Saturday, 26 June 2010

Robert Simpson - Symphony no 9 (Part 5)

Robert Simpson - Symphony no 9 (Part 4)

Robert Simpson - Symphony no 9 (Part 3)

Robert Simpson - Symphony no 9 (Part 2)

Robert Simpson - Symphony no 9 (Part 1)

Robert Simpson 1921-1997

Simpson was born in Leamington, Warwickshire. His father, Robert Warren Simpson, was a descendent of Sir James Young Simpson, the Scottish pioneer of anaesthetics; his mother, Helena Hendrika Govaars, was the daughter of Gerrit Govaars, founder of the 'Leger des Heils'. Simpson studied at Westminster School. He was intended for a medical career and studied in London for two years before his determination to be a musician gained the upper hand. A conscientious objector in World War II, he served with an A.R.P. mobile surgical unit during the London Blitz, while taking lessons from Herbert Howells. Howells persuaded him to take the University of Durham Bachelor of Music degree and in 1952 he gained the further degree of Doctor of Music from that university, the submitted work being his First Symphony. After the war Simpson lectured extensively and founded the Exploratory Concerts Society; in 1951 he joined the music staff of the BBC and became one of its best-known and most respected music producers, remaining with the Corporation for nearly three decades. He had married Bessie Fraser in 1946; she died in 1981 and the following year he married Angela Musgrave, a fellow BBC employee and relative of composer Thea Musgrave.

In the latter part of his career as a BBC producer Simpson frequently clashed with the management of the organization. In the 1970s he was one of those -- Hans Keller and Deryck Cooke were others—who started the (unsuccessful) revolt against the report 'Broadcasting in the Seventies' and its plan for 'generic broadcasting' (i.e. separate networks for pop, classical and speech). A decade later Simpson was energetic in his opposition to a cost-cutting reorganisation that ultimately proposed the decommissioning of five of the eleven BBC orchestras. During the ensuing musicians' strike (which caused the cancellation of the first several weeks of 1980's BBC Promenade Concerts) Simpson chose to disregard BBC staff regulations and discuss the matter with a national newspaper; he then resigned from the Corporation, publicly alleging a 'degeneration of traditional BBC values in the scramble for ratings' (Hans Keller later described these criticisms as "demonstrable fact"[1]) . Had Simpson remained silent for a few more months he would have been able to retire with a full pension, but his feeling was that such a course would have compromised his principles. Abominating the ethos of Thatcherite Britain, in 1986 he moved to Ireland, settling on Tralee Bay in Kerry. In 1991 he suffered a severe stroke during an English lecture tour, which caused damage to the thalamus that left him in debilitating pain for the remaining six years of his life. He died in Tralee in 1997.

Simpson's other great passions were astronomy (he was a member of the British Astronomical Association and – unusually for an amateur – was made a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society) and pacifism, specifically addressed in the title of his Tenth String Quartet, For Peace. He was awarded many honours, including the Carl Nielsen Gold Medal, 1956 (for his book Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, published 1952), and the Medal of Honor of the Bruckner Society of America, 1962; when offered the CBE, however, he refused it.

Ivor Gurney - Song "Sleep"

Ivor Gurney 1890 - 1937

Ivor Gurney, the son of a tailor, was born in Gloucester on 28th August, 1890. Gurney was educated at King's School, Gloucester as a chorister and he won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1911.

Gurney showed considerable talent as a composer and poet but in May 1913 he was diagnosed as suffering from dyspepsia and was sent home to Gloucester to recuperate. However, it is now accepted that he had a nervous breakdown and was the first sign of bipolar illness.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Gurney volunteered for the Gloucester regiment. He was initially turned down because of his defective eyesight, but as the British Army was short of men, was allowed to join in 1915.

After training at Salisbury he was sent to Riez Bailleul on the Western Front in May 1916. Three months later he was transferred to Albert during the Somme offensive.

On 7th April 1917, Gurney was shot in the army and sent to the army hospital at Rouen. The following month he rejoined his regiment at Arras.

In July 1917 Gurney was transferred to the 184 Machine Gun Company and was moved to Buysscheure and joined the forces preparing for the offensive at Passchendaele.

Gurney was gassed at St. Julien on 10th September 1917. He was sent to Edinburgh War Hospital and while recovering a collection of his war poems, Severn and Somme, appeared in November 1917.

After the war Gurney spent time in the Newcastle General Hospital, Lord Derby's War Hospital in Warrington and the Middlesex War Hospital in St. Albans. Gurney was finally discharged from hospital and the army on 4th October 1918.

Gurney's second book of poems, War's Embers was published in May 1919. However he was unable to make a living from his writing and over the next three years worked as a farm labourer, as a pianist in a cinema and as a clerk in the Gloucester Tax Office.

Gurney suffered from a severe manic depressive illness and after several failed attempts at suicide was sent to a mental asylum in Gloucester. On 28th September 1922, Gurney was certified insane and was transferred to the City of London Mental Hospital at Dartford. He continued to write poetry and his work was published in the London Mercury.

Ivor Gurney died of bilateral pulmonary tuberculosis at the City of London Mental Hospital on 26th December, 1937. Five days later he was buried at Twigworth, Gloucestershire.

Edward Gregson - Sword and the crown

Edward Gregson 1945 -

Edward Gregson is an English composer of international standing, whose music has been performed, broadcast, and recorded worldwide. He was born in Sunderland, England, in 1945. He studied composition (with Alan Bush) and piano at the Royal Academy of Music from 1963-7, winning five prizes for composition. Since then he has worked solely to commission and has written orchestral, chamber, instrumental and choral music, as well as music for the theatre, film, and television.

Edward Gregson was Principal of the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester from 1996–2008, when he retired from academic life to concentrate on his composition. He continues to sit on a number of Boards relating to music education and the music industry. He is a fellow at the RNCM, as well as at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music.

In recent years he has completed orchestral commissions for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Bournemouth Symphony, the Hallé and the BBC Philharmonic orchestras. His music has also been performed by many other orchestras and ensembles worldwide, including in the UK: the London Symphony Orchestra and all the BBC orchestras; in the USA: Detroit, Louisville and Albany (New York); in the Far East: Tokyo Philharmonic and China National Broadcasting Orchestra; and in Europe: orchestras in France, Germany, Holland, Luxembourg, and Scandinavia.

He has made a major contribution to the repertoire of brass and wind bands and ensembles including for brass: Connotations (1977), Dances and Arias (1984), Of Men and Mountains (1991), The Trumpets of the Angels (2000) and Rococo Variation (2008); and for wind: Festivo (1985), Celebration (1990), The Sword and the Crown (1996), Concerto for Piano and Wind (1997), and The Kings Go Forth (1998).

In 1988 he was nominated for an Ivor Novello award for his title music to BBC Television’s Young Musician of the Year programmes, for which he also regularly officiated as a jury member and broadcaster. A major retrospective of his music was held in Manchester in 2002 which coincided with the release of a CD of his orchestral music (including the clarinet and violin concertos) on the Chandos label. This disc, with the BBC Philharmonic under Martyn Brabbins, received wide critical acclaim, and in 2008 another CD of his concertos (those for trumpet, piano, and saxophone) was released on the same label. A third volume of his concertos, including his recent cello concerto and the trombone concerto, was recorded in March 2010.

