Tuesday, 9 February 2016

‘Take the Psalm’: The Choir of Southwell Minster

Southwell Minster is one of the most stunning cathedrals in England. It claims to be ‘the best kept secret among the forty-two English cathedrals’ and this is no idle pretension. Many years ago, I remember attending Evensong there. I was impressed with the service, the gorgeous setting of the Minster, the town and the local pub, which I recall was The Saracen’s Head. It is good to renew my acquaintance with this choir and their music. The singing is excellent and the organ playing second to none.

The CD gets off to a great start with Sir Edward Elgar’s 1914 anthem ‘Give unto the Lord’. This was composed for the Festival of the Sons of the Clergy held at St Paul’s Cathedral. This service dated back to November 1655, where a collection was taken for the families of clergymen who had chosen to remain loyal to King Charles I (Martyr) and had subsequently lost their livings due to Cromwell’s ‘enthusiasm’.  It is a wide-ranging anthem that exploits ‘lengthy and satisfying melodies’.  After exploring the thundering voice of the Lord, and the destruction of the cedar forests the music works towards reconciliation where ‘The Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.’  In some ways this is a ‘wartime’ work that seems prophetic of what was to happen a few months later.

Chants for Psalm 142 ‘I cry unto the Lord’ and Psalm 66 ‘O be joyful in the Lord’ composed by onetime Rector Chori (Organist & Musical Director)  of Southwell Minster, Dr Robert Ashfield are fine examples of this great and timeless Anglican tradition. They are regularly used as part of the daily cycle of Psalmody.

Church musicians are eternally grateful to Eric Thiman for his many works written for the choirs and places where they sing. He composed in excess of 1300 pieces. His setting of Psalm 107, ‘O that men would praise the Lord’ is typical of his sympathetic approach to liturgical music.

Sidney Campbell is a name that crops up regularly in the organ loft and choir stalls. Campbell was one-time organist at Ely, Southwark and Canterbury cathedrals. His setting of the ‘Sing we merrily’ (Psalm 81) is a vibrant, rhythmically compelling piece that has a ‘virtuosic’ accompaniment. It was written in 1962.

Another chant presented here is Robert William Liddle’s (1864-1917) powerful setting for Psalm 129, ‘Many a time have they fought against me.’ Liddle was another alumni from Southwell, having served as Rector Chori from 1888 until his death.

‘Ascribe unto the Lord’ (Psalm 29) is one of Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s most impressive anthems.  The part writing here is effective with a moving setting of ‘O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness’ and the fugal ‘As for the gods of the Heathen’. The work is conceived as six short sections with a more substantial final chorus.

John Joubert’s rumbustious setting of Psalm 150 ‘O praise God in his holiness’ is bold, vibrant and subtly discordant.

I have not heard any music by the Canterbury-born composer Herbert Stephen Irons (1834-1905) before. Between 1857 and 1872 he was Rector Chori at Southwell. The liner notes suggest that his best known piece is the hymn-tune ‘Southwell’, often used for words ‘Jerusalem my happy home’. The present beautiful setting of Psalm 31, v.18 ‘Show thy servant the light of thy countenance’ was recently discovered in the library at Southwell and has been edited for this recording.

This CD includes three pieces of organ solo music in contrast to the choral works. Herbert Howells’ Psalm Tune Prelude, Set II No.2 is a meditation on a verse from Psalm 139: Yea, the darkness is no darkness with Thee, but the night is as clear as the day…’  This was composed between 1938 and 1939 and was dedicated to William Harris, then organist at St George’s Chapel Windsor.  It is reflective piece, even in its central climax, and displays a positive affirmation of faith that contrasts with the grief that the composer was suffering at that time on account of the death of his son, Michael.

The second piece of organ music is by Andrew Fletcher (b.1950). His Psalm Prelude, clearly nods towards Howells in its meditative exploration of the sadness implied in Psalm 137: ‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept’. It is a lovely piece that deserves to be better known. It is performed here by the Southwell Organ Scholar, David Quinn.

Percy Whitlock’s Seven Sketches from the Psalms (in two volumes) were composed over ‘an intensive fortnight between 14 and 30 May 1934.  Each piece takes its inspiration from a verse from the psalter. The final sketch is Sortie (Recessional) and is based on Psalm 68:5 ‘The singers go before, the minstrels follow after, in the midst are the damsels playing the timbrels.’   Malcolm Riley has suggested that this piece ‘owes something to Vierne’s Carillon (No.21 of 24 Pièces en style libre (1924)’ It is a fine piece with a quiet middle section ‘worthy of Elgar.’ The Sortie concludes with great power and prominent use of the tuba stop.

The CD closes with Edward Elgar’s setting of Psalm 48 ‘Great is the Lord.’ This was composed in 1912 for a service commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Royal Society at Westminster Abbey. It is often used at the ‘foundation’ of a church.  The progress of the anthem is divided into a number of sections, each ‘exploring an individual emotional plane.’ There is music to represent the ‘woman in travail’ the sinking of the ships of Tarshish and dance music for Zion’s rejoicing. The anthem opens and closes with a ‘big ‘Elgarian tune.

