Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Leslie Howard: Ruddigore: Fantaisie de concert pour piano, Op.40, d’après l’opéra de Sullivan

I have always had a soft spot for Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera Ruddigore. The performance given at Coatbridge High School in 1968 was my first introduction to G&S, the first time I heard an opera on stage, and my first experience of amateur dramatics. I have written about this in another post.
The pianist Leslie Howard was the most appropriate person to devise the 'Ruddigore Fantasy’. He had recently completed a massive survey of ‘Liszt at the Opera’ on Hyperion Records which was issued on six 2-CD volume. All the Operatic Fantasies, Paraphrases and Transcriptions were explored.  
In the nineteenth century, it was a common entertainment for concert pianists to improvise on popular tunes from operas and song albums. It was from his extemporisations that Liszt developed his operatic fantasies. They typically showcase the pianist’s virtuosity whilst presenting a pot-pourri of the best bits of the opera. Liszt’s most successful fantasies included those on Charles Gounod’s Faust, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Verdi’s Rigoletto and Rossini’s William Tell.

Leslie Howard’s ‘Ruddigore Fantasy’ was commissioned by John Farmer for Ruth Ann Galatas. It was completed in 2005. Howard gave the first performance at a charity concert in the Royal Brompton Hospital (London).  
The liner notes of the CD recording explain that the title is ‘in homage to the early operatic fantasies of Liszt, and is conceived as a continuous suite incorporating variations and transcriptions of several themes from Sullivan’s … Ruddigore or The Witch’s Curse.’
Enthusiasts of G&S will spot the melodies and allusions in this piece. The opening reflects the chorus of the ancestors explaining the terms of the Ruddigore curse to Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd. This is followed by one of Sullivan’s masterpieces: the powerful and scary ‘When the night wind howls in the chimney cowls.’  Rose’s song ‘Farewell, thou had my heart’ from the finale of Act 1 followed by the ubiquitous Bridesmaids chorus ‘Hail the bridegroom, hail the bride!’ calm the mood a little. I particularly enjoyed the transcription of the ‘patter-trio’ from Act 2 – 'My eyes are fully open' with its humorous repetitions of it really doesn’t matter, matter, matter, matter, matter’. A backward glance to some earlier melodies brings the work to a satisfying close. 
Classical Source writes that Howard’s ‘take’ on Ruddigore ‘begins with Liszt in B minor, and like Howard’s great hero, this Fantasy is full of enterprise and theatre, very Lisztian in fact, and with a full quotient of familiar Arthur Sullivan tunes. Rest assured that with playing of this quality, Howard’s Fantasy is exactly as its creator wishes it to be.’
Peter Dickinson reviewing Leslie Howard’s performance of the Ruddigore Fantasy on the Malcolm Smith Memorial Album in The Gramophone (March 2015) suggests that ‘whether you know the opera or not, the tunes are good.’ 

Leslie Howard plays the Fantaisie de concert pour piano, Op.40, d’après l’opéra de Sullivan on Naxos 8.571354

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The First Thomas Dunhill Chamber Concert on 7 June 1907: A Third Review

This review was submitted to the Musical Standard (15 June 1907) by H.H. I have given it in its entirety here as his opening remarks seem to have a timeless quality to their complaint. This review notes the songs by William Hurlstone which are ignored by the other commentator.  See the ‘Notes’ at the end of my first post about this concert for details of Holbrooke’s Sextet and the confusion of opus numbers. I have added two brief comments here.

H.H. writes:
The first of the chamber concerts arranged by Mr. Thomas Dunhill was given at the small Queen’s Hall on Friday evening, June 7. The occasion was of momentous interest to those who take any interest in the native movement which gradually but surely is making itself felt. It is, therefore, not surprising to note that the audience was small but discriminating and appreciative. Let not Mr. Dunhill and his trusty coadjutors be dismayed. This is but the inceptive stage, and I have no doubt that if the movement can be maintained for a sufficient length of time, interest will be quickened in many quarters that are now at present in ‘outer darkness’ and, in fine, generous support will be forthcoming. Of native art, for many reasons which I have not space to detail, we know nothing. This series of concerts of Mr. Dunhill’s is a genuine and laudable attempt to introduce a healthier atmosphere, and if lavish support is not forthcoming it will prove a scandalous reproach to the community. For let it be known at once and for all that this is not an attempt to bolster up ‘old England,’ the majority of whom have given up the unequal struggle, have written their effete masterpieces and sunk into musical senility. These concerts are for ‘Young England,’ the vigorous militant young men, who I hope will kick over the traces, and instead of exclaiming hopelessly in the manner of their forefathers ‘it will do’ will stick to their guns, be true to themselves and their ideals. Present popularity, which induces many a young man to say about mediocre work ‘it will do’ is a veritable ‘will-o’-the-wisp.’ Once this frame of mind is induced, artistic destruction is sure and certain. Herein lies a national danger. The spirit of commercialism (a damning factor) may be responsible for it in no small measure, but if ‘young England’ is to realise the fairest hopes it must sedulously eradicate this sort of thing, and work as Balzac says, ‘like a miner buried in a landslip.’

On this first occasion, the first place on the programme was awarded to Mr. Joseph Holbrooke’s Sextet, No.2, ‘In Memoriam’, op.32, for piano and strings. This was composed in memory of Frederick Westlake and has been previously performed at Mr. Holbrooke’s concerts and that Temple of Art, South Place Institute. [1]
The first movement is strenuous in character and preceded by a short Adagio full of gloom. The thematic material is well contrasted and the modulatory scheme struck me as remarkably daring. There are portions where the writing is cloudy and trying for the instruments, although on the whole the movement is remarkable for its strength and impetuosity. The ‘Elegie’ (second movement) is an ear-haunting melody which is discoursed first by the ‘cello and then by the other instruments until a kind of break of light occurs. The same theme in ecstatic style is then given forth by the strings against a piano accompaniment in chords. The last movement which is in Rondo form is frankly jovial and it frisks away from the commencement, the second subject given out by viola first is of decided Scotch flavour, and though it is of a flowing, song-like character, the Scotch snap is very prominent and (if I may) homely. In course of time the gloomy subject of the first movement arrests the cheerfulness. But this is of brief duration, the merriment triumphs and in a strepitous burst the movement is brought to a close.
Mr James Friskin played three piano solos of his own composition. The Intermezzo in C sharp minor seemed very much like a good improvisation, but the Prelude in G major scampers off in fine style and the Caprice in A major is a nicely balanced piano-work. The last two mentioned works were Chopinesque in style and are well written for the instrument. They will doubtless prove of interest to pianists.
In Miss Phyllis Lett we had a vocalist with a comprehensive range of expression and a sympathetic voice. Mr. Cecil Forsyth’s setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem ‘Remember’ did not convince me as being a very inspired work, although there is plenty of mysticism and even passion. But it wanders on in a lugubrious, nebulous fashion. The late Mr. Hurlstone’s ‘Five Baby Ballads’ [2] are delightful and although all will well repay close acquaintance ‘Blossoms’ is a gem. They are refreshing, hopeful specimens of English art, and the pity of it is that they are still in MSS.
Finally we has an interesting reading of Dvorak’s Quintet for piano and strings in A major, op.81. With Mr. Dunhill at the piano and the John Saunders Quartet party enjoyment was assured.
H.H. Musical Standard June 15 1907.