Berthold Goldschmidt - Cello Concerto 3rd mvt

Berthold Goldschmidt - Cello Concerto 2nd mvt

Berthold Goldschmidt - Cello Concerto 1st mvt

Berthold Goldschmidt - Violin Concerto 3rd & 4th mvts

Berthold Goldschmidt - Violin Concerto 2nd mvt

Berthold Goldschmidt - Violin Concerto 1st mvt

Berthold Goldschmidt 1903 - 1996

Goldschmidt studied philosophy at Hamburg University and was encouraged by Busoni to become a composer. He entered the Berlin Hochschule in 1922 and became a member of Franz Schreker’s composition class (along with Krenek, Haba, Petyrek and Horenstein). He also studied conducting and played freelance in the Berlin Philharmonic; in 1923 coached the choir for the Berlin premiere of Schönberg’s “Gurrelieder”. Conducted in Dessau and with the Berlin Staatsoper; in 1925 was awarded the Mendelssohn State Prize for his orchestral Passacaglia, premiered by Erich Kleiber. From 1926 he was under contract to Universal Edition and was regarded as a leading light of the younger generation of composers; he also conducted widely, as far afield as Leningrad in 1931. German career climaxed in the premiere of his opera “Der gewaltige Hahnrei” in Mannheim in 1932; after the Nazi seizure of power his livelihood disappeared. In 1935 a music-loving Gestapo officer strongly advised him to leave Germany at once; he emigrated to England and settled in Belsize Park, Hampstead. Worked for the BBC, becoming Music Director of its German Serive 1944-47. During the war 22 members of Goldschmidt’s family perished in Auschwitz and Belsen. British citizenship 1947, conducted at Glyndebourne, Edinburgh festival and all the BBC orchestras into the 1960s. His opera ‘Beatrice Cenci’ was a prize-winner in the 1951 Festival of Britain opera competition, but no production followed and by the late 1950s, owing to lack of interest in his music in Britain and in Germany, he gave up composition for 24 years. 1958–64, collaborated with Deryck Cooke on the complete performing version of Mahler’s Tenth Symphony. He conducted the world premiere of this ‘Cooke Version’ with the LSO in 1964. In 1982 broke his compositional silence to write a Clarinet Quartet for Gervase de Peyer, and thereafter resumed composing — mainly chamber music. A revival of interest in his work led to performances in the USA and Germany (he was guest of the 1986 Berliner Festwochen), recordings, new productions of his operas and the recovery of lost manuscripts.

Armstrong Gibbs - Song: Five eyes

Armstrong Gibbs - Song: The fields are full

Armstrong Gibbs 1889 - 1960

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (he wasn't fond of the name Cecil) was born in 1889 at 'The Vineyards,' Great Baddow, the first child of Ida Gibbs (née Whitehead ) and David Cecil Gibbs, soap and chemicals manufacturer. His mother died when he was only two years old, so he was brought up by five maiden aunts who took it in turns to stay at Great Baddow and run the household. So apparent were his musical gifts at a young age, that the aunts begged the boy's father to send him abroad to receive a musical education. However David Cecil, who had himself been educated in Germany, was determined to give his son the benefit of an English public school education. Consequently the young Armstrong was sent first to a preparatory school on the Hove / Brighton borders and then on to Winchester College.

From Winchester, Armstrong Gibbs gained an exhibition and a sizarship to Trinity College Cambridge to read history. After completing his History Tripos in 1911 he stayed on at Cambridge to take his Mus. B. During that period he received composition and harmony lessons from E. J. Dent and Charles Wood and studied the organ briefly under Cyril Rootham. Realising that he could not make a living from composition alone, he decided to take up teaching. He spent just over a year at Copthorne School, East Grinstead, before returning to his old preparatory school, 'The Wick.' Although he was not able to compose as much as he had hoped, he did write some songs to poems of Walter de la Mare. On being asked to produce a play for the headmaster's retirement in 1919, Gibbs approached de la Mare directly and was delighted when the author produced the play 'Crossings' for him to set to music.

The producer of the play, Gibbs' old composition teacher E.J. Dent, brought the young Adrian Boult down to conduct 'Crossings.' He was so impressed with the music that he generously offered to fund Gibbs for a year as a mature student at the Royal College of Music. Encouraged by his wife, Honor, to take up the challenge, Armstrong Gibbs resigned from his post and moved back to Essex. After a year at the RCM studying conducting under Boult and composition under Vaughan Williams, he accepted a part-time teaching post at the college.

Soon after moving to Danbury in 1919, Gibbs set up a choral society which then participated in the Essex Musical Association festivals in Chelmsford. The setting of one of his own compositions, for a festival class in Bath, led to his becoming an adjudicator and eventually Vice-President of the National Federation of Music Festivals. Thereafter followed a busy life of touring the country adjudicating festivals, conducting and composing. As well as conducting the Choral Society in Danbury and singing with the Church Choir, Gibbs played cricket and bowls and lent active support to many local organisations.

His house 'Crossings' being requisitioned as a hospital during the Second World War Gibbs moved to Windermere, where he continued composing and conducting. After his son David was killed on active service in Italy he wrote his third symphony, 'The Westmorland.' On his return to Essex in 1945 he re-formed Danbury Choral Society and renewed his association with the Festivals Movement, playing a key role in the organisation of the music for the Mothers' Union World Wide Conference of 1948 and the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Known principally for his solo songs, Gibbs also wrote music for the stage, sacred works, three symphonies and a substantial amount of chamber music, much of which remains unpublished. He gained wide recognition during the early part of his life, but until recently, like many of his contemporaries, has been little known. Although he retired from adjudicating, he continued conducting and composing right to the end of his life. He died in Chelmsford on 12th May 1960 and is buried with his wife in Danbury churchyard.

John Foulds 1880-1939 - 3 Mantras -no 1

John Herbert Foulds 1880-1939

Perhaps more than most of the British composers whose talents were poorly represented by the BBC during its first half century, John Foulds is deserving of historic rehabilitation. The English musician who played cello with Richter's Hallé, and studied conducting with Mahler amongst others, was fortunate in his talent for exploring both old and new avenues of musical style, whilst unfortunate in the poor reception of some of his most prized efforts.

Famous in his day for light music, such as the 'Keltic lament' from his Keltic suite, and for his A world requiem, performed between 1923-6 at the Royal Albert Hall (London) for British Legion Armistice Night commemorations; his music career is in retrospect most notable for those aspects which failed to find much favour with the British public. His fascination with Eastern mysticism and with strictly non-diatonic modes led to a demoralising marginalisation of this side of his output, which failed to match up to the emerging taste for updated British folksong alongside Straussian romanticism. This aspect is duly explored in his publication Music to-day (1934), whose similar refusal to bow to anything other than his personal artistic responses and ideology is highlighted by its inclusion of 'op.92' on the title page.

Intellectually open to an eclectic array of musical and inspirational techniques, Foulds fused his earlier creativity forged from the romantic style of his forebears with ideas ranging from the early (Greek modes), to the modern (extreme chromaticism, bitonality, the quarter-tone scale—as early as 1896), and in turn to the exotic. And it was with the latter that he was pulled, with the encouragement of his second wife, violinist Maud McCarthy, towards India, where he died from cholera while Director of European Music at All-India Radio, Delhi (shortly to move to AIR's Calcutta station).

Peter Racine Fricker - Violin Concerto 3rd mvt

Peter Racine Fricker - Violin Concerto 2nd mvt

Peter Racine Fricker - Violin Concerto 1st mvt

Peter Racine Fricker 1920 - 1990

Born; London, 5 Sept 1920; Died; Los Angeles, 1 Feb 1990). English composer. He studied with Morris at the RCM (1937-41) and after the war with Seiber; he then taught in London before moving to Santa Barbara in 1964. He was the most prominent British composer to emerge after World War II, his free atonal style having much impact after a period when British music had been dominated by the pastoral folksong tradition. His early works were influenced by Bartók, Hindemith and Schoenberg and consisted mostly of orchestral and chamber pieces, notably the first three symphonies (1949, 1951, 1960) and concertos. Later works, in a fluent contrapuntal style, are more economical and concentrated; they include choral music and songs.

Benjamin Frankel - Symphony no 1 op 33 3rd mvt

Benjamin Frankel - Symphony no 1 op 33 2nd mvt

Benjamin Frankel - Symphony no 1 op 33 1st mvt

Benjamin Frankel 1906 - 1973

Frankel was born in London on January 31, 1906, the son of Polish-Jewish parents. He started learning the violin at an early age, showing remarkable talent; at age 14, his piano-playing gifts attracted the attention of Victor Benham, who persuaded his parents to let him study music full-time. He spent a few weeks in Germany in 1922, but quickly returned to London, where he won a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians and attempted his first serious compositions while earning his income as a jazz violinist, pianist and arranger.