The liner notes by Peter Nicholson and Paul Hale are excellent and give a brief resume of composer and work: some dates of works are missing. There is the usual short history of The Choir of Southwell Minster as well as biographies of the musical director and organists.  For unknown reasons the texts of the anthems have not been provided, however these are easily discovered either on-line or in the Holy Bible (paper copy!). I was disappointed that details of the organ were not given.

This is an excellent ‘concept album’ which explores some of the wide range of emotions and theological ideas found in the Psalms of David. Concentrating on British music from the 20th century it presents a satisfying and balanced programme. 

Track Listing:
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Give unto the Lord (1914)
Robert ASHFIELD (1911-2006) Psalm 142 (?)
Eric THIMAN (1900-75) O that men would praise the Lord (1938)
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983) Psalm Prelude, set 2 no.3 (1939)
Sidney CAMPBELL (1909-74) Sing we merrily (pub.1962)
Robert LIDDLE (1864-1917) Psalm 129 (?)
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876) Ascribe unto the Lord (1853)
Andrew FLETCHER (b.1950) Psalm Prelude (Organ) (?)
John JOUBERT (b.1927) O praise God in his holiness (1967)
Robert ASHFIELD Psalm 66 (?)
Percy WHITLOCK (1903-1946) Sortie, from Seven Sketches (1935)
Herbert IRONS (1834-1905) Show thy servant the light of thy countenance (?)
Edward ELGAR, Great is the Lord (1912)
The Choir of Southwell Minster/Paul Hale; Simon Hogan (organ)
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Festival of British Music, May 1915. (Part II)

Emil Młynarski (Wikipedia)
The May 1915 edition of The Musical Times carried a pen portrait of Emil Młynarski who at that time was the principal conductor of the Scottish Orchestra.  The essay concluded with a statement by Młynarski about the aims and objects of the Festival, as well as a listing of the concert programmes. Much of what Młynarski writes about the ‘neglect’ of British music both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere seems remarkably familiar a century later.

Emil Młynarski wrote:
The character of this Festival is retrospective. It is not for the purpose of introducing the music of new and unknown composers, for it is believed that whatever public demand there is for this is amply provided for by the efforts of other organizations. In the programmes of the three concerts, none but those composers who have already won distinction are represented. The music played is exclusively British, and consists of what is, in the opinion of the selection committee, the best and most characteristic written and produced during the past ten years. Though actual novelty has not been a credential for inclusion in the programmes, a first-rate work that is unfamiliar has obtained precedence over one that is well-known.
As conductor of the Scottish Orchestra for five seasons, I have been acquainted with many British works, and have been surprised that their composers were so little known on the Continent and, indeed, so much neglected in their own country. The reason for the neglect of the British composer abroad is largely that the foreigner has so few opportunities of hearing British music, even in Britain. Performances are so scattered and so irregular that no clear idea can be conveyed of the growth and development of British music.
Important musical organizations, having no Government grant or wealthy patrons, have to please to live; experience has shown that, under existing conditions, the British composer is not profitable.
A series of Festivals in London in May-June might do much for the British composer abroad, and lead to a fuller development of British music at home…
…I desire to express my great appreciation of the artistic support afforded by Mr. Thomas Beecham, whose enthusiasm has been such a great factor in musical progress in this country. 
Musical Times, May 1915

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Festival of British Music, May 1915. (Part I)

Researching Frederick Delius’ North Country Sketches led me to the June 1915 edition of Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review for a critique of that work’s first performance. It was a part of a series of paragraphs by the critic ‘Capriccio.’  The first part of his review was a comprehensive examination of the Festival of British Music promoted by Emil  Mlyarski [1] and Thomas Beecham.
I intend to present not only the Musical Opinion review, but a number of other notices from various contemporary journals and newspapers. I will also give some indication as to the work’s subsequent success in the concert hall and recording studio.
It is important to recall that the First World War was approaching its second year and that the landings at Gallipoli had been made in the month prior to the first concert.

Capriccio writes:
‘Of the various concerts of British music that have happened recently the most important, in point of bulk at all events, were those which made up the Festival promoted by M. Mlynarski and Mr. Beecham. It may be advisable to treat of them first [2], inasmuch as they were representative of many – though by no means all – contemporary modes of English composition.
Some names were included in the programmes that could well have been spared; while others were omitted which are in every way typical of what is best in native music.
The idea of the promoters was, as is well-known, not to introduce novelties, but to give fresh performances of works already held in esteem. The plan is of course highly commendable; but the committee responsible for the selection cannot be entirely complimented upon its final choice of works. Much interesting music, and not a little of uncommon dullness was played at the Festival; and a comprehensive, although not adequately representative, selection from the repertoires of the best known British writers was given.’
‘Capriccio’, Musical Opinion & Music Trade Review (June 1915)  

[1] Emil Młynarski (1870-1935) was a Polish conductor, composer, violinist and academic. Between 1910 and 1916 he was the Principal Conductor of the Scottish Orchestra (now the Royal Scottish National Orchestra).
[2] A number of other concerts and recitals were reviewed including some organised by Joseph Holbrooke. 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Johann Baptist Cramer: Piano Sonatas

I have always regarded Johann Baptist Cramer as an ‘honorary’ British composer. Although born in Mannheim in Germany he was taken to England aged three. He belonged to a distinguished musical family. Much of his musical education was in London, in part with Muzio Clementi.  He made a number of concert appearances beginning in April 1781, in the United Kingdom, but then embarked on a series of continental tours that made him highly regarded as a popular soloist throughout Europe. During this period, he met Beethoven and Haydn. Cramer made his home in London and divided his time between recitals, teaching and publishing. In 1824 he founded what would become J.B. Cramer & Co. in partnership with Robert Addison and T. Frederick Beale. During the years 1832-1845 he had protracted visits to Paris, however he returned to England where he died in 16 April 1858. His output of piano music was huge and included 105 sonatas and nine concertos for the instrument. His best known work at this present time are his books of 84 Études for the piano, op.84. He was a Founder Member and director of the Philharmonic Society.