[1] The Conway Hall Ethical Society, formerly the South Place Ethical Society, based in London at Conway Hall, is thought to be the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world, and is the only remaining ethical society in the United Kingdom. It advocates secular humanism and is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. (Wikipedia)

[2] William Hurlstone’s ‘Five Miniature [Baby] Ballads’ were composed around November 1902 and are settings of texts by Olive Christian Malvery (1877-1914). Malvery, a singer, was a fellow student of Hurlstone’s at the Royal College of Music.  There are five songs: ‘Bells’, ‘Blossoms’, ‘Dreams’, ‘Darkness’ and ‘Morning’. They were published by Godwin and Tabb in 1907 and are available in two keys (soprano and mezzo-soprano). 
The Five Miniature Ballads were premiered on 12th June 1902 at Steinway Hall during a recital given by Malvery. For these songs, Lucy Barton was the soloist, accompanied by Hurlstone. Hurlstone’s Four English Sketches (composed 1898 and published in 1910) for violin and piano were performed by the composer (piano) and Haydn Wood (violin). 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot Book Review Part 2

Paul Rodmell notes that the limited scholarship on Holbrooke and his music has concentrated on the ‘neo-Wagnerian trilogy, The Cauldron of Annwn. This chapter examines the early and rather more modest and musically less-challenging opera Pierrot and Pierrette (1908) and the chamber ballet The Enchanted Garden (1915). It places this music within the context of the ‘unpropitious environment for opera composers’ in Britain at that time.  One of the reasons for this was the relatively poor quality of the librettos.
Rodmell concludes his examination of these works by suggesting that both works contained ‘some fine and impressive music’ however they remain unsatisfactory due on part to their libretti. The problem with this is that there are no recordings that would allow the reader to hear the music.  Furthermore, in the case of Pierrot the orchestral parts or full score have disappeared. This severely hampers any chance of it being performed unless in a ‘scratch’ or ‘chamber’ version derived from the vocal score with piano accompaniment.

One of the most interesting, if difficult, chapters in this book is Michael Allis’ detailed study of ‘Holbrooke and Poe Revisited: Refiguring The Raven as the Musical Uncanny.’  Most enthusiasts of Holbrooke will know that Poe was one of the composer’s favourite authors, which resulted in some thirty works which, to one extent or another, were inspired by the American author’s stories or poems. A list of these is included by Allis. This chapter studies Poe’s impact on Holbrooke, interestingly noting other composers who were inspired by the author. The major part of this essay is dedicated to a comprehensive study of Holbrooke’s orchestral poem The Raven. The work was well-received by the British musical press and this leads Allis to explore the context of ‘other attempts to reformulate Poe’s poems in alternative artistic forms.’ To this end he examines a number of illustrations for the printed text of The Raven by Dore, W.L. Taylor and Heath Robinson.  He then examines how the ‘uncanny’ could be ‘invoked in musical terms by the composer.’

I referred above to Joseph Holbrooke’s book Contemporary British Composer. Much as I enjoyed this book when I first discovered it, I did feel that there was something a little xenophobic about it. I guess that Holbrooke’s attempt to categorise composers by their relative Britishness seemed to me taking music nationalism too far.  I accept that he wanted to campaign for ‘the advancement of British music that is free from foreign influence.’  Yet it is one thing to bemoan the lack of attention to native-born composers by artists, benefactors and institutions: it is another to suggest that there is a hierarchy of ‘degrees of Britishness’ which creates various classes of composer.  Presumably, for Holbrooke, the more British the better?
Holbrooke divided the composers in his study into three groups: for example the first had ‘solid British names and parentages and often training’. It featured Elgar, Bantock, Bridge and Boughton. The second group includes Delius, Holst, Coleridge-Taylor and Goossens of whom ‘none can pretend that those are of British parentage…’ The third group to a large extent defies categorisation but ‘speculates’ on eight younger men including Bliss, Howells, Baines and Foulds. Interestingly, Holbrooke does not define what he believes to be a ‘British style.’ And finally the composer himself was sometimes dubbed as ‘The Cockney Wagner’ so even he was not beyond foreign influence!
In the chapter, ‘A Nationalist in Art’ Paul Watt analyses Holbrooke’s nationalist agenda by way of a detailed study of Contemporary British Composer with a critique of the text and perhaps more vitally by its contemporary reception especially by Ernest Newman.
The problem is well-summed up by the critic Jack Westrup who stated ‘in appraising the work of our fellow countrymen there is always the danger of an aggressive nationalism.’ Watt attempts not so much to excuse Holbrooke’s ‘aggressive nationalism’ but to look at the ‘ideology that underpinned the expression of his hopes for a better musical future, in which British composers would be celebrated…and the British public…would be patriotic and proud’.

It has always been a nightmare for musical historians to try to get a handle on just what Joseph Holbrooke composed. It has been summed up by Kenneth Thompson in Holbrooke - some catalogue data (Music and Letters,1965):  ‘Many works bore various opus numbers at different periods; conversely, an opus number can be found attached to several different works; and the identity of some earlier compositions, particularly in the realm of chamber music, is difficult to trace because of recasting and incorporation into new definitive versions… revisions, rearrangements and reshufflings led to havoc from which not even works of later date, when the numbering system might have been expected to have settled down, are exempt.’
The 1966 edition of Grove states that ‘the catalogue of…works is enormous and though many are published, more have remained in manuscript and are often difficult to access. Even those in print have changed publishers repeatedly.’ It then gives what it calls a ‘selection from the more important works…’ The current Grove is more detailed, but is still a selection, with for example, a blank heading indicating ‘Works for Unaccompanied Chorus’ and ‘Song incl.’ followed by a few titles and ‘many others.’ There is a detailed works list on Wikipedia which is listed ‘chronologically, where possible, by opus number and by category’.
In this present volume Rob Barnett has contributed a monumental document entitled ‘Notes towards a Work List.’ Allowing for the fact that any composer’s catalogue is ‘provisional’ Holbrooke’s is ‘more [so] than most.’ Barnett admits that the ‘evidence left by Holbrooke and his publishers points in various directions’ so the ‘work list’ is largely tentative and will inevitably be superseded. 
The list is presented in the sequence of opus numbers, however many works exist outside of this category.
Each piece is itemised, along with subdivisions of movements, variations or songs where appropriate. Holbrooke seemed to enjoy giving works alternative titles – the tone-poem The Viking, op.32 (1899) was originally called The Skeleton in Armour and possibly The Corsair. Details of first performances are given where known, although I imagine that these particulars will be added to as scholarship (hopefully) explores Holbrooke’s reception history more rigorously.  In many cases subsequent concerts and broadcasts are also noted.  In the listings for the operas and ballets Barnett has included a brief synopsis.
Also included is a generic list of works. This certainly highlights how much music Holbrooke wrote: surely one of the stumbling blocks to his reassessment in our time.  Finally, there is a list by opus number which one glance at reveals the complexity Holbrooke’s works list. For example, there are six works carrying op.91 – all different genres.