By the early 1930s, Frankel was in high demand as an arranger and musical director in London; he gave up theatre work in 1944, though, even though he retained an interest in movie composing until his death, writing over 100 scores. Frankel also became widely-known as a serious composer after World War II; his first work to gain fame was the violin concerto dedicated "in memory of 'the six million'", a reference to the Jews murdered during the Holocaust, commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain and first performed by Max Rostal. From 1941 till 1952 he was a member of the British Communist Party, but resigned his membership in protest at the Prague show-trials, according to The Evening Standard of 12 December 1952.

Frankel's most famous pieces include a cycle of five string quartets and eight symphonies as well as a number of concertos for violin and viola; his single best-known piece is probably the First Sonata for Solo Violin, which, like his concertos, resulted from a long association with Max Rostal. During the last 15 years of his life, Frankel also developed his own style of 12-note composition that retained contact with tonality.

Frankel died in London on February 12, 1973 while working on the three-act opera Marching Song and a ninth symphony which had been commissioned by the BBC. When he died, Marching Song had been completed in short score and was orchestrated by Buxton Orr, a composer who had studied with Frankel and whose advocacy has been at least partly responsible for the revival of interest in his works.

Gerald Finzi - Clarinet Concerto 1st mvt

Gerald Finzi - Grand fantasia and toccata part 2

Gerald Finzi - Grand fantasia and toccata part 1

Gerald Finzi - In terra pax part 2

Gerald Finzi - In terra pax part 1

Gerald Finzi - Ecologue for piano and strings

Gerald Finzi 1901 - 1956

Gerald Finzi was born in London on 14 July 1901 and spent his early childhood in London. His father died when he was just seven, and following the outbreak of war Finzi moved with his mother to Harrogate, in Yorkshire. There, Finzi was able to study with the composer Ernest Farrar (until his departure for the War), and from 1917 with Edward Bairstow at York Minster. Much attracted to the beauty of the English countryside, Finzi moved in 1922 to Painswick, Gloucestershire, where he was able to compose in tranquility. His first published work was By Footpath and Stile, a song-cycle for baritone and string quartet to texts by Thomas Hardy, whose work Finzi greatly admired.

Rural and musical isolation soon became oppressive and in 1926 Finzi moved back to London. He began studying with RO Morris, one of the outstanding British teachers of the interwar years. He also became acquainted with Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose influence he was always to acknowledge and who in 1928 conducted Finzi's Violin Concerto. Other acquaintances in London included Holst, Bliss, Rubbra and Ferguson - who was to become a life-long friend. In 1930 Finzi gained a teaching appointment at the Royal Academy of Music, but in 1933 gave up the post after his marriage to the artist Joyce Black and moved back to the country, to Aldbourne, Wiltshire. The same year saw a complete performance of the song-cycle A Young Man's Exhortation, his first noted success in London.

His burgeoning career was soon thwarted by the outbreak of the Second World War, causing the cancellation of the song-cycle Dies natalis at the Three Choirs Festival, a performance that could have brought him to prominence sooner. In 1939 the Finzis moved to Ashmansworth Farm, Hampshire. During the war years Finzi was drafted into the Ministry of War Transport and opened his house to a number of German and Czech refugees. He founded the Newbury String Players, initially using local amateurs, and conducted them until his death, reviving much neglected eighteenth-century string music as well as giving several premieres by his contemporaries. With the return of peace, Finzi began to receive a series of important commissions: 'Lo, the full, final sacrifice', a festival anthem, in 1946, a larger-scale ode For St Cecilia in 1947, a Clarinet Concerto for Frederick Thurston in 1949 (perhaps his best-known work) and, completed a year later, his masterpiece Intimations of Immortality, for tenor, chorus and orchestra.

In 1951 Finzi learned that he was suffering from Hodgkin's Disease, a form of leukaemia, and was given between five and ten years to live. The discovery in no way lessened his activities, particularly those undertaken for other composers. He had championed Ivor Gurney in the 1930s and those efforts continued; he was also working on the music of Hubert Parry and editing the overtures of William Boyce for Musica Britannica. An all-Finzi concert in the Royal Festival Hall in 1954 at last acknowledged his standing in Britain's musical life, and a commission from Sir John Barbirolli for the 1955 Cheltenham Festival brought forth the Cello Concerto, Finzi's most ambitious purely instrumental work. He finally lost his fight against illness on 27 September 1956.

Edward Elgar - The Apostles 'Prologue'

Edward Elgar - Introduction and allegro part 2

Edward Elgar - Introduction and allegro part 1

Edward Elgar Footage

Edward Elgar

Elgar was born on 2nd June 1857 at Broadheath, a village some three miles from the small city of Worcester in the English West Midlands. His father had a music shop in Worcester and tuned pianos.

The young Elgar, therefore, had the great advantage of growing up in a thoroughly practical musical atmosphere. He studied the music available in his father's shop and taught himself to play a wide variety of instruments. It is a remarkable fact that Elgar was very largely self-taught as a composer - evidence of the strong determination behind his original and unique genius. His long struggle to establish himself as a pre-eminent composer of international repute was hard and often bitter. For many years he had to contend with apathy, with the prejudices of the entrenched musical establishment, with religious bigotry (he was a member of the Roman Catholic minority in a Protestant majority England) and with a late Victorian provincial society where class consciousness pervaded everything.

Throughout the 1880s and the 1890s his experience grew and his style matured as he conducted and composed for local musical organisations. He also taught the violin and played the organ at St. George's Roman Catholic Church in Worcester.

In 1889 he married one of his pupils, Caroline Alice Roberts, daughter of the late Major- General Sir Henry Roberts who had enjoyed a distinguished career with the British army in India. She married Edward in opposition to her aunts and cousins (her mother had died in 1887) who considered that in marrying the son of a mere tradesman, a music teacher without prospects, she was marrying beneath herself. Nevertheless, Alice with determination and a dogged faith in Edward's emerging genius, played a vital part in the development of Elgar's career.

Slowly, and through such early works as Froissart (1890), the Imperial March (1897) and the cantatas King Olaf (1896) and Caractacus (1898), his reputation began to spread beyond the area immediately around his native Worcestershire. His first big success came with the Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma) in 1899. Dedicated to "my friends pictured within", this work, which is a masterpiece of form and orchestration, showed that Elgar, by that time, had surpassed the other leading English composers of his day, both in technical accomplishment and sheer force of musical personality.

After Sea Pictures, a song cycle for contralto and orchestra (1899), came one of Elgar's greatest religious compositions - The Dream of Gerontius - based on Cardinal Newman's poem about a soul's journey through to its judgement and beyond. Unfortunately, due to inadequate rehearsals, the first performance at Birmingham in October 1900 of this complex and original work proved to be a failure, but the majority of the critics recognised the work's greatness. Fortunately, the composition was rescued from oblivion by a second performance under Julius Buths at Dusseldorf in December 1901, and again at the Lower Rhine Festival in Dusseldorf in May the following year. Following this latter performance, Richard Strauss praised Elgar as the first English progressive musician.

After the initial failure of the Dream of Gerontius in 1900, Elgar was understandably depressed, but within a few days he had characteristically started writing again - an ebullient concert overture - Cockaigne (In London Town) which was successfully premiered in 1901. Confirming this success, in the same year came the first two Pomp and Circumstance Marches - the first in D major containing the famous trio section that was later to becomeLand of Hope and Glory. Elgar appreciated its worth; he had prophesied: "I've got a tune that will knock 'em - knock 'em flat! … a tune like that comes once in a lifetime …" Elgar had 'arrived'. An all-Elgar festival at Covent Garden was held in 1904, which included an exuberant new overture, In the South, written after a visit to Alassio in Italy. In July of that year, Elgar was knighted by King Edward VII.