The CD opens with Air Anglo-Calédonien Varié (An Anglo-Caledonian Air, with Variations for the Pianoforte). This work was first heard in London in 1812. It was dedicated to Miss Baillie of Grosvenor Street. The liner notes explain that this was ‘presumably’ the playwright and poet Joanna Baillie (1762-1851).  The Monthly Magazine (August 1812) notes that the ‘general style of the music of these pages is florid, free, and playful; the most is made of the theme, which, if not strikingly sweet, is considerably attractive, and the aggregate effect is worthy the long-acknowledged talents of the composer.’ I found that this work is a delight: the composer has managed to create an interesting and thoughtful exploration of a charming little tune.
The first of three sonatas presented here is the D major, op.25, no.2. This was composed around 1801 and was dedicated to the Baronne de Kloest, the wife (I think) of the Prussian ambassador to London.  It is written in three movements, all of which are of an untroubled disposition. The final ‘Rondo quasi presto’ is exciting and has considerable ‘dash and ebullience.’

In 1807 Cramer wrote a set of three sonatas, op. 39. The first two were ‘accompanied’ by violin or flute. The third was for solo piano. Interestingly this work opens with a set of variations based on a thoughtful adagio. The middle movement is a short scherzo with a reflective trio section. The finale is a ‘Gigue’, which gives the title to the sonata. It is played presto, and is vivacious.

The Sonata in F minor, op.27, no. was composed around 1802. The liner notes are correct in suggesting that it ‘suggests a new world of music.’ This is music that seems to anticipate Beethoven’s middle and even late periods. The sonata is in four movements. It beings with a slow introduction, leading to a well-balanced allegro. The slow movement is short and has a foreboding theme. The final movement is a happy-go-lucky rondo. 

Matteo Napoli was born in Salerno and now lives in Auckland, New Zealand. He graduated with honours from the Giordano Conservatory in Foggia, Italy.  His career has included concerts and recitals in Europe, New York, Mexico City, Japan, Australia, China and Malaysia.  His current CDs include the Keyboard Sonatas of Baldassare Galuppi, and as the accompanist in flute and piano music by Friedrich Kuhlau, Ferdinand Ries and Franz Schubert, all on the Naxos label. 

The liner notes are essential, as there is little else published that can help the listener approach these pieces. Perhaps a little more detail may have been of use. The sound quality of the recording is splendid. The playing is exciting, sympathetic and exacting. 
This a fine addition to a fairly small corpus of Cramer’s recorded music. At present, the catalogues has four of the piano concertos and only nine (plus the three on this disc) of the 105 solo sonatas. The 84 Studies were released by Grand Piano GP613-4 record label in 2012. 
I imagine that it will be a long while until any record company and pianist get around to making a ‘complete’ edition of Johann Baptist Cramer’s piano sonatas and other music. Let us hope that this is not an impossible dream. I eagerly await further releases from Matteo Napoli.

Track Listing:
Johann Baptist CRAMER (1771-1858)
Air Anglo-Calédonien Varié (1812)
Piano Sonata in D major, op.25, no.2 (c.1801)
La Gigue, Piano Sonata in G major, op.39, no.3 (1807)
Piano Sonata in F minor, op.27, no.1 (1802)
Matteo Napoli (piano)
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first publsihed. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Ivor Gurney: An Appreciation of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford

Charles Villiers Stanford (Wikipedia)
Charles Villiers Stanford, commenting on his many pupils including Hebert Howells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Arthur Bliss and Frank Bridge, once suggested that Ivor Gurney (1890-1937) was ‘potentially the greatest of the all’ but that he was ‘unteachable.’  The passage of time has proved that the emphasis was on the word ‘potentially.’ Circumstances including mental illness, poverty and war wounds, made Gurney into a fine composer, but not the greatest, as a glance of the names above will suggest. He is remembered and well appreciated today for his poetry and his songs which include some of the finest settings of English poetry in the repertoire.