The discography is a major part of this book: I was surprised at just how many recordings of Holbrooke’s music have been made over the years. Alas, many are private or are no longer commercially available.
The present discography does not include the two CDs of piano music played by Panagiotis Trochopoulous issued on the Cameo Classics label: they were probably released too late for inclusion in this book.  Other missing recordings include the Fantasie-Sonate, for cello & piano, op. 19 recorded on the British Music Society label (BMS436CD), by Raphael Wallfisch (Cello), Raphael Terroni (Piano) and the Sonata for Violin and Piano no 3 in F major, op. 83 ‘Orientale’ with Jacqueline Roche (Violin), Robert Stevenson (Piano) on Dutton Epoch (DUTTON EPOCH CDLX7219).
Typically the discography has been produced by ‘opus number’, however there are a few examples, whether deliberate or not, that appear out of sequence. The lovely waltz ‘Pandora’ has been included in the listings twice (p.292 & p.300). Aucassin and Nicolette, op. 115 are out of sequence in the text. In fact pages 298 and 299 seem to have become transposed in the printing.  Violin Sonata or Sonatina, no.1 op.6a is also out of order from the main run of ‘opus numbers’.
Finally, it would have been better if the titles of each work in the discography had been exactly the same as that given in the main ‘Work List.’

The ‘References’ division of the book is divided into two sections – ‘Unsigned Articles’ including concert reviews and appreciations, followed by ‘Signed Articles, Books, Chapters, Websites and Reference Works.’ This is the most extensive bibliography of Holbrooke currently available, and will no doubt form the basis of scholarship and study for many years to come. It is broad-based and includes entries on Welsh history, nationalism and Sigmund Freud. 
In the first section, many of the reviews are simply listed by event. For example, ‘Crystal Palace Concerts’ Musical Standard 13 no.323 March 10, 1900:151.’ I had to look this up to establish that it was referring to a performance of The Raven. It would have been good to have provided this reference in the catalogue section or to have noted the work in [square brackets].
The comprehensive index provides references to the works discussed in the text as well as those described in ‘Notes towards a Work List’.
There are brief biographical details of the editors and contributors given at the end of the book.
This volume is well produced, with clear, readable print. There are a number of musical examples and copies of Doré illustrations for The Raven tone poems and the Edgar Alan Poe inspired works. I was disappointed that there were no photographs of the composer and his associates. 

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot will be of considerable interest to a surprisingly large group of people. Firstly, there are the musical historians for whom this volume will be invaluable in gaining a greater understanding of British music, especially in the first half of the twentieth century. Of especial interest is the detailed examination of Holbrooke’s often misplaced, but strongly held nationalism, as expounded in his Contemporary British Composers.  Students of Celtic and Welsh history and arts will require this book as an essential adjunct to their understanding of the influence of that nation’s history, ‘nationalist ideology’ and folklore on the London-born composer. The more general reader will find the examination of Holbrooke’s life of great interest as well as the examination of some of his key chamber and orchestral works prove helpful in gaining an understanding of one of the most important, but neglected, if somewhat wayward, British composers. 

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot
Paul Watt and Anne-Marie Forbes, eds:
pp.380, published 2015
ISBN: 9780810888913
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Hardback £49.95 ($75.00)

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot Book Review Part 1

My first introduction to Joseph Holbrooke’s music was his tone poem The Birds of Rhiannon, op.87 (1925). This had been released on a Lyrita record in 1979 coupled with Cyril Rootham’s Symphony No.1 (SRCS103 LP: SRCD269 CD). It was a number of years before I heard anything else from his pen. In the meantime, I had discovered a copy of the composer’s polemical study of Contemporary British Composers (1925) which I read avidly. It is a book that I enjoyed in spite of its eccentricities and intellectual confusion.

Back in 1979 it was difficult to find out much about Holbrooke. There were the usual entries in Grove’s and other musical dictionaries and encyclopaedias. I was fortunate in being able to borrow G. Lowe’s Josef Holbrooke and his Work (London, 1920) from the library. Yet this book had been written some 38 years before the composer’s death, so it could hardly claim to be up to date. I had a copy of Sydney Grew’s Our Favourite Musicians, from Stanford to Holbrooke (Edinburgh, 1922) in my collection, which was interesting, but again only covered the first half of his life, in a popular manner.  In 1937 Josef Holbrooke: Various Appreciations by Many Authors was published by the then-extant Holbrooke Society. The contents included a selection of reprints from contemporary journals as well as some specially written. They featured one or two famous names including Ernest Newman and the composer Richard H. Walthew.  It is a volume that I have not seen and is scarce.
In the post-war year’s interest in Holbrooke seems to have evaporated, with little written in the academic or popular press. The first stirring of a revival appeared in 1974 when Lewis Foreman and Graham Parlett produced a contemporary discography published in Antique Record. It was not until the nineteen-nineties that some articles began to appear in the musical press, especially the British Music Society Journal and Newsletters.  Rob Barnett has contributed an important appreciation on MusicWeb International as well as publishing two major essays by Michael Freeman – ‘Joseph Holbrooke Incognito’ and ‘Joseph Holbrooke and Wales’. An interesting note by Philip Scowcroft examined the composer’s light music. Since that time there has been a small number of CDs issued dedicated to his music.
It is possible to find countless contemporary references to Holbrooke in the musical press as well as in many contemporary arts’ journals and daily newspapers. However, there has been no previous attempt to give an overview of the composer, his music and his musicological and political endeavors.
Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot is the first book to provide a detailed examination of the composer.

There is no need to present a detailed biographical sketch of Joseph Holbrooke in this review. Nevertheless, it would not be amiss to give the briefest of overviews which quotes part of the entry in Percy Scholes’ eternally useful Oxford Companion to Music.
Holbrooke was born in Croydon in 1878. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music and continued with a busy professional life of ‘great activity and variety.’  His catalogue of music has works in every genre including the major opera trilogy The Cauldron of Anwyn.  Scholes concludes with a very astute sentence: [Holbrooke] ‘has composed fluently and ably… sometimes without sufficient self-criticism. As a controversialist he used to be both vigorous and even violent. He found both creation and destruction agreeable diversions and aimed at possessing a string of critics scalps as long as his list of opus numbers.’ The composer died, virtually forgotten, in 1958.

The first section of this book is one of the most valuable: the massive chronology of ‘Holbrooke’s Life and Music’ assembled by Rob Barnett. It extends to more than 30 pages. As an example, the entry for ‘August 1915’ notes the premiere of The Enchanter, op.70 in Chicago,  a performance of the Imperial March, op.26 at Bournemouth under Dan Godfrey and the a fugitive Romance op.59b for viola and piano in the Wigmore Hall.  Generally, entries include details of when works were begun and completed, the composer’s travel arrangements and holidays at home and abroad and the death of people associated with Holbrooke.  Naturally, any reception history of Holbrooke’s music will have to be cross-checked with contemporary programmes, adverts and reviews, but this chronology is critical to all subsequent study of the composer.