By this time, Elgar's works were being performed both in Europe and in the USA In 1905, came the Introduction and Allegro for Strings, a masterly essay in string writing dedicated to Professor Sanford of Yale University. In 1906, Elgar was busy working on his great oratorio, The Kingdom, the sequel to The Apostles of 1903. These two works were based on an intricate tapestry of linking leitmotives in the style of Wagner. Elgar originally intended that there should be a cycle of three oratorios but the third part of the trilogy was never completed.

Elgar next began to concentrate on symphonic work. He had been planning a symphony (originally around the character of General Gordon) as early as 1898. Work began again in earnest during the winter of 1907-08, while he was staying in Rome. The Symphony No. 1 in A flat was first performed in Manchester in December 1908. It was dedicated to and conducted by Hans Richter who said of it: "Gentlemen, let us now rehearse the greatest symphony of modern times, written by the greatest modern composer - and not only in this country". The work was received with tremendous enthusiasm and there were a hundred performances of it in Britain and all over Europe and in America, Australia and Russia, etc. in just over a year. August Jaeger of Novellos (the music publishers) - Nimrod of the Enigma Variations - believed that the symphony's slow movement was comparable to those of Beethoven.

A Violin Concerto in B minor followed in 1910 and then, in 1911, another symphony. The violin concerto was dedicated to Fritz Kreisler who gave the first performance. The score is headed with an inscription in Spanish: "Aqui esta encerrada el alma de ….." ("Here is enshrined the soul of …."). Some say that he was referring to Alice Stuart-Wortley, daughter of the English Pre-Raphaelite painter Millais. She was closely associated with Elgar and his music at this time. The concerto is a difficult virtuoso piece similar in scale to the Brahms concerto but more richly orchestrated. The slow movement has a particular beauty and the last movement has a unique and magical feature - an accompanied cadenza where the strings are instructed that the pizzicato tremolando should be thrummed with the soft part of three fingers whilst the violin muses at length over ideas recalled from the earlier movements.

The Symphony No. 2 in E flat, although by no means as immediately successful as its predecessor, is nevertheless probably Elgar's profoundest symphonic utterance. The score is prefaced by a quotation from Shelley: "Rarely, rarely comest thou, Spirit of Delight", suggesting that the work is not only about delight but also about the rarity of its occurrence. Elgar dedicated the symphony to the memory of King Edward VII, who had recently died but the composition is much more than an expression of national mourning for a much loved monarch. Elgar admitted to his friends that it symbolised everything that had happened to him between April 1909 and February 1911, and its roots went back even further. He marked the score with two place names - Venice & Tintagel. In fact the Larghetto, usually assumed to be a funeral lament for the late King, begins with an idea inspired by the Basilica of St. Mark in Venice, which Elgar had visited in 1909.

Between the period of the Second Symphony and the beginning of the First World War in 1914, there appeared only two major works - The Music Makers, an ode for contralto, chorus and orchestra based on a poem by Arthur O'Shaughnessy (1912), and a symphonic study based on Shakespeare's Falstaff (1913). The Music Makers is a deeply personal work with many self quotations from earlier works. It expresses the positive influence on society of the creative artist but it also underlines his loneliness and vulnerability. Elgar considered Falstaff to be amongst his very best works - a view shared by many professional musicians - but after the personal outpourings of the great oratorios, the symphonies and the violin concerto, Falstaff seemed relatively detached and this probably explains its comparative neglect.

The First World War depressed Elgar deeply. Apart from a few patriotic pieces, incidental music for a children's play entitled The Starlight Express (1915), settings of three war poems by Laurence Binyon The Spirit of England (1915-17), now recognised as one of the composer's masterpieces, and the ballet The Sanguine Fan (1917), nothing major emerged. It was not until 1918 and 1919 that his final great period produced the three chamber works - the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet, both in E minor, the Piano Quintet in A minor and theCello Concerto in E minor, his last great masterpiece. Audiences were quick to note the change - no longer the pomp and swagger of earlier days.

Here was a new Elgar - less assured, more contemplative, more withdrawn. Speaking of the Cello Concerto, Elgar's biographer Ian Parrott says: "It is a work apart, by a lonely man in war-time who sees that artistic criteria have altered irreversibly".

In 1920, Lady Elgar died and with her died much of Elgar's inspiration and will to compose. She had organised his household and ministered to his comforts. For a long time she saved him hours of drudgery, for instance by ruling bar lines on score paper. She walked miles in all weathers to post precious parcels of manuscript and proofs. In the early days of their marriage she had collaborated with him to produce such works as Scenes from the Bavarian Highlands (1896) - Elgar's settings of his wife's poems inspired by holidays spent in Germany. At times when success seemed forever to be eluding him, she never lost faith. In short, she had been the driving force behind his genius encouraging him and proclaiming his talents at every opportunity.

Throughout the 1920s, Elgar, saddened by his bereavement and by the social and musical changes brought about by the war, lived in virtual retirement, outwardly content to live the life of a country gentleman in his beloved Worcestershire with his dogs, sometimes emerging for the occasional visit to London or for a conducting or recording assignment. (He made a fine series of recordings of his own compositions for HMV). Honours continued to be conferred on him: in 1928 he was created Knight Commander of the Victorian Order (K.C.V.O). About this time, it seemed that he had taken on a new lease of life for he began work on a number of large projects including an opera, The Spanish Lady and a third symphony. In 1933 he flew to Paris to conduct his violin concerto with the youthful Yehudi Menuhin, the soloist with whom he had recorded the work in London some weeks earlier. Whilst in France, Elgar took the opportunity of visiting Delius at Grez-sur-Loing. Both men had but one more year to live. In October, Elgar was found to be suffering from a malignant tumour which pressed on the sciatic nerve. Further composition became impossible and he died on 23rd February, 1934.

George Dyson - Veni, Emmanuel for string orchestra (1949)

George Dyson 1883 - 1964

George Dyson came from a working class background in Halifax , West Yorkshire , the son of a blacksmith. Although from a poor family in the industrial north, Dyson’s parents were musical and encouraged him as an organist in the local church. The young Dyson became an FRCO at the age of sixteen, and he won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music in 1900. Despite his background, Dyson was to become the voice of public school music and later Director of the RCM, the first College-trained musician to do so (a fact of which he was very proud). At the RCM, Dyson became a pupil of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford then at the height of his influence as a composition teacher.

Little of Dyson’s early music had been thought to have survived, but in 2001 the discovery of an engaging and romantic Cello Sonata dating from 1903, now recorded by the cellist Joseph Spooner, has reminded us that he was an avid composer from the outset. In 1904, he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship, the award intended to help promising young composers travel abroad, and at the instigation of Stanford he went to Italy, later journeying on to Vienna and Berlin where he met many of the leading musicians of the day, including Strauss and Nikisch, and the latter produced Dyson’s early tone-poem Siena, though after four performances Dyson withdrew it.
It was thanks to the influence of Sir Hubert Parry, Director of the RCM, that on returning to England , and needing to find a job, Dyson became Director of Music at the Royal Naval College , Osborne. Dyson soon used this experience to move on to Marlborough College , but on the outbreak of war in 1914 he enlisted, his war experiences being an interlude rather than a major turning point in his musical development. During the war he became celebrated for his training pamphlet on grenade warfare, which he produced as brigade grenadier officer of the 99th Infantry Brigade, and which was widely disseminated.

Dyson saw action in the trenches. In a letter dated 5 December 1915 he vividly describes the life he was living at this time. ‘We are continually under shellfire . . . and at this moment he has unfortunately caught a squad of men in the open outside with appalling results. Our own guns are blazing away like mad, so that you can’t hear yourself think . . . The trenches are simply vile in this weather. Between knee-deep and thigh-deep in mud, in addition to the havoc wrought by the Bosch.’ Inevitably, in due course he was invalided out, and in his diary Parry writes in shocked terms when he saw Dyson back in College, a shadow of his former self. Later, Dyson worked in the newly-founded Air Ministry where he realised the march RAF March Past that Henry Walford Davies had sketched in short score. Dyson’s wartime experiences surely meant that when over 20 years later he started work on his major choral work Quo Vadis, he wrote from a powerful inner vision: he had seen hell first hand.