[Charles Villiers Stanford] was a stiff master, though a very kind man; difficult to please, and most glad to be pleased. England will bury many in the Abbey of Westminster [1] much lesser than he. By him the German influence was defeated, and yet had well learnt of it [qv]. He was a born poet, but had to overcome foreign form and influence. He wrote oratorio instead of string quartet, violin sonata, and such. [2] When England is less foolish she will think more of him. [3] Had he been wiser, he would have talked of Elizabethans at his lessons instead of the lesser string quartets of Beethoven, or the yet deader things that industry and not conscience got out of the German masters. As for his work in Irish folksong arrangements, so admirable, and his autobiographical books, stiff yet charming, the first will last long, the second not long, but will amuse worthily. Only the fools will deny that he brought to them that Irish music, the best in the world, then, of known folksongs.  Ivor Bertie Gurney
Music & Letters July 1924

[1] Charles Villiers Stanford died on 29 March 1924 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on 2 April. The following day his ashes were buried in Westminster Abbey.
[2] Stanford composed music for virtually every medium and in all forms. Gurney is disingenuous to suggest that he ‘wrote oratorio instead of string quartet, violin sonata, and such…’ There is much fine chamber music. In recent years record companies have enabled the interested listener to explore a large part of Stanford’s achievement that ranges way beyond oratorio. In fact, the oratorios have been largely ignored, with one of two notable exceptions.  Gurney is correct, however in acknowledging Stanford’s remarkable contribution to Irish folksong. I am not sure that the ‘Germanic’ influence on Stanford was necessarily a bad thing. Subject for a thesis! 
[3] Stanford still languishes on the hierarchy of ‘successful’ British composers. He has never lost the enthusiasm of choirs and organists but I reckon his stock has risen with the general listener with the advent of the vast majority of his orchestral music available on CD. I would swap a lot of music by ‘greater’ composers to retain Stanford’s symphonies, concertos and Irish Rhapsodies. And then there are his parts songs…

Monday, 25 January 2016

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll Part II

The ‘second-half’ of the book is really a set of five standalone essays that relate to the main biographical narrative. 
The first looks at Moscheles’ vocation as a concert pianist. It examines the methods he used to develop his undoubted mastery of his instrument. This explores his style of ‘a ‘round full tone…perfectly equal touch, abundance of execution, wonderful readiness, and a style which, adapting itself to every exigency, is always classical and pure.’ A ‘student evaluation’ of Moscheles by a certain William Frederick Pecher gives a ‘glowing’ first-hand account of his technique of piano playing.  The chapter considers Moscheles’ pupils in Leipzig, London and Paris. Specifics of his teaching methods are given as well as an examination of the pedagogical Studies, op.70 and op.95. This important chapter concludes with a section on the pianos the composer played, including those manufactured by Clementi, Broadwoood, Érard and Pleyel.

An important chapter on Ignaz Moscheles’ relationship with Beethoven begins with a review of the young man’s work on the piano score of Fidelio as requested and supervised by Beethoven.  The facts of his final meeting with Beethoven in Vienna in 1823 is extracted from his diaries. This chapter discusses his performance of Beethoven as a conductor and as a pianist. There is considerable research into his critical role in the establishment of the Ninth Symphony in England. Finally, notice is made of Moscheles’ edition of selected Beethoven Piano Sonatas and his translation of Schindler’s biography of the composer.

Kroll points out that it would be ‘difficult if not impossible to find another friendship throughout musical history that was so close, both personally and professionally’ as that between Moscheles and Felix Mendelssohn. Chapter 6 explores this relationship in detail. 

It came as something of a revelation to me to discover that Ignaz Moscheles was a promoter of the music of Bach and Handel before it became a popular and fashionable thing to do.  When the composer’s library was auctioned it was found to contain a huge amount of ‘early music’. A list of this music is printed at the end of the chapter. This included William Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices, madrigals by Weelkes, Wilbye, Gibbons and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and King Arthur. Moscheles played Bach and Handel and was the first person to perform on the harpsichord in England since the eighteenth century.  Interestingly, he was opposed to the then popular practice of performing selections of ‘purple passages’ from Handel’s oratorios and insisted on the complete work.  This chapter concludes with a survey of Moscheles’ contribution to the development of the piano recital.

The final essay, Chapter 8 scrutinises the ‘challenges of anti-Semitism and assimilation’ that was the lot of many Jewish artists of this period such as Stephen Heller, Jacques Offenbach and Ferdinand Hiller. What they had in common was that they were born Jews but were baptised as Christians. In spite of this ‘baptism’ Moscheles never eschewed his Jewish background. The author concludes that it may never be possible to ‘explain fully… [his] attitude to his Jewish religion.’ Neither Ignaz nor Charlotte discussed this in their extant diaries.

The all-important list of works has been generated from the Thematisches Verzeichniss im Druck erschienener Compositionen von Ignaz Moscheles published in Leipzig in 1858 and reprinted in London in 1966. The author has provided a number of helpful annotations and has translated most of the titles and subtitles into English. There are essential cross-references to the relevant pages in the present book. Works discovered since the original list was published have been included.  However, Kroll has not indicated publishers, nor specified dates of composition/publication where known. Helpfully, he has rearranged the catalogue by genre rather than opus number as presented in the original. Details of key, tempo and title (where appropriate) of individual pieces within an opus number have typically not been shown, for example in the Studies. Titles of songs are given, but often with no reference to the author of the text.