The first chapter, also by Rob Barnett, gives a concise overview of the composer, both biographical and musical. It is essential reading before beginning to explore the more specific and detailed essays in the remainder of this book. Barnett has been an enthusiast of Holbrooke’s music since hearing the tone poem Ulalume in 1984 and has spent much time researching and writing about the composer and compiling a catalogue of his music.

David Craik has investigated Holbrooke’s ‘Friendship with Granville Bantock.’ This chapter examines this relationship by way of some 150 letters in the Bantock Collection at the University of Birmingham. Holbrooke was fortunate in having such a friend who was not fazed by his outbursts and often outrageous polemic. Craik writes that Bantock ‘exercised a paternalistic and fraternal relationship with Holbrooke’ from the first meeting at Liverpool  in 1895 until Bantock’s death on 1946.  Although the two composers had widely varying musical aesthetics, both loved North Wales and represented this in their music. Bantock ‘remained a bedrock of almost unconditional encouragement and affection for Holbrooke throughout [his] turbulent career’. One (of many) interesting things I learnt in this chapter was Holbrooke’s intention to write a biography of Bantock. It is not known if the book was completed or if the draft survives.

Anne-Marie Forbes, as well as being one of the book’s editors has contributed a chapter on Joseph Holbrooke’s relationship with Thomas Evelyn Scott-Ellis, Eighth Lord Howard de Walden. This larger than like ‘boy’s own’ character who had fought in the Boer War, at Gallipoli, sailed yachts, raced speedboats, retained racehorses, owned a Scottish island and some Kenyan forest and was passionate about medieval history and Welsh culture. He became a patron of the composer who himself was deeply influenced by Celticism. Ellis was to provide Holbrooke with the libretto for his operatic trilogy. Equally important, he was to offer financial security, opportunity for holidays in the Mediterranean and travel to Africa and South America.  It was Ellis’ influence on Holbrooke that caused the composer to write many Welsh works. These are listed in Appendix 2. Through Ellis, Holbrooke came to share ‘a romantic vision of an unspoiled land…populated with the heroes of mythology and legend’.
This chapter includes a major analysis of Holbrooke’ overblown, heart on sleeve, but ultimately beautiful Piano Concerto: The Song of Gwym ap Nudd, which was based on a poem by Ellis.

Joseph Holbrooke’s chamber music is the subject of Paul Hopwood’s chapter which examines its neglect and the influence of ‘mass-culture’. After noting the vast amount of chamber music in Holbrooke’s catalogue, Hopwood laments that lack of currently available recordings of these works. He considers that this music suffers almost total neglect. Part of this may be down to the composer’s difficult attitude towards performers and concert promoters.  Hopwood argues that the problem is that the chamber works may have been backward looking, reflecting a kind of ‘deliberate antiquarianism’ but further submits that it reflects the ‘emergence of music produced for the mass consumer market. It is for that reason it came to be ‘disparaged and ignored by the majority of the musical establishment.’ After a section on contemporary critical response Hopwood examines the ‘Fantasie’ String Quartet no.1 in D (op.17b) (1906) and the Clarinet Quintet in G major, op.27 no.2 (1910) in some considerable technical detail complete with musical examples.
He concludes with a section on Holbrooke’s ‘Time and the Rise of Mass Culture’ which sets the composer in the context of cheap music, the invention of the gramophone, the ‘gothic’ literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He considers that at this time there was a ‘crack’ opening up between what was popular and what was regarded as being highbrow. It was Joseph Holbrooke’s problem that to a large extent he sat on the ‘border between elite and mass culture...’ 
To be continued...

Joseph Holbrooke: Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot
Paul Watt and Anne-Marie Forbes, eds:
pp.380, published 2015
ISBN: 9780810888913
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Hardback £49.95 ($75.00)

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The First Thomas Dunhill Chamber Concert on 7 June 1907: A Second Review

After a long paragraph of philosophical speculation on ‘beauty unobserved’ and genius unrecognised, the English composer Ernest Austin (1874-1947) begins his review of Thomas Dunhill’s first chamber concert. It was held at the Queen’s Hall recital room as detailed in my earlier post on this event. No additional notes or commentary are required for this review.

Austin writes:-
The endeavour of Thomas Dunhill to bring to public notice the gifts of his countrymen in musical composition merited a better response than his first concert obtained and it is to be hoped that better attendances will be accorded his concerts on June 14 and June 21. The attendance on June 7 was scarce, not because of any demerit in his programme, but because our days are branded by the curse of indifference to mental pastimes. The mind’s enjoyment appears to be one of the last things to engage public attention, but entertainments that provide by subtle artifice, sufficient charm to engross the more animal senses, are quite certain of success.
Thomas Dunhill brought forward a work of absolute genius, a Sextet for piano and string by Joseph Holbrooke, ‘In Memoriam’, op.32 ‘To the Memory of Frederick Westlake’ The first two movements of this work were charged with that indescribable power by which men’s minds can respond to the infinite beauty and mystery of existence. The perpetual questionings of the spirit regarding the anomalies of human life will always be first thoughts to high-minded musicians and poets, and in this work under consideration I found the tension of great emotion and powerful utterance. My opinion regarding the third movement is that it is out of place in an heroic composition. Musically, it has vast claims, but its gaiety is not of the heroic type, it is too gracious to be accorded its present companionship. This is probably a fastidious opinion, but the sheet power of the first two movements removes one’s outlook to such high ground; and there is nothing in Art or Nature which can afford to despise environment- environment gives force and value, it is the measure of Beauty and Beauty is agreement

Messrs. John Saunders, H Waldo Warner, E.Yonge, J. Preuvners and G. Yate were in charge of the strings in Holbrooke’s Sextet, and they gave it a performance sufficient to satisfy the highest wish of any composer. The work was played with real sympathy and affection.
I did not hear the entire evening’s programme but mention must be made of some excellent piano pieces by James Friskin, Intermezzo in C sharp minor, Prelude in G major, Caprice in A major. There is much first hand beauty in these, but a flavour of Mendelssohn was here and there noticeable.

Ernest Austin: The Musical Standard 15 June 1907

Monday, 28 September 2015

The First Thomas Dunhill Chamber Concert on 7 June 1907

I recently came across a review of the first chamber music concert sponsored by Thomas Dunhill on 7 June 1907. I find that even a short review like this needs to be glossed, as many of the personalities are no longer commonly known. In the first concert none of the British works have survived in the repertoire: there are no recordings available. The music in the second concert has faired better. I will add a further review of this concert at a later date.