In 1920 Dyson became more widely known as a composer when his Three Rhapsodies for string quartet, revised from earlier works written before the War soon after his return from the continent, were chosen for publication under the Carnegie UK Trust’s publication scheme. He took up the threads of his earlier working life when he was appointed to Wellington College , and he also became a professor at the Royal College of Music. It was at this time that he produced his celebrated book The New Music, widely admired in its day for its learning and apparently commonsense view.

Around the end of the war Dyson wrote many short choral pieces and in 1920 he completed a children’s suite for small orchestra after poems by Walter de la Mare called Won’t You Look Our of Your Window (later renamed Suite after Walter de la Mare) which had a notable success at the 1925 season of Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts when Dyson himself conducted.

In 1924 Dyson moved to Winchester College where he enjoyed possibly the most productive part of his life as a composer. At Winchester , as Director of Music he was organist and had a choir and an orchestra and also an adult choral society. It was for these forces that he started writing music, and for them he developed choral music of a tuneful vigorous cast. This started in 1928 with In Honour of the City which was so successful he soon produced a more ambitious piece, The Canterbury Pilgrims, a succession of evocative and colourful Chaucerian portraits written for Winchester in 1931 and, in the 1930s, certainly his most famous score.
Soon he was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festivals to write further works, and for Hereford in 1933 he produced St Paul ’s Voyage to Melita (repeated in 1934, 1937 and 1952). Other Festivals soon followed, and The Blacksmiths was written for Leeds in 1934, and then Nebuchadnezzar for Worcester in 1935.

Dyson was not only a choral composer - there were also orchestral works. These included the Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne for cello and orchestra in 1936 and a symphony in 1938, a symphony full of glorious pageantry and now twice recorded. During the Second World War Dyson’s Violin Concerto was played by no less a figure than Albert Sammons, now recorded by Chandos.

For the 1939 Three Choirs Dyson had been commissioned to write what we know as the first part of Quo Vadis, though the festival was cancelled on the outbreak of war in September 1939. In the event it would not be heard until near the end of the war, and was first performed in London ’s Royal Albert Hall and then at Hereford in September 1946, and as part of the complete work in 1949. This is by a long way Dyson’s most ambitious score. In nine substantial parts, for it he assembled a remarkable anthology of extracts from English Literature as his text. Notable is the fourth movement, the Nocturne “Night hath no wings”, sometime heard separately. Here Dyson sets poems by Robert Herrick (1591-1674) and one by the much less well known Victorian poet Isaac Williams (1802-65), who was influenced by Keble and involved in the Oxford movement. The singer waits for the leaden minutes to creep past. He cannot sleep and, sick at heart his entreaty is underlined by the plangent questioning of the intertwining viola. Eventually, as the supplicant pleads for comfort, in a simple but almost transcendental moment, the chorus enter with a hushed vision of the dawn. At the end the soloist and his shadow, the interceding viola, plead for comfort, but now in a mood of serenity. It is also worth drawing attention to the remarkable final movement “To find the western path”. At over 18½ minutes this has the stature of a separate work. Indeed the text that Dyson has assembled is striking it its own right. Here Dyson takes his text from Blake, Shelley and ends with a most affecting setting of the Salisbury Diurnal (“Holy is the true light”) which Howells also featured in Hymnus Paradisi, first heard in 1950. It is a typical Dyson choral movement, the headlong succession of memorable ideas breathtaking in its cumulative impact. The second section is taken from “Adonais”, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s well-known poem on the death of Keats, and here we may see Dyson’s typical method in taking just what he wanted from a poem – in fact making it his own.

During the war Dyson, as Director of the Royal College of Music, kept the college open and functioning, even sleeping at the office, and he remained there until 1952. After his retirement he enjoyed a remarkable Indian summer of composition, though by this time his music was beginning to sound ‘old hat’ to some and although it all achieved publication and performance at the time, it did not have quite the immediate following of his earlier scores. We now know better that this is delightful and evocative music.

These late works include Sweet Thames Run Softly (1954), a mellifluous setting for baritone, chorus and orchestra of words from Edmund Spenser’s Prothalamion. In 1955 there followed Agincourt , a brilliant return to the scale and style of that first choral work, In Honour of the City, now setting well-known Shakespearean words. Hierusalem, a beautiful setting of a 15-verse hymn adapted from St Augustine for soprano solo, chorus, strings, harp and organ, was written for Harold Darke in 1956. Finally came a 20-minute nativity sequence, A Christmas Garland, in 1959.
Dyson died in Winchester in 1964.

Arnold Cooke - Alla caccia for horn and piano

Arnold Cooke 1906 - 2005

Arnold Atkinson Cooke, composer: born Gomersal, Yorkshire 4 November 1906; Director, Festival Theatre, Cambridge 1932; Professor of Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition, Royal Manchester College of Music 1933-38; Professor of Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition, Trinity College of Music, London 1947-78; died Five Oak Green, Kent 13 August 2005.

Arnold Cooke was one of the last British musicians to study with Paul Hindemith at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik in Berlin before the Nazi rise to power. On his return to England, he went on to build a national reputation as a composer and over the 40 years following the Second World War, when he was at his most prolific, wrote in almost all forms.

The second of three brothers, Arnold Cooke came from a comfortable middle-class family at Gomersal, near Leeds, his father a director of a company manufacturing carpets. Arnold was influenced by his violin-playing grandfather. His education was a typical middle-class inter-war one of prep school, Repton and Cambridge. He went up to Gonville and Caius College in 1925, at first to read History, but then moving on to Music, under the influence of Edward J. Dent, then newly appointed as Professor of Music. From 1929, again influenced by Dent, he went to Berlin, where he remained for three years.

In 1932 Arnold Cooke succeeded another British Hindemith pupil, Walter Leigh, as musical director at the Cambridge Festival Theatre, writing music for Peer Gynt and The Merchant of Venice, but soon moving to Manchester as Professor of Composition and Harmony at the Royal Manchester College of Music (1933-38). Throughout the Thirties he enjoyed performances of his latest works, largely of music for small combinations, although in 1936 Havergal Brian, writing in Musical Opinion, hailed Cooke's early short cantata Holderneth as "his finest work" at the time. Cooke made his first appearance at a Queen's Hall Promenade Concert on 30 August 1934, when Sir Henry Wood presented his Concert Overture No 1, which had come third in a competition run by the Daily Express.

The BBC broadcast Cooke's Three Pieces for Piano in 1936 and there were other chamber works including a Harp Quintet which featured the celebrated harpist Maria Korchinska in December 1934, a String Quartet (there would eventually be five) played by the Griller Quartet in 1935 and a Violin Sonata (the first of two) in 1939. In 1937 he produced a Sonata for Two Pianos commissioned by Adolph Hollis and Franz Reizenstein, heard at the Wigmore Hall. Cooke had known Reizenstein in Berlin. He declared his left-wing politics in 1939, by contributing the wind band "Introduction" to the first concert of the Festival of Music for the People at the Royal Albert Hall, organised by Alan Bush with music by Elisabeth Lutyens, Elizabeth Maconchy and Alan Rawsthorne, and performed on 1 April.

Cooke moved to London in 1938 and wrote a piano concerto which was accepted by the BBC and broadcast by Louis Kentner on 11 November 1943, by when Cooke was a naval officer. He was demobbed late in 1945 and survived on various one-off freelance activities, including music for Louis MacNeice's radio play Njal's Saga. Other commissions at the time included a concert overture, Processional, for the 1948 Cambridge Festival, a Concerto in D for string orchestra commissioned by the BBC Overseas Service, and incidental music for a film on the Colorado beetle.

In 1947 Cooke was appointed Professor of Harmony and Composition at Trinity College of Music, a position he held for over 30 years, finally retiring in 1978. The following year, he met his companion Billy Morrison, with whom he lived until Morrison's death in 1988. In 1948, too, he received his Doctorate from Cambridge University, his submitted works being a Sonata for Viola and Piano dating from 1937, the Piano Concerto broadcast in 1943 and his then recently completed First Symphony, first heard in a broadcast by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Adrian Boult on 26 February 1949.