The book presents an exceptionally useful index. Bearing in mind that Moscheles seemed to know all the important musical personalities of the first 70 years of the nineteenth century in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe and that he played and conducted a huge range of contemporary and historical music during his career, this is an essential reference tool. It allows us to get our bearings in the composer’s long and busy life. The entry for Beethoven, for example, cites references to the composer, his playing technique, his improvisation skills and some two dozen of his works. This is then cross-referenced to a section under the entry for Moscheles – ‘And Beethoven’ which lists many of the work played, conducted or edited. Naturally there are copious references to Moscheles’ own music.
The extensive bibliography include primary sources located in many archives around the world. A helpful list of contemporary periodicals is given. There is an exhaustive listing of ‘secondary literature’ from Moscheles’ time to the present.

There are many excellent illustrations throughout this volume: examples of the composer’s music, tables of concerts given in London, Vienna and Leipzig and other ‘German speaking’ lands.  The plates are grouped together and feature drawings, paintings, and early photographs of the musician and his family.  The front cover of the book is illustrated with Felix Moscheles’ wonderful oil painting of his father.

USA-based Mark Kroll is a musical polymath. His webpage show that he is a performer, teacher, concert administrator, conductor and artistic director of Opera New England, and last, but certainly not least, a scholar. In this last field Kroll is a ‘noted authority on performance practice and period instruments and has written on a wide range of subjects, including French harpsichord music, 17th-century keyboards, historical performance practice, contemporary music, the art of transcription, the music of Avison, Couperin, Geminiani, Beethoven, Hummel, [the present subject] Moscheles and Liszt, and music for film.’

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe will be of hugely significant interest to a wide range of musical historians and listeners. Primarily, as noted above, this is the first major study of the composer to be published in the 20th/21st Century, so there is the general interest of discovering Moscheles’ life, work and achievement in composition and performance. Historians majoring on Beethoven, Bach and Handel will discover detailed information about their subjects. The examination of Moscheles’ friendship with Mendelssohn is inspiring and is the underpinning of much further investigation.

To the growing interest in British music during the nineteenth century, when we were deemed a land without music, this book provides foundational material for a deeper understanding of the framework that was being erected during the early Victorian years which would lead to the so-called English Musical Renaissance. This was led by men who were born during Moscheles’ lifetime and would have been aware of his reputation as a composer, pianist and teacher.  A direct line of succession came through Sir Arthur Sullivan who was one of his prize students at Leipzig.  Moscheles wrote in his diary that Sullivan ‘was a lad of great promise.’ It was a judicious assessment. 

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll
The Boydell Press, 2014 hardback, 410 pages
ISBN: 978 1 84383 935 4
With thanks to MusicWeb international where this review was first published. 

Friday, 22 January 2016

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll Part I

Since first understanding that Ignaz Moscheles spent much of his career in the United Kingdom, I have regarded him as an honorary British composer. Other contenders for this title are Felix Mendelssohn, J.C. Bach, Muzio Clementi, Johann Baptist Cramer and George Frideric Handel. This is not to deny their respective nationalities: only to point out the major contribution these men made to the musical life of this nation.
In recent years Moscheles has had something of a mini-revival. The first intimation was back in 1970 when Vox records released Michel Ponti’s performance of the Piano Concerto on G minor, op.58 coupled with a selection of Studies.  Over the following years there has been a steady trickle of CDs featuring mainly piano but also some chamber music. In 2000 the Zephyr label announced the first volume of the complete piano concertos, played and conducted by Ian Hobson.  Three years later Howard Shelley began another cycle for the Hyperion Romantic Piano Concerto project. This featured all seven extant concertos as well as the two fantasias Anticipations of Scotland and the Recollections of Ireland. In 2003 Piers Lane recorded the Complete Concert Studies on the Hyperion label.

During this period, there has been little literature produced concerning Moscheles. Listeners and historians have had to rely on articles in Grove’s Dictionary of Music, the standard histories of the period and contemporary biographies and memoires of some of the key players in his story.  There were a number of books published in the Victorian period which provided ‘primary’ source material. Charlotte Moscheles’ Recent Music and Musicians As Described in the Diaries and Correspondence of Ignaz Moscheles, Edited by his Wife. Adapted from the Original German by A.D. Coleridge. (1873) was the first book to examine the composer’s life and times. During 1888 the Letters of Felix Mendelssohn to Ignaz and Charlotte Moscheles were published in London by the composer’s son, Felix Moscheles (1833-1917). Felix also published Fragments of an Autobiography (1899) and In Bohemia with Du Maurier (1897) which provided material about the composer.
In 1989 Emil F. Smidak issued Isaak-Ignaz Moscheles: The Life of the Composer and His Encounters with Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and Mendelssohn. This consisted of extracts from the diaries and letters and a catalogue of works.
There are also a few theses such as John Michael Beck’s Moscheles Re-examined (1986) and Carolyn Denton Gresham’s Ignaz Moscheles: An Illustrious Musician in the Nineteenth Century (1980). Copious reviews of Moscheles’ concerts are found in contemporary newspapers and journals.