7 June 1907
Mr. Thomas Dunhill [1] is to be warmly commended for his scheme of chamber concerts given at Queen’s (small) Hall, [2] for the programmes made generous recognition of living British composers. At the first of these, on June 7, the opening work was Mr. Joseph Holbrooke’s Sextet No. 2, op. 32, [3] written ‘In memoriam’ of the late Frederick Westlake [4], the well-known professor of the pianoforte at the Royal Academy of Music. This work consists of three movements, the most significant of which is a central elegie instinct with sincere feeling. The first movement has an expressive principal theme, and contains several impressive passages, but in its entirety is not so coherent as could be desired. The finale is a lively rondo of somewhat conventional character. The work was played in spirited fashion, with Mr. Holbrooke at the pianoforte, and the Saunders Quartet, assisted by Mr. G. Yates. [5]
Three tasteful and effective pianoforte pieces -severally entitled Intermezzo, Prelude, and Caprice - were admirably played by their composer, Mr. James Friskin; [6] and a sympathetic setting, by Mr. Cecil Forsyth, [7] of Rossetti's poem ‘Remembrance,’ was charmingly sung by Miss Phyllis Lett. [8]
The programme concluded with Dvorak’s Pianoforte quintet in A (Op. 81), played by Mr. Thomas Dunhill and the Saunders Quartet. [9]
Musical Times July 1907 p.475

[1] Thomas Dunhill was an English composer and teacher. Born in London on 1 February 1877 he studied with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music.  In 1907 he founded the ‘Concerts of British Chamber Music’ which were to hold an important place in London musical life. They continued until 1919. His compositions include an operetta Tantivy Towers (1931), a fine Symphony in A minor (1916) and a huge quantity of piano music, much of it for teaching purposes. Dunhill died on 13 March 1946 in the Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe.

[2] The Queen’s Hall, Langham Place was officially opened on 27 November, 1893 with a children’s party in the afternoon and an evening concert played before the Prince of Wales. It is most famously associated with Sir Henry Wood and the Promenade Concerts. At the top of the building was a small recital room which had a capacity of about 400. The entire building was destroyed on 10-11 May 1941 by a German air raid.

[3] As always, with Joseph Holbrooke’s music it is difficult to precisely situate this work in his catalogue. I believe that is is Sextet for Piano, String Quartet and Double Bass ‘In memoriam’ op.46 (1905). (See catalogue in Joseph Holbrooke, Composer, Critic and Musical Patriot, Rowman & Littlefield, London, 2015) The work was originally composed as a Piano Quintet no.3 (c.1903). There are three movements: Allegro, adagio and poco vivace-adagio. In the above review it refers to op.32. 

[4] Frederick Westlake was born in Romsey, Hampshire on 25 February 1840. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music from 1855-59. His teachers included Walter Macfarren (piano) and George A. Macfarren (harmony). In 1860 he became associate-professor followed by full professorship of piano in 1863. In 1862 Westlake was appointed to the faculty as piano teacher. He was a member of the Philharmonic Society and the Society of Musicians.  
Westlake composed a Mass in E flat, many hymn tunes, piano pieces, and a collection of part-songs, Lyra Studentium. He completed William Sterndale Bennett’s edition of J.S. Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues. At one of W. H. Holmes's ‘Musical Evenings’ (St George's Hall, October 22, 1873), he performed, with Miss Agnes Channel, Chopin's Rondo, op. 73, for two pianos, probably for the first time in London.
Frederick Westlake died in St. Marylebone, London on 12 February 1898. 

[5] Mr. G. Yates. I was unable to find any detailed information on this musician. He was an active double-bassist in the first part of the 20th century. Any information would be welcome.

[6] James Friskin was born in Glasgow on 3 March 1886. He studied with Alfred Heap in his hometown before gaining a piano scholarship to the Royal College of Music, aged fourteen. He studied there with the pianist Edward Dannreuther and Frits Hartvigson. In 1905 he began study of composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Between 1909 and 1914 he taught at The Royal Normal College for the Blind in Upper Norwood. By invitation of Frank Damrosch, Friskin sailed to the United States during October 1914. He taught at the Institute of Musical Art. He was to become a founder member of the faculty at the Julliard Graduate School, the Institute’s successor.   During 1944 James Friskin met the English composer Rebecca Clarke. They had been at college together. They were married in September of that year.
Friskin’s compositions includes a lost piano concerto, a Suite in D minor for orchestra a number of chamber works including a Cello Sonata, some piano music and various Cobbett-inspired Phantasies. James Friskin died in 16 March 1967 in New York City.

[7] Cecil Forsyth born 30th November 1870 in Greenwich. He was another of the RCM protégés. He studied under both Charles Hubert Hasting Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford. He was a violist in Sir Henry Wood’s orchestra at the Queen’s Hall. Forsyth composed at least two operas, Westward Ho!  and Cinderella, however his undoubted masterpiece is the Viola Concerto in G minor (1903). His treatise on Orchestration (1914) remains an important standard work. Forsyth died as a result of a street accident in New York on 7 December 1941 whilst working for the publishing firm W.H. Gray.

[8] Phyllis Burgh Ker née Lett was born in Wakefield during 1884. As a mezzo-soprano, Lett was a popular recitalist during the nineteen twenties.  The Times reports that she ‘had a pleasing voice of even quality, intelligence and interpretation and persuasive delivery. The RCM Magazine notes that she was possessed with a magnificent contralto voice [and] was perhaps one of the most famous oratorio singers of her day, and was in great demand at the chief festivals…’ Lett died in Yea, Victoria in Australia on 1st June 1962.

[9] Saunders Quartet were originally called the South Place Quartet, It was founded in 1892 by John Saunders. The original players were John Saunders, first violin; A. G. Kentleton, second violin; Thomas Batty, viola; and F. Casano, violoncello. The Saunders Quartet had a considerable impact in stimulating appreciation of chamber music in London.  The quartet featured many new works by contemporary British composers.  It was disbanded upon the death of Saunders in 1919. At the present performance the players were Messrs. John Saunders, H. Waldo Warner, Ernest Yonge and J. Preuvners.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

John McCabe: Piano Music on Naxos

My introduction John McCabe’s (1939-2015) music was found in an old cardboard box outside Hughes second-hand bookshop in Llandudno around 1975 –the EMI recording of the Chagall Windows coupled with the Variations on a theme of Karl Amadeus Hartmann (ASD3096).  I remember that I was not impressed by either work, although time has changed my mind about the Chagall Windows. It is a masterpiece. Around the same time, I discovered that McCabe was also a brilliant pianist. I acquired one of the boxed sets (vinyl) of his recordings of the Haydn Piano Sonatas. In 1995, I invested in the 12CD Decca reissue of all the sonatas and other piano works: I have never found the need for any other version of this great music.
Over the years I have come to appreciate McCabe’s music, especially the orchestral and brass band pieces. Yet for some reason, his original piano works have passed me by. I never got round to buying the BMS CD which appeared around 2004. This was reviewed on MusicWeb International by Christopher Thomas and a few years later by Bob Briggs. It is this disc that Naxos has re-leased.