Cooke used the pseudonym "Manounian" when, in 1949, he proposed Mary Barton as the subject of an opera, submitting a libretto by W.A. Rathkey after the novel of industrial exploitation and unrest by Mrs Gaskell, as a candidate for the Arts Council Festival of Britain opera competition. He failed to get past the first round, when his synopsis was rejected. Although he went on with the opera and completed it in 1954, it has never been produced. A one-act comic opera, The Invisible Duke, followed in 1975-76.

He was much more successful with his ballet Jabez and the Devil, commissioned by the Royal Ballet and first seen at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1961, a suite from it also being heard at that year's Promenade Concerts. It was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Nicholas Braithwaite for Lyrita in 1975, although the planned CD reissue has never appeared.

Cooke's six symphonies, although warmly received in their day, have not been heard for many years. Fifteen years after the first, the Second Symphony was first performed by the Hallé Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Leonard at the Royal Festival Hall in London, and was soon followed by the Third (1967), the only one to have been commercially recorded (in 1975). Cooke's standing at this time is reflected in the fact that the Fourth was commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society for one of their Festival Hall concerts in 1975. The following for Cooke's symphonies has diminished since then, for lack of performances. His Fifth Symphony was broadcast by the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra in Manchester conducted by Bernard Keeffe in 1979, but his Sixth, of 1984, has remained unperformed.

Cooke had five premieres at the post-war Proms: his overture Processional (1948); the Oboe Concerto, possibly his most popular orchestral work (1955); the suite from his ballet Jabez and the Devil (1962); his Variations on a Theme of Dufay (1969) written to commemorate the Indian scientist and artist Dr Homi Bhabha, killed in an air crash; and the Cello Concerto, one of the BBC's 1975 commissions which was played by Thomas Igloi.

Cooke's symphonies were essentially in the accessible idiom sometimes called "Cheltenham Symphony", but his contribution to the Cheltenham Festival in fact started with his first Clarinet Concerto, played by Gervase de Peyer in 1957. Cooke's lyrical Violin Concerto soon followed, introduced byYfrah Neaman at the 1959 Festival. Later came the Second Piano Sonata played by Rosemary Wright in 1966.

Cooke had many other festival commissions, notably at Cambridge, for which he wrote many substantial works; also for the Hovingham, Aldeburgh, Bath, City of London and Cardiff festivals. For the annual St Cecilia Day service in London in 1961 he wrote his anthem "O Sing Unto the Lord". In 1984 his old school, Repton, commissioned a piece for the opening of their new music school, and Cooke responded with his orchestral Repton Fantasia which, based on the Repton School Song, also introduced Parry's hymn tune "Repton" and the Pilgrim Hymn.

Cooke produced a substantial body of organ music. After a Prelude, Intermezzo and Finale in 1962, he responded to church invitations to celebrate the opening or restoration of their organs, with his Fantasia (1964) and Toccata and Aria (1966). Later came short pieces and two substantial sonatas (1971 and 1981). After he had stopped regular composition, at the age of 84, he was persuaded to write a suite for organ to celebrate the new organ at his local Tudeley Parish Church.

He was also a pioneering composer of serious music for the recorder, first with a full-blown concerto for Philip Rogers heard in 1957. Cooke wrote 20 works for recorder in a variety of ensembles. At first he enjoyed the championship of Carl Dolmetsch and subsequently responded to the characteristic playing and enthusiasm of John Turner with a Capriccio for recorder and piano (1985). Turner, also a Cambridge man, had first contacted Cooke when a student, asking for recorder music, and, typically, had been sent an original manuscript. Turner responded with many performances and introduced Cooke's Five Poems of William Blake in 1988, and subsequently he and the soprano Tracey Chadwell many times gave Cooke's Three Flower Songs for soprano and recorder.

Cooke stopped writing after 1987 and in 1993 he suffered a stroke, from which, fortunately, he recovered. A brief Blake setting for voice and recorder, Song of Innocence, was his memorial for Chadwell after her untimely death in 1996, and was Cooke's last music.

John Joubert - 'Torches'

John Joubert 1927 -

John Joubert was born in Cape Town in 1927. His father was a descendant of the French Protestant (Huguenot) settlers who were granted land at the Cape — then a Dutch colony — in 1688. His forebears on his mother’s side were Dutch, who had become anglicized when the Cape became and English colony in 1815. Joubert’s upbringing and education were both English and, through his school, the Diocesan College Rondebosch, Anglican.

He received his early musical education from his mother, herself a pianist and a pupil of Harriet Cohen. The Head of Music at his school, as a former assistant to Sir Ivor Atkins at Worcester Cathedral, had greatly developed its musical life to the extent that Joubert was able to have his early compositions performed by the College’s chapel choir and eventually to matriculate in music preparatory to his starting a degree course in 1945 at the South African College of Music.

He had already been having composition lessons privately with a previous principal of the College, W. H. Bell, who had been a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music and a well known English composer before his departure for South Africa in 1912. Some of Joubert’s early works were performed by the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra during his studies with Bell, culminating in the orchestral Threnody on Bell’s death in 1946.

Later the same year Joubert competed for and won a Performing Right Society Scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music which enabled him to have four years’ study in London, during which time his composition teachers were Theodore Holland, Howard Ferguson and Alan Bush. It also enabled him to hear some of the foremost conductors of the day, including Beecham, Furtwangler, Bruno Walter and Richard Strauss. While at the Academy he won several awards for composition, including the Lionel Tertis Prize (for a viola concerto), the Frederick Corder Prize (for a work for chorus and orchestra) and the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize (for a Symphonic Study for orchestra). During the final two years of his scholarship he composed a String Quartet and a Divertimento for Piano Duet which were subsequently published as his op.1 and op.2 respectively. At the same time he was studying privately for a Durham University External B.Mus and graduated successfully in 1950, the year his scholarship at the Academy came to an end.

The next twelve years were spent as Lecturer in Music at the University of Hull. Here, despite the demands of a new job and a growing family (Joubert was married in 1951 and his two children were born in 1954 and 1957) new works from his pen continued to appear, many of them the result of commissions. Some of his best known and most popular works date from this time, including the two carols Torches and There is no Rose and the anthem O Lorde the Maker of al Thinge which won the Novello Anthem Composition Prize in 1952. Other works from this period include the Violin Concerto (York Festival, 1954), the First Symphony (recently released on CD by Lyrita) and the Piano Concerto (Halle Orchestra, 1957). His first full-length opera, Silas Marner, received its world premiere in Cape Town in 1961 and its European premiere in London later the same year. Among the smaller-scale works of the ’50s and early ’60s are an Octet , a String Trio and a one-movement Piano Sonata.

In 1962 Joubert was appointed to a Lectureship in Music at the University of Birmingham. He was subsequently promoted to a Senior Lectureship and then to a Readership. As at Hull new works continued to appear at regular intervals including three more String Quartets, two more Piano Sonatas, several song-cycles and a considerable amount of church music (including two settings of the Anglican Evening Canticles and two of the Latin Mass). Larger-scale projects are represented by the Second Symphony (Royal Philharmonic Society), two more 3-act operas (Under Western Eyes, premiered in 1968, and the as yet unperformed Jane Eyre) and a succession of works for chorus and orchestra culminating in the full-length oratorio Wings of Faith which received its premiere in 2007 as part of the ‘Joubertiade’, a nation-wide celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday.

In 1979 Joubert was appointed to a Visiting Professorship at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Further academic honours include Honorary Doctorates from both Durham University (1991) and the University of Birmingham (2007). In 1986 Joubert took early retirement from University teaching to devote more time to composition. He continues to live and work in Birmingham.

