, Leeds, Huddersfield, etc. Mr Frederick Dawson, [5] the famous pianist, has recently become an enthusiastic propogandist of Baines’s music and a warm friend to the composer, whose future seems now to be assured, provided sound health can be won.

[1] A.N. Brianchaninov (1874-1918?) was a Russian music critic and editor of the magazine New Link. He was a friend of Alexnader Scriabin and was an enthusiastic proponent of his music.
[2] This is most likely Bar Convent in York.
[3] Morbiezza: an extreme delicacy and softness
[4] The British Music Bulletin was the house journal of the British Music Society founded by A. Eaglefield Hull in 1918 “with the intention of advancing the cause of music in Britain on every conceivable front.” It is no relation of the present British Music Society which was founded in 1979.
[5] Frederick Dawson (1868-1940) was a Leeds born pianist and teacher. He taught at the Royal Manchester College of Music and at the Royal College of Music in London. Dawson had a wide-ranging repertoire from the early English music to the French Impressionists.

To be continued…