John Healy in the Newcastle-based newspaper The Journal (19 February 1964) noted that the Variations, op.22 are ‘not cast in the usual variation form.’ He was concerned that there appeared to be ‘no recognisable theme announced at the outset – only a series of chords and twiddling’s at the extremity of the keyboard.’ Yet the reviewer conceded that there was ‘much effective writing and the three well contrasted sections seemed to present a good deal of thoughtful invention.’
All this seems to fit my first impression that the opening of this piece is a bit tenuous but that the work becomes more impressive as it develops.  I was amused to read that the composer himself had apparently referred to ‘tinkles’ at the extreme ends of the keyboard.  The basic fact is that this is a series of ‘studies in rhythm and texture rather than in melodic variations in the traditional sense.’ (Manchester Guardian 6 March 1964). There are eighteen ‘variations’ in all with a short ‘cadenza’ interposed between the penultimate and final one.  The structural material of the piece is based on the tritone (C-F#): the composer referred to this as the ‘springboard of the theme.’ It is the rhythmic diversity of this work that I find memorable. The sound world of this piece is more Bartok than Brahms or Rachmaninov; however there are a number of meditative moments scattered here and there.
The Variations were completed in 1964 and were first played on 18 February of that year by the composer at the Newcastle Upon Tyne People’s Theatre Arts Centre as part of a Tyneside Music Society event. They are dedicated to Gordon Greene with whom McCabe had studied piano at the Royal Manchester College of Music.

Aubade, Study no. 4 was composed in 1970. McCabe wrote that, ‘the music derives principally from the extended use of arpeggio features and appoggiaturas (grace notes), as the pianistic elements uppermost in the piece … it is intended to conjure up not so much the coming dawn … but the moment of stillness before dawn.’ I felt that this study created a feeling of stasis often associated with the music of Olivier Messiaen, but without the liturgical colourings.
Gaudi, Study no.3 is a major work by any account. Inspired more by the Montserrat landscape of rocky outcrops that influenced Gaudi than any particular building by the legendary architect, this study is a constant flux of powerful, declamatory eruptions with moments of reflective calm. There are five thematic elements, which are both contrasting and complex: they are pieced together in the form of a large (but not classical) rondo. McCabe uses a wide palette of pianistic colour including ‘Bartokian’ clusters, irregular rhythmic writing, bell-like music and counterpoint. This stunning music reflects the sunshine of Spain in its ‘kaleidoscope’ of musical colourings.  
Mosaic (Study No.6) is the latest of the series of Studies. It was composed in 1980 for the North Wales Festival and was dedicated to William Mathias. The inspiration for this music are the mosaics which the composer saw in the mosques of Damascus during a concert tour. The work based on a tone-row, which is not treated ‘serially’ in a strict sense; it is simply a source for material. This is a work of considerable length that explores ‘a fantasia-like set of dovetailed and freewheeling variations’. It is a complex study that places great demands on the pianist. I spite of a number of climaxes and outbursts I found this a deeply meditative work.

The Five Bagatelles are quite beautiful in their exploration of a number of relatively restrained moods (the Toccata excepted). They were commissioned by Robin Elkin, the music publisher, were completed in 1963 and dedicated to ‘Isobel.’ The five bagatelles last less than three and half minutes with the opening Capriccio being a mere 36 seconds long. Yet these are not ‘trifles’ as such. They are well-conceived and convincing miniatures that responded to a request ‘for not-too-difficult 12-note pieces.’ McCabe may have used serial techniques to engineer these Bagatelles, however the constructional process does not interfere with their magical quality and sheer beauty. The Five Bagatelles are ‘Capriccio’, ‘Aria’, ‘Elegia’, ‘Toccata’ and ‘Notturno’.

John McCabe’s most important piano work is often claimed to be the Haydn Variations. It was commissioned by the City Music Society and was composed between 1982-83. The work was dedicated to the pianist Philip Fowke who gave the premiere in London Goldsmith’s Hall on 26 October 1983. In preparing for this review, I read both assessments of the old BMS CD noted above. I picked up on Bob Briggs statement that ‘the Haydn Variations start with quite a shock – you cannot be prepared for this at all! It’s a most arresting opening – more Rachmaninov than Haydn – but once the piece gets going it’s pure McCabe’. It is really a brilliant overview of this work. The liner notes point out the rather unorthodox nature of these ‘variations.’ The theme, which is derived from the first movement (Moderato) of Haydn’s Piano Sonata No 32 in G minor, Hob XVI: 44, does not actually appear until page 32 of the score (there are 53 pages in total). John McCabe has stated that the theme is presented ‘surrounded by remote harmonies giving it the air of something being recollected rather hazily.’ The composer does insist that everything in the work is derived from this theme ‘even when the music seems far removed from it.’
I felt that I was listening to a sonata rather than a set of variations, and this view is supported by the tripartite nature of the piece. The opening section is fast, followed by a much slower and reflective middle part which is succeeded by music that gradually increases in pace and virtuosity.

The playing by John McCabe is beyond fault. I have not heard the old PYE LP of the Bagatelles (GSGC 14116) or the two studies released on RCA (RL 25076) so I am unable to offer comparisons.  The liner notes are by Guy Rickards. They are comprehensive and amount to a major study of these works: they bear study before and after listening to this music. The ambience of the recording is perfect.

It is good that McCabe’s music is attracting more attention from Naxos. I do hope that this trend will continue, both with the orchestral works which surely demand a complete cycle of his symphonies, and the other piano works that still await a premiere recording. This present CD is an important re-release of a valuable British Music Society disc that some people (like me) may have missed first time round. 

Track Listing:
Variations, op.22 (1963)
Aubade (Study No.4) (1970)
Gaudi (Study No.3) (1970)
Five Bagatelles (1964)
Mosaic (Study No.6) (1980)
Haydn Variations (1983)
John McCabe (piano)
NAXOS 8.571367 (Reissue of British Music Society BMS424CD
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Eric Coates: Is English Light Music a Dying Art?

I make no excuse for posting this essay by Eric Coates. It is largely self-explanatory, however I could not resist adding a few glosses at the end.

As I look at the trend of musical matters today I ask myself: ‘What does the future hold for our composers of light music?’ Present-day conditions seem to point to the unpleasant fact that this form of art will die out unless something is done to give our younger composers of light music the encouragement which, once upon a time, was theirs. Do we appreciate the heritage of English light music or are we content to let it die? Are we grateful for the melodies that have survived the years, for those songs and tunes that have been handed down to us from our composers of yesterday? What of the music of Purcell, Dibdin, Arne, and Boyce (to mention only a few); the carefree ‘It was a lover and his lass’ or ‘Tom Bowling’ with its simple appeal, and the charming ‘Cherry Ripe.’ [1]
One could fill a page with the names of the familiar melodies which our writers of the past have given us, unaffected melodies which breathe the spirit of England. Melody! Where should we be without it? How much the poorer, for instance, should we be without the lilting melodies of Arthur Sullivan, that prolific composer of so many invigorating tunes! And what of Edward German? How many of us would care to forego the wistful appeal of this most fastidious of composers, who caught the spirit of the English countryside as none other has done. [2]
They were great men, and stood head and shoulders above their contemporaries in their particular line.  Both were masters of their craft and each spoke to us in their inimitable way, through the medium of the orchestra- for it is in the orchestration that the composer can make his personality felt more surely than in any other form of musical expression. [3]