Rutland Boughton - The Faery Song

Rutland Boughton 1878 - 1960

Rutland Boughton was born in Aylesbury on 23 January 1878. After studying with Sir Charles V Stanford and Walford Davies at the Royal College of Music, he spent some years asa repetiteur at the Haymarket Theatre in London before eventually being offered a permanent teaching post by Sir Granville Bantock at the then Birmingham and Midland and Institute of School of Music. There he established himself as a singing teacher, composer and writer. In 1914, and with the support of the Clark family (of shoe manufacturing fame), he founded and directed the first of his Glastonbury Festivals in order to provide a platform not only for his works but for any other music that accorded with his artistic ideals. The Festivals, the first of their kind to be seen in England, continued with increasing success and sophistication until 1926, by which time he had mounted over 300 staged performances and 100 chamber concerts, besides related lectures, exhibitions and a series of innovative Summer Schools.

In 1922 his opera (or choral-drama)'The Immortal Hour' was produced in London where it enjoyed a phenomenal success and still holds the world-record for a continuous run of any serious opera written by an Englishman. Boughton's other notable works for the stage are "The Queen of Cornwall" (based on the play by Thomas Hardy),'Bethlehem' and 'Alkestis'.

After Glastonbury, Boughton took up residence at Kilcot, a small village in Gloucestershire, primarily to complete the cycle of Arthurian Music Dramas that he had begun in 1908 but also to organise further festivals at Stroud (1934) and Bath (1935). Whilst living at Kilcot, Boughton also produced some of his finest orchestral pieces. Despite successful revivals of 'The Immortal Hour' and 'Bethlehem',Boughton's fame declined and it is only in recent years, largely through the activities of The Rutland Boughton Music Trust, that his importance in the history of British music has begun once more to be appreciated.Boughton was the son of grocer William Boughton (1841-1905) whose shop occupied 34 Buckingham Street in Aylesbury. From an early age, he showed signs of musical talent although his formal training did not begin until he was apprenticed to a London concert agency and later, with financial assistance from the Rothschild family and by recommendation from his future teacher Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, he was able to take up studies at the Royal College of Music. Insufficient monies meant he had to depart college after one year and after a short while performing ad- hoc duties, he secured a job in the pit at the Haymarket Theatre in London and then as official accompanist to the baritone David Ffrangcon-Davies. In 1905, he eventually got invited by Sir Granvile Bantock to join his staff at the Birmingham school of music.

Whilst at Birmingham, Boughton made many new friends and accepted new opportunities and proved to be an excellent teacher and an outstanding choral conductor which won him much recognition. He was drawn into the socialist ideas through the writings of John Ruskin, William Morris, Edward Carpenter and George Bernard Shaw, the latter two of whom became good friends. Out of his process of self-discovery and self- eductaion came the artistic aims that were to occupy Boughton for the rest of his life. As a young man he had planned a fourteen-day cycle of dramas on the life of Christ in which the story would be enacted on a small stage in the middle of an orchestra which soloists and the chorus would comment on their action. Although this did not come to fruition, the idea remained with him and by 1907 Bougton's discovery of the theories and practices of Wagner turned to another subject, that of King Arthur. Based upon the festivals at Bayreuth and parallel to the ideas set about by the poet Reginald Buckley in his book called "Arthur of Britain", Boughton set out to create a new form of opera which he caled "music-drama" and to establish a national festival of music and drama. Although some of the national opera houses were less than ideal, Boughton and Buckley were moved to create their own theatre and using local talent create a form of musical cooperative. At first, Letchworth Garden City was deemed a suitable location (the Arts and Crafts Movement was significant at this time) but he later turned to the Someset town of Glastonbury where, allegedly, King Arthur was laid to rest. Meanwhile, Sir Dan Godfrey and his Bournemouth orchestra had established a reputation for supporting new English msuic and it was there where Boughton's first opera from the Arthurian cycle, "The Birth of Arthur", was performed.

By 1911, Boughton had left his post at Birmingham and moved to Glastonbury where, with Walshe and Buckley, began to focus on establishing the country's first national annual summer of music and drama. The first production was not, in fact, the project of the Arthurian Cycle but that of Boughton's new opera, or choral- drama, "The Immortal Hour" which he had composed in 1912 and following a national appeal to raise funds supported by the likes of Sir Granville bantock, Thomas Beecham, John Glasworthy, Eugene Aynsley Goossens, Gustav Holst, Dame Ethel Smyth and George Bernard Shaw,plans were laid to buld a temple theatre with a seating capacity of over 1200. Sir Edward Elgar promised to lay the foundation stone whilst Beecham was to lend his Beecham Symphony Orchestra. In August 1914, and the day the opening production was set to take place, World War was declared which caused the plans to be postponed. However, Boughton was determined to see his project go forward and instead of Beecham's orchestra, a grand piano was employed, and instead of a purpose-built theatre, the local Assembly Rooms that were to remain the centre of activities until 1926, became the venue. By the end of the Festivals, Boughton had mounted over 350 staged works; 100 chamber concerts, a number of exhibitions and series of lectures and recitals never previously seen in England. In 1922, the Glastonbury Festival Players went on tour and became established at the Bristol Folk House (now demolished) and at Bournemouth.

The most notable and successful of Boughton's works is the choral-drama "The Immortal Hour", an adaptation of the play by Fiona Macleod (the pseudynm name for William Sharp) based on Celtic mythology. Having been successful at Glastonbury and wel received in Birmingham, the Director of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Sir Barry Jackson, took the choral-drama to the Regent Theatre in London where it acheived a record-breaking run of over 600 consecutive performances. On its arrival in 1922, it secured an initial run of over 200 performances and a further 160 the folowing year with a successful revival in 1932. The work was attended by many people on more than one occasion, including Royalty, especially to hear the young Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies whose portrayal as Etain began her professional acting career.

In addition to "The Immortal Hour" and "Bethlehem", his other notable operas include "The Queen of Cornwall" (completed 1924 and based on Thomas Hardy's play); "Alkestis" (1922 - based on the Greek play Euripedes) and "The Moon Maiden" (a ballet for female dancers and singers). The Cycle of Arthurian Music Dramas began in 1908 with "The Birth of Arthur" followed by "The Round Table" in 1915, "The Lily Maid" (1934), "Galahad" (1944) and "Avalon" (1945). Of these "The Lily Maid" was first performed at Stroud in 1934 whilst the last two operas have never been performed.

The downfall of the Glastonbury Festivals came about when Boughton, sympathising with the Miners' Lockout in 1926, insisted on staging his "Bethlehem" at Church House, Westminster, London, with Jesus born in a miner's cottage and Herod portrayed as a top-hatted Capitalist, surrounded by soldiers and police. The event caused much embarrassment to the people of Glastonbury and they withdrew their support. The Festival Players went into liquidation and Boughton was forced to move out.

From 1927 until his death in 1960, Boughton lived in the tiny village of Kilcot, near Newent in Gloucestershire where he went on to produce, arguably, some of his finest works, only a handful of which have been realised in the past 25 years. These include his symphonies, short orchestral pieces, concertii, and a number of chamber music. Boughton also attempted to repeat his successes at Glastonbury by organising festivals at Stroud, Ross-on-Wye and Bath but these became short- lived. Boughton was visited by many well-known figures, the most prominent is perhaps by the American singer Paul Robeson who, whilst on tour in the UK, paid a short visit in 1958/9. Boughton died at Barnes in London in 1960.

Frank Bridge - Phantasm for piano and orchestra

Frank Bridge 1879 - 1941

Born in Sussex, Bridge as a boy learned to play violin from his father, and had much early exposure to practical musicianship, playing in theatre orchestras his father conducted, arranging and also conducting occasionally.

At 17, he entered the Royal College of Music, where he studied violin and composition. He later played viola in prominent quartets and was a respected conductor. His earlier works, though colored by the prevailing Brahms-Stanford style of the times, plainly have their own distinct character.

After the war years 1914-18, Bridge's style grew in new directions. Audiences meanwhile were inclined to associate Bridge with earlier works like The Sea, and were regrettably thus less receptive to his more current work. By 1923, however, Bridge had the good fortune of achieving creative independence through the aid of wealthy American arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. During this time he made several visits to America, where he conducted some of his own works. He also built a cottage near Friston, East Sussex, establishing there a quiet retreat for himself where he composed most of his later works.