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe by Mark Kroll is the first full-length examination of the composer to be published.
A short sketch of the composer’s life will be helpful. Ignaz Moscheles was born on 23 May 1794 in Prague to a family of Jewish merchants. He attended the Prague Conservatory between 1804 and 1806 with the composer and musicologist Bedřich Diviš Weber (1766-1842). Further studies were made with Johann Georg Albrechtsberger (1736-1809) and Antonio Salieri (1750-1825) in Vienna. One of his earliest achievements was creating the piano score of Beethoven’s opera Fidelio, under supervision from the senior composer. There followed a ten year period of European tours which included London in 1822 and 1823. In 1824 he gave piano lessons to Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn.
In 1826 Moscheles made the United Kingdom his home until his appointment as professor of piano at the newly-founded Leipzig Conservatory in 1846. He remained in this post until his death, aged 75, on 10 March 1870.
In London, he led a busy life composing, conducting, playing and teaching. He gave the London premiere of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in 1832 and the first ‘successful’ British performance of Symphony No.9 at a Philharmonic concert in 1837.
His catalogue is extensive: there are eight piano concertos (No.8 piano part only), a symphony and much chamber music. Works for the piano feature a number of sonatas, many pedagogical studies and a wide range of variations, fantasies and pot-pourris of national airs. In 1841 Moscheles published an English translation of Schindler’s biography of Beethoven.
The present volume is not just a biography. It is also an investigation into certain critical historical events and periods relative to the composer. The book opens with three major chapters describing Moscheles’ life and times. It is a ‘story of a life well-lived’ which traces the journey from middle class Jewish family to ‘one of the most beloved, revered and influential pianists of the nineteenth century.’  Of especial interest is Chapter 2 which explores the 21 years that he spent in London. Mark Kroll examines all the facets of Moscheles’ career: conductor, pedagogue, composer and pianist. 

Ignaz Moscheles and the Changing World of Musical Europe: Mark Kroll
The Boydell Press, 2014 hardback, 410 pages
ISBN: 978 1 84383 935 4
With thanks to MusicWeb international where this review was first published. 
To be continued...

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Golden Age of Light Music: The Runaway Horse & Other Library Lollipops

The eponymous track written by Edward White is surely a favourite of all those people who love magic and fairy tales. Many children wanted a rocking horse: most enjoyed a ride on a carousel. The course of the music makes it very easy imagine a wooden horse jumping off his rockers (or cranks) and going for a canter into some romantic English landscape. The music describes the diminutive horse playing by himself. He gallops and trots and jumps. But soon he begins to tire. There is one last frolic and then, as if by magic, he is back on his wooden frame. The piece ends with a little sigh.

There are a few trips abroad with this CD. Harry Dexter takes us for a little jaunt into France with his lady friend – ‘La Compagne’: more a stately dance really.  I have not come across Julius Steffario before (actually a pseudonym for Amsterdam born composer Jan Stoeckart). ‘Mexican Serenade’ is a lovely laid back little piece, but I think musically researched from books rather than a visit to that country. We can include Archibald Joyce’s ‘Vision of Salome’ in the ‘travel section’ of this review. The composer is concentrating on her performing a decorous dance rather than the ‘Seven Veils’ or the foolishness that led to the beheading of John the Baptist. A very suburban Salome, indeed. From the Middle East to Bonnie Scotland is an eight hour journey flight. However, the setting of Charles Williams ‘Highland Lament’ predates international flight. This beautiful tune has all the emotion of Bonnie Prince Charlie surveying the wreckage of his dream after Culloden and all the romance of Flora MacDonald aiding his escape. A truly evocative piece.
Now, I do not imagine that Frederic Curzon travelled much farther east than Tilbury to get the inspiration for his ‘Chinese Scene’. It is definitely Shanghai seen through the lens of Southend Pier.  ‘Flametta ‘sounds like a girl’s name –or it could be simple a ‘flame’ seen by night. Quite definitely Anthony Collins found his lady or fire in Sunny Spain. Sandalwood comes from many parts of the world – including Pakistan, Japan and Hawaii. Trevor Duncan has opted for something quite oriental – complete with snake charmer type music in his ‘The Scent of Sandalwood’. I was not quite sure what the title of Stephen Fenora’s (probable pseudonym of an unidentified composer) ‘Viva Villa’ implied. Was it a tribute to Aston Villa FC? There was a 1934 film of that title set and filmed in Mexico. Let us just say it is a lively piece that does not reflect Aston Villa’s positon in the Premier League (as of December 2015).

Sports and out-of-doors pursuits are not forgotten. I loved the sheer liveliness of Gilbert Vinter’s ‘Water Ski Ride’.  Mood pieces such as Harold Smart’s quirky ‘Peek-a-Boo’, with the instruments almost ‘vocalising’ the piece’s title and presenting a lovely romantic ‘middle eight.’  I do wonder what the ‘Circus Lad’[s] job was. Perhaps he was a trainee lion tamer, or maybe led the horses. A zippy little tune by Phillipe Pares that fairly bounces along. Maybe he was an acrobat?

As a child I used to hate table-talk when visiting family. I used to try and escape and read a book. Looking back from nearly sixty years of age, I wish I had paid more attention – I might have learnt a lot about my family that has now passed into the mists of time. Dolf Vander Linden’s ‘Table Talk’ seems fairly reserved and not at all ribald or boisterous.  I am not sure what ‘Patterns’ Ken Warner is suggesting in his short piece, but it is a pleasant little number with some clever orchestration.  King Palmer suggests that we ‘Pull Up your Socks.’ Small boys at my primary school used to have garters with a little flash to avoid this problem developing. I never did.