About this time, of course, there were several very successful composers of light music in the theatre world who delighted us all with their haunting tunes – Leslie Stuart, Sydney Jones, Lionel Monckton, Howard Talbot, and Paul Rubens; even the school-children of today seem to know their songs. Sullivan and German were, however, in a class by themselves because of their knowledge of the orchestra; for, with the exception of Sydney Jones and Howard Talbot, most of the writers for the theatre of those days were obliged to call on the services of an expert orchestrator to arrange their music for them, as indeed they do in the theatre today. [4]

Most people do not realise that the writing of a light work is a serious business and takes just as much thought and skill to produce as one of the ‘heavier’ type –the symphony, for instance; and I think the reason the former is not now taken seriously is that far too many writers are content to jot down a top-line and sit back while the orchestrator does the rest. We shall never produce a future school of light music so long as this practice persists, and the only way to improve matters is by encouraging our younger composers to study the difficult art of orchestration. Our Academies of Music should wake up to the fact that something must be done about it. They should enlist the services of up-to-date professors who are sympathetically disposed towards light music of this type which entertains and delights the ear without being vulgar. The BBC (which does so much to encourage our moderns) [5] should work hand-in-hand with our Academies and stimulate an interest in this practically forgotten art.

Not long ago I asked one of the Directors of the BBC why certain orchestral works of the more popular type were not included in our broadcasts of representative English music and I received the reply that such works were excluded for the reason that they could be heard any day in our restaurants and theatres and over the air by smaller combinations. [6] But surely these works should be played occasionally at any rate, by the sized orchestra which the composer had in mind when he scored them, otherwise it seems unfair to the composer-the very absence of such works from programmes casting a slur on this kind of music and doing a great deal of harm through acting as a deterrent to any young composer who might feel the urge to express himself in this way.

I am not suggesting that programme-builders should give us concerts  composed entirely of light music, for that would defeat its own ends – too much of the same thing is always a mistake- but I would like to see the masterpieces of light music sandwiched between works by the masters of the classics.  It would be the right gesture to make to all those composers who through their inspiration have given so much pleasure to the music-loving public, and it would bring light music into its own. It may be the one of these days someone will come along to right the wrong being done to the wealth of lovely melodies which this country possesses. We may then look forward to a revival of interest in our much neglected light music, and the exponent of this delicate art will once again receive the recognition he deserves.
Eric Coates Radio Times c.1942 (reprinted in The Musical Digest No.6 Summer 1948)

[1] The music of Henry Purcell has been rediscovered in the 20th century and has been widely recorded and written about. To a lesser extent the same can be said about William Boyce and Thomas Arne. Dibdin remains a largely undiscovered country. It is fair to say that none of these composers currently capture the general musical public’s imagination at the present time (2015). The three melodies that are noted by Coates have survived, largely through Thomas Wood’s Sea Songs (Tom Bowling) and perhaps Coates own musical portrait of ‘Covent Garden’ (Cherry Ripe). 'It was a lover and his lass' remains popular.

[2] Coates notes that Sullivan ‘stood head and shoulders above their contemporaries in their particular line.’ I guess that he is referring to the sheer melodic achievement of their operettas rather than his symphonic and orchestral works.

[3] Arthur Sullivan has survived as the musical partner of G&S. However, in recent decades his ‘non-Savoy’ music has been investigated and has been found to be interesting and worthy of rediscovery, if not revelatory.  The same could apply to Edward German. However Coates would appear to be alluding to to the idealised English world created in Merrie England. Recent evaluations of German’s Symphonies and orchestral suites reveal a composer who is competent, imaginative and deserving our attention, if not at the forefront of Edwardian musical endeavour.

[4] It is highly unlikely that school-children in 2015 would even have heard of Lionel Monckton and Howard Talbot let alone know their songs. One does wonder how prevalent this engagement with these tunes was even in Eric Coates’ time. These composers of musical theatre are little-recalled today with the possible exception of The Arcadians (Talbot) and The Geisha with music by Sydney Jones which have been recorded and are given occasional revivals.

[5] Eric Coates would have regarded himself lucky that he did not have to deal with William Glock at the BBC. 

[6] This is not longer the case; however Classic FM does play a small number of light classics. Major recording projects such as Guilds’ Golden Age of Light Music and Marco Polo’s survey of a number of light music composers, including Eric Coates have allowed listeners in the 21st century approach a huge range of this genre of music. 

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Bill Worland: Shopping Spree (1956)

One of the pleasures of light music is being able to make-up stories around any particular piece. Many of their titles seem to encourage this self-indulgent elaboration that the listener would avoid whilst listening to a Beethoven Sonata or a Dvorak String Quartet.
Shopping Spree has been described as being ‘very Bob Farnon-ish’: it is an ideal evaluation of the mood of this piece of music which describes a day ‘In Town’ at the shops. Perhaps I have a vivid imagination, but I can picture a vivacious lady walking purposefully down a leafy avenue to a suburban Surrey station before taking the electric train up to Waterloo. Then, hopping onto the Bakerloo Line she travels across to Oxford Circus tube station before heading off down Regent Street.  
Perchance, she called in at Dickins and Jones for a morning coffee? Maybe met up with a friend? As the day wears on, more and more parcels are accrued and eventually it is time to return home, this time by taxi to Waterloo. This was in 1956, long before credit cards. Any payments would be cash or cheque and in proper money, £.s.d.

The music opens with a short introduction suggesting a bustling street. After a short jazzy passage it drops into something with a romantic sweep. The middle eight is a lot slower and much more relaxed than what has gone before. Soon the scurrying music returns and the day’s shopping is finally done. Bill Worland (1921-2011) makes good use of brass and percussion in this piece. Vibrant and rhythmically exciting, this makes a perfect miniature. The work was first broadcast on a BBC Radio Breakfast Special programme.  It later featured as background music to the film We Think the World of You (1988) which starred Alan Bates and Max Wall. It was uncredited.

Bill Worland Shopping Spree can be heard on Marco Polo 8.225161

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Golden Age of Light Music: Table for Two

The melody that immediately caught my eye on this charming compilation of romantic tunes was Mel Young’s ‘Rainbow Room’. It seems to epitomise this latest CD in the The Golden Age of Light Music series.  The ‘Rainbow Room’ in New York (which I assume is the inspiration for this melody) was opened in 1934 and is located on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Centre. When I last visited it, we arrived at about five p.m., claimed a seat at a ‘table for two’ as near as possible to the window and ordered a bottle of wine and some sandwiches. Later, we finished with two Manhattan’s. Dusk was just beginning to settle and we watched the skyscrapers light up slowly. The cocktail pianist was working his way through a selection of ‘standards’ in a typically, melancholic style.  It is an experience I shall not forget and this disc helps me to remember. 