By the 1930s, even Bridge's earlier music was appearing less frequently in concert programs. Yet during this time, he composed many of his finest works. As his style was undergoing a further somewhat lyrical transformation, he died abruptly in early 1941.

Following his death, Bridge's music was virtually forgotten, eclipsed by another, more terrible European war. Today, his music enjoys an ever-growing audience, largely due to the efforts of the Frank Bridge Trust, which began to subsidize recordings as early as the 1960s. Ironically, Bridge's music has reached far more people since his death than during his own lifetime, through that peculiar 'virtual concert hall' made possible by postwar advances in the quality of sound-recording. And through this opportunity to hear comes inevitable appreciation.

This music is too varied to fit a single category. While certainly 'English,' it may even also be called 'European.' It has its own unique brand of motion, color, and expressivity. It is solidly written, never pretentious. Influences and affinities include Brahms, Parry, Debussy, Berg, Bax, Holst, among others. In composer Anthony Payne's apt words, Bridge drew upon both "conservative and radical" tendencies of his time.

Appreciation for this music grows with the listener's familiarity, perhaps moreso than with some other composers'. Whatever your prior experience, there is surely a pleasant discovery awaiting you somewhere among the works of this underrated master.

Lord Berners - L'Uomo dai baffi, balletto (1917) Seconda parte

Lord Berners - L'Uomo dai baffi, balletto (1917) Prima parte

Lord Berners Valses bourgeoises (Orchestral version) 1919)

Lord Berners 1883 - 1950

Lord Berners (1883-1950) was one of the most idiosyncratic and fascinating personalities in British music. He became a pioneer in the avant-garde when he wrote his first music whilst living in Rome as a diplomat during World War I; Balanchine choreographed his first two ballets and Ashton the next three; in 1931 he had the first exhibition of his paintings; in 1934 he published the first volume of his autobiography, First Childhood, and two years later his first novel, The Camel – and three more novels came out in 1941. On top of all this during the 1930s, known as ‘the versatile peer’, he increasingly gained a reputation as an eccentric, which he realised was good for publicity.

His paintings all sold and some of his novels were translated into French and Swedish: all are now back in print. But it was his music that meant the most to him and, largely through the endeavours of Philip Lane, all of it is available on CD. Because Berners was admired by Stravinsky, was commissioned by Diaghilev, wrote his ballet A Wedding Bouquet to a text by Gertrude Stein (designing the costumes and sets himself), he associated with some of the leading international figures in the arts. He kept a house in Rome but increasingly held court at Faringdon House (then Berkshire, now Oxfordshire) as a centre for his legendary surrealist activities such as dying the pigeons various colours and building a useless Folly on the hill outside Faringdon against local opposition in 1935.

Between the wars he attended musical events across Europe but World War II was a disaster that threatened everything he valued: he was at heart a European at home in various languages. Berners barely recovered from the war, although he wrote his last ballet and some film music afterwards.

His music has never been completely neglected but there was a lean period after his death in 1950 until the revival concert at the Purcell Room in 1972, with John Betjeman giving readings: this was broadcast and led to some first recordings. There was more activity for the centenary in 1983 with London concerts, published volumes of songs and piano music, and a BBC Radio 3 documentary that became a book: Lord Berners: Portrait of a Polymath (Boydell 2008). Through the 1990s more recordings appeared, including Berners’ only opera. Then Berners acquired a new audience through Mark Amory’s lively biography, Lord Berners: the Last Eccentric (Chatto and Windus 1998), and the coinciding reprints of the autobiographies and the novels in the Collected Tales and Fantasies (Turtlepoint Press/Helen Marx Books).

Gerald Berners was actually the 14th Baron Berners – it wasn’t just a showbiz title as his friend and colleague Constant Lambert had to explain in America – and when he inherited in 1918 he became rich. That made him look like a dilettante but Stravinsky recognised that if Berners was regarded as an amateur because he had no need to earn his living from the arts it was ‘in the best – literal sense’ and nothing he ever did was amateurish.

A wry humour pervades everything, as the brilliant orchestral Fantaisie Espagnole and Three Pieces abundantly show. His songs and piano music, too, are as full of whimsical references as those of Satie – he has been called the English Satie and the Ronald Firbank of music. Berners was not prolific but whatever he did was stamped with his own fastidious accomplishment. He may not have been the last eccentric but his music makes him one of the most rewarding.

Malcolm Arnold - Flute Concerto Op 45 3rd mvt

Malcolm Arnold - Flute Concerto Op 45 2nd mvt

Malcolm Arnold - Flute Concerto Op 45 1st mvt

Malcolm Arnold Sonatina for Clarinet and piano op 29

Malcolm Arnold 1921-2006

Born in Northampton in 1921, Malcolm Arnold is one of the towering figures of the 20th century, with a remarkable catalogue of major concert works to his credit, including nine symphonies, seven ballets, two operas, one musical, over twenty concertos, two string quartets, and music for brass-band and wind-band. He also wrote132 film scores, among these are some of the finest works ever composed for the medium including Bridge on the River Kwai (for which, in 1958, he was one of the first British composers ever to win an Oscar), Inn of the Sixth Happiness (for which he received an Ivor Novello Award in 1958), Hobson’s Choice and Whistle Down the Wind.

Arnold began his professional musical life in July 1941 as second trumpet with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Acknowledged as one of the finest players of the day, he eventually became the orchestra’s Principal Trumpet. By the end of the 1940s he was concentrating entirely on composition. The long and close relationship established between Malcolm Arnold and the LPO continues unabated, with the orchestra performing and recording the composer’s music widely.

In 1969 he was made a Bard of the Cornish Gorseth and was awarded the CBE in 1970. He holds Honorary Doctorates of Music from the Universities of Exeter, Durham and Leicester - and in America from the Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; he was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1983 and is an Hon. R.A.M. and an Hon. F.T.C.L. In 1985 Malcolm Arnold received an Ivor Novello Award for “Outstanding Services to British Music”, the Wavendon Award in 1985, and a knighthood in the 1993 New Years Honours List for his services to music. In 1994 the Victoria College of Music appointed Malcolm Arnold as their President. In 2001 he was made a Fellow of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriters. In 2004 he was also honoured with the Incorporated Society of Musician’s Distinguished Musician Award “for his lifetime’s achievements as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.” In 1989 he received the Freedom of Northampton. In 2003 he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Winchester. On 29th June, 2006, the University of Northampton conferred on Malcolm Arnold an Honorary Doctorate.

Throughout his life Malcolm Arnold has maintained a strongly held social conscience. In May 1957, as a guest of the Union of Czechoslovak Composers, he represented the British Musicians Union at the Prague Spring Festival. It was at this time that Arnold first met Shostakovich. To mark the Centenary of the Trades Union Congress, he was commissioned to write the Peterloo Overture; a work premiered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Festival Hall on 7 June 1968.

His most popular works have a global audience and his finest body of music, the nine symphonies, are available in numerous recordings including two complete cycles on the Chandos and Naxos labels – and, from September 2006, on Decca. Malcolm Arnold’s music has – and continues to be – performed and recorded extensively by leading orchestras both nationally and internationally. His work in musical education has been impressive and consistent. He helped establish and support, through the writing of works and fundraising, the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. His belief in contemporary music led him to be an influential advocate for Pierre Boulez’s entry into British musical life.
Special musical tributes took place throughout 2006 to mark Malcolm Arnold's 85th anniversary year.

A revival by the Royal Ballet of the Malcolm Arnold/Fredrick Ashton acclaimed ballet Homage to the Queen, opened on 5 June at the Royal Opera House. Commissioned to honour the Queen’s Coronation, this work was first performed by the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden on 2 June, 1953. On 23 September 2006 the Northern Ballet Theatre embarked on a UK tour with the world premiere of a new full length Arnold ballet, The Three Musketeers. The first Arnold Festival took place on 21st and 22nd October at the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton, the composer’s birthplace.
Sir Malcolm Arnold died on 23 September 2006