Ronald Binge’s ‘The Liberty Boat’ seems to be a play on words or notes. Allusions to John Philip Sousa’s well-known ‘Liberty Bell March’ may conceal a vote of thanks to the USA for the 2,710 examples of this class of ship built during the Second World War. They contributed towards replacing the British merchant fleet lost to German U-boat attacks.
The lady imagined by Bruce Campbell as being ‘Pert and Pretty’ seems to epitomise a mid-nineteen fifties lady about town. Equally attractive is William Davies ‘Melody Maid’, which opens the proceedings on this CD.  And the ‘Girl on the Calendar’ by Clive Richardson is more likely a ‘deb’ than a pin-up. One of my favourite pieces on this CD.

Anthony Mawer takes us to some candlelit, open-air restaurant somewhere on the Mediterranean coast with his ‘Starlight Concerto’. Written for piano solo and orchestra this is a fine sub-Warsaw Concerto bit of romantic persiflage.
It is good to have a piece by the classically-trained Billy Mayerl. Still best known for his syncopated novelty piano solos and his theme tune,’ Marigold’, some of his music has been transcribed for orchestra. ‘Maids of Honour’ may well refer to a wedding or possibly cakes. This is one of his gentler pieces that nods towards something a little more classical.

Walter Collins is a regular on this series of CDs, also known as Billy Mack he is still recalled as one-time musical director at the famous Art-Deco Pavilion at Bexhill-on-Sea. ‘Team Spirit’ is one of those jolly pieces that suggest Boy Scouts at their jamboree, all pulling their weight at some project such as fording a river.  Another jolly hockey sticks type of piece is Leslie Bridgewater’s ‘Spirit of Youth’. I guess that even in 1946, youngsters would have found this a wee bit tame and possibly patronising. Not a whiff of jive or swing.

I was delighted that Tony Claydon and Alan Bunting chose to round of this enjoyable programme with three numbers from the late Ernest Tomlinson, who died this year.  I did look up the internet to see what imagery the composer wished to portray with his vivacious ‘Sheerline’. It seems that it refers to a luxury Austin car. This was designed before the Second World War but did not go into production until 1947.  Certainly this music exudes luxury, happy times and good living.  Picnic at the races sort of idea. The next piece, ‘House of Horrors’ is really not quite as terrifying as the title might imply. The inhabitants seem mischievous rather than wicked. Some effective and spooky woodwind that sounds a bit avant-garde at times! Tomlinson’s final contribution is exactly as it says ‘on the tin’ – ‘Gay and Vivacious’.  In mood we are more or less back on board the Austin, only this time out for a spin in the South Downs and maybe an evening in Brighton. 

A great selection of light music drawn from the music publisher’s libraries. Lots to interest the enthusiast of this genre. A few favourites and lots of new discoveries. It never ceases to amaze me that all this music is still available, and just keeps on coming from Guild. Long may it continue!

Track Listing:-
William DAVIES (1921-2006) Melody Maid, Connaught Light Orchestra (1960) [2:29]  
Harry DEXTER (1910-73) La Compagne, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1958) [2:06]
Gilbert VINTER (1909-69) Water Ski Ride, Louis Voss & his Orchestra (1961) [2:20]   
Leslie BRIDGEWATER (1893-1975) Spirit of Youth, New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1946) [2:51]  
Edward WHITE (1910-94) The Runaway Rocking Horse, New Concert Orchestra conducted by Jay Wilbur (1946) [3:40]  
Ken WARNER (1902-88) Patterns, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1961) [2:28]
Julius STEFFARO (b.1927) Mexican Serenade, Hilversum Radio Orchestra conducted by Hugo De Groot (As Hugh Granville) (1957) [2:56]    
Clive RICHARDSON (1908-98) Girl on the Calendar, Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Robert Farnon (1956) [2:26]
King PALMER (1913-99) Pull Up Your Socks, Westway Studio Orchestra (1960) [3:07]
Anthony MAWER (1930-99) Starlight Concerto, Hilversum Radio Orchestra conducted by Hugo De Groot (as Hugh Granville) (1961) [3:16]      
Bruce CAMPBELL (?) Pert and Pretty, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1957) [2:53]   
Archibald JOYCE (1873-1963) Vision of Salome: Waltz, New Century Orchestra conducted by Sidney Torch (1946) [2:50]    
Ronald BINGE (1910-79) The Liberty Boat, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1956) [2:31]   
Dolf Van Der LINDEN (1915-99) Table Talk, Dolf Van Der Linden & his Orchestra (1954) [2:40]
Phillipe PARES (1901-79) Circus Lad, Grosvenor Studio Orchestra (1957) [2:35]
Charles WILLIAMS (1893-1978) Highland Lament, Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra conducted by Charles Williams (1945) [2:44]
Harold SMART (1921-80) Peek-a-boo, The Bosworth Orchestra (1962) [2:21]    
Frederick CURZON (1899-1973) Chinese Scene, New Century Orchestra conducted by Alfred Matchat (1962) [2:29]  
Anthony COLLINS (1893-1963) Flametta, New Century Orchestra conducted by Erich Borschel (1958) [2:55]
Trevor DUNCAN (1924-2006) The Scent of Sandalwood, New Concert Orchestra: conductor not named (1962) [3:50]  
Stephen FENORA (?) Viva Villa, Crawford Light Orchestra (1962) [3:02]          
Billy MAYERL (1902-59) Maids Of Honour, Lansdowne Light Orchestra (actually Stuttgart Radio Orchestra conducted by Kurt Rehfeld) (1957) [3:29]           
Walter COLLINS (1892-1956) Team Spirit, London Promenade Orchestra conducted by Walter Collins (1949) [2:50]  
Ernest TOMLINSON (1924-2015) Sheerline, Crawford Light Orchestra  (1962) [2:44]  
Ernest TOMLINSON House of Horrors, New Century Orchestra conducted by Eric Borschel (1959) [2:32]           
Ernest TOMLINSON as Alan Perry Gay and Vivacious, Louis Voss & his Orchestra (1961) [2:08]
All track in mono.
Dates refer to recording, not composition.
Guild Light Music GLCD5232 
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Archibald Joyce: A Thousand Kisses Waltz

Archibald Joyce (1873-1963) has been dubbed the ‘English Waltz King’ and the ‘English Waldteufel’. However, Philip Scowcroft has suggested that he is ‘not quite an answer to the Strausses.’ The reason given is twofold: Firstly the very best of waltzes by the Strauss family are ‘miniature tone-poems’ thus making them ‘significant concert pieces’ whereas the present waltz is an entertainment, and secondly, the sound world of Joyce is nearer to the French waltz than the Austrian. I would go further and suggest that Archibald Joyce’s music much ranges wider that that particular dance form, and that all his music has something undefinably English about it, rather than Continental.
The programme notes provided in the Naxos/Marco Polo recording gives the story as to how the waltz came to be written. Apparently a friend of the composer remarked on seeing an attractive lady enter the room – ‘What a lovely girl! She’s worth a thousand kisses’. And this remark became the inspiration for the waltz.  Further, as the waltz is dedicated to a certain Miss Madge Slowburn, it is thought that she may have been the lady in question.

After an introduction, the gorgeous main theme is heard a number of times with its beautiful wistful melody. Like all waltzes of this kind, it is presented as a kind of rondo, with varying short episodes between statements of the main theme.
‘A Thousand Kisses Waltz’ was composed around 1910 and was published by Ascherberg, Hopgood and Crew Ltd.  It has been arranged for piano, military band and orchestra.

This waltz appealed to Charlie Chaplin, who made use of it in the later soundtrack for his 1925 silent film The Gold Rush for the ‘saloon dance scene.’

One final thought. It is reported on the internet that Madge Slowburn (perhaps the same lady) who was born around 1886, married a gentleman called Charles Gordon Mills at St Mary’s Church, Wimbledon on 18 January 1915. Charles was a Second Lieutenant in the Coldstream Guards. After the wedding he reported back to France. On 25 January he was killed in a mined trench in France, aged only 19. He had been married for only 7 days. 

Archibald Joyce’s 'A Thousand Kisses Waltz' has been released on the Marco Polo label and has been uploaded to YouTube.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford: Complete Music for Piano Solo Volume 2 Part II

The Toccata, op.3 is an early work. It was written in 1875 during Stanford’s second half-year stay in Germany.  Howell notes the nod towards Schumann’s example of the form and suggests that the present work ‘must be a joyride for those who find the Schumann easy, slightly less for who don’t.’ It has also been influenced by Weber’s ‘moto perpetuo’ (the finale of the Piano Sonata No.1 which was deemed to be the ‘ne plus ultra of dexterity.’   It was dedicated to the pianist Marie Krebbs (1851-1900), whose ‘war horse’ was the Schumann Toccata in C, op.7. 

Everyone who has toiled to learn the piano has had to contend with Sonatinas. Whether Clementi, Diabelli, Spindler, Kuhlau or Beethoven, they are an ever present feature of teaching the classics from Grade I upwards. Some are good, some dreadful, many musical, some devoid of any artistic content. But all are deemed good practice. Other Sonatinas have been produced by composers such as Ireland and Ravel. (Why they did not call them Sonatas, I will never know. They are certainly not pieces designed to help the tyro with diverse aspects of technique.) 
Stanford’s examples fall between these two stools. Hardly likely to be used pedagogically, they do not really present recital standard material. Howell writes that Stanford may have been musing on sonatas by C.P.E. Bach and early Haydn. These interesting, sometimes wayward, examples of the genre are his reaction to this earlier music. The two examples, one in D minor the other in G major were composed in 1922. I did enjoy them and hope that one day I can peruse the scores. I guess that they may just about be in gift of a Grade 6½ -er!

The only work on this double-CD set that has been recorded before (two movements of the Suite, op.2 were released by Howell on Sheva 019) is the massive Twenty Four Preludes in all the keys, op.179. This were issued in 1998 by Peter Jacobs on the Olympia label (OCD638).
In 1918 Stanford had composed his first set of 24 Preludes and Howell muses that ‘it is typical of [his] industry, that…he should become the first – maybe the only – British composer to have produced two such sets.’
These preludes follow the same key-scheme as Bach used in his celebrated 48.  They were dedicated to Harold Samuel who was a concert pianist, teacher and exponent of Bach.

Christopher Howell ponders on whether these preludes ought to be played as a group, or whether it is acceptable to make