Virtually every track on this CD is a gem. Most bring some sort of captivating mental picture to the listener. Some are miniature musical portraits: others are delightful love songs. I consider them in no particular order.
Bruce Campbell provides the title track ‘Table for Two’ before Jerome Kern reminds the listener that ‘The Night was made for Love’.  I guess that not every boy and girl can afford Walter Stott’s ‘Pearls on Velvet’, but sweeping strings and trumpet solo can bring the possibility just that little bit closer.
As an enthusiast of the John Gregson film The Captain’s Table, I warmed to Peter de Rose’s smoochy ‘The Grass Widow’s Lament’. See this enjoyable film to find out the allusion.  A little more ‘up tempo’ is the ‘Valse Magique’ by Oscar Denayer and Louis Logist.  Leslie Coward’s name rings a bell: his ‘Daydreams’ is a lovely standalone miniature. Equally striking is Keith Papworth’s ‘Dreamtime’.  Cyril Watters’ ‘Southern Twilight’ does not seem to reflect an American South: it has a definite Iberian feel to it, complete with castanets. This is definitely Majorca rather than ‘down Mexico way.’
Well-known songs and tunes trip over each other: Jerome Kern’s ‘Can’t help lovin’dat man’ from Show Boat is a standard [listed as by George Gershwin, from Porgy and Bess in the liner notes and track listing], Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘The Nearness of You’ is, as Eric Morecambe used to say, ‘One of the Greats.’ 
I just loved Guenther Sonneborn ‘Honeymoon for Strings’: it is so typical of light music of the period. Lots of swishing strings, pizzicato and some nice exotic percussion. It is one of the most characteristically ‘light’ pieces of music on this CD. Werner Richard Heymann’s ‘When the Music is playing’ is vivacious and sounds just a little like the theme to Top of the Form (Marching Strings). ‘Serentella’ by Dennis Stoll is a gorgeous tone poem that evokes thoughts of a misty day by the sea. It is way too short.
Trevor Duncan’s contribution is the sweeping strings, muted brass and sulky piano of the impossibly romantic ‘Supper with Stephie’ - which is up to his usual high standard. Eddy Wall’s ‘Look at Me’ with its lugubrious trumpet solo, is an apposite title: I imagine that it would be very easy for one or other of the lovers to be distracted by the stunning views from the Rainbow Room as the darkness falls over the Hudson and the East Rivers. They may need a gentle reminder of why they are there in the first place. Then Raymond Jones’ ‘Easy Talk’ may pass the time until the next dance.  But then he can whisper to his partner to the strains of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby that ‘I love you so much.’ Perhaps he or she will be surprised and suggest that ‘I never knew’ which is the title of Ted Fiorita and Gus Kahn’s romantically-charged song.
Not quite sure what a ‘Fashion Line’ is: I imagine it is a high-end clothing retailer. This lovely tune by Anthony Spurgin is seriously laid back so I guess that money is no real object to these browsers.
The word ‘Debutante’ has gone out of fashion in these more enlightened times, however there are many who will remember ‘The Season’, when the ‘Debs’ came out and were presented to the Queen.  The last occasion this happened in the UK was in 1958. George English in his happy reflection on this occasion has vitality and humour.
I guess that Cy Crawford’s ‘Love in the Clouds’ could be imagined in the Rainbow Room, or it could be ‘Flying Down to Rio.’ It is certainly not sitting on the summit of Scafell Pike on a cold, wet and windy day.  Peter Dennis’s ‘Fashion House’ could easily be in New York, yet the mood is altogether more English: Regent Street in London seems to be nearer the mark. 
I have never heard of Kurt Schick – I wonder if it is a pseudonym –his ‘Gorgeous Girl’ seems to sum up much of the preceding selection, although there is definitely a touch of the mischievous in this particular musical portrait.  
The final song on this ‘fab’ CD is a transcription of Harry Ruby’s ‘Nevertheless (I'm In Love with You)’ by William Hill-Bowen: it brings this lovely romantic CD to a quiet reflective conclusion.
This was the last collection of the The Golden Age of Light Music engineered by David Ades before his death in February 2015. The 127 albums that he produced have been hugely interesting, inspiring, often fun, frequently romantic and always downright enjoyable. Fortunately, Alan Bunting and Guild have decided to continue the series in a ‘similar manner.’
The present CD is one of most enjoyable of the series that I have heard. This exploration of music for a romantic evening is a fitting compliment to Ades’ achievement. 

Track Listing:
Bruce CAMPBELL Table for Two - Group-Forty Orchestra conducted by Laurie Johnson (1960)
Jerome KERN (1885-1945) The Night was Made for Love - Melachrino Orchestra conducted by George Melachrino (1961)      
Walter STOTT (1924-2009) Pearls on Velvet - Telecast Orchestra conducted By Walter Stott (1961)
Jerome KERN Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (from 'Showboat') - David Rose and his Orchestra (1957)    
Mel YOUNG (1920-1971) Rainbow Room - Mel Young and his Orchestra (1962)
Dennis STOLL (1912-87) Serenatella - Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1962)
Ted FIORITO, Gus KAHN I Never Knew - Dolf Van Der Linden and his Orchestra (As ‘Daniel De Carlo’ on LP) (1958) 
Cyril WATTERS (1907-84) Southern Twilight - Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1962) 
Guenther SONNEBORN Honeymoon for Strings - Bosworth Orchestra (1962) [2:40]    
Peter De ROSE, arr. Laurie JOHNSON (b.1927) Grass Widow's Lament - Ambrose Orchestra conducted by Laurie Johnson (1956)
Oscar DENAYER, Louis LOGIST Valse Magique - The Brussels New Concert Orchestra (1960)
Leslie COWARD Daydreams - Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1962)     
Bert KALMAR (1884-1947), Harry RUBY (1895-1974) I Love You So Much - John Clegg and his Orchestra (1958)
Anthony SPURGIN (1907-?) Fashion Line - The Connaught Light Orchestra (1960)
Hoagy CARMICHAEL (1899-1981), Ned WASHINGTON (1901-76) arr. Robert FARNON (1917-2005) The Nearness of You - Robert Farnon and his Orchestra (1957)
Trevor DUNCAN (1924-2005) Supper with Stephie - Lansdowne Light Orchestra (1961)
Werner Richard HEYMANN (1896-1961) When the Music is Playing - Cyril Stapleton and his Orchestra (1959) 
Raymond JONES Easy Talk - The Westway Studio Orchestra (1960)       
George ENGLISH (1912-80) Debutante - The Sydney Light Concert Orchestra conducted by Hal Evans 1962           
Eddy WALL Look at Me - The Westway Studio Orchestra (1960)
Cy CRAWFORD Love in The Clouds - Symphonia Orchestra conducted by Curt Andersen (1960)]      
Peter DENNIS (1921-94) Fashion House - Symphonia Orchestra conducted by Curt Andersen (1960)]  
Keith PAPWORTH Dreamtime - London Studio Orchestra conducted by Hugo De Groot (‘Hugh Granville’ on disc label) (1962)  
Kurt SCHICK Gorgeous Girl - Symphonia Orchestra conducted by Curt Andersen (1962)
Bert KALMAR, Harry RUBY arr. William HILL-BOWEN (1918-64) Nevertheless (I'm In Love with You) The Living Strings conducted by William Hill-Bowen (1960) Rec. 1956-62  All Tracks Mono except ‘The Night was Made for Love’, ‘When the Music is Playing’ & ‘Nevertheless (I'm In Love with You)’ (Stereo).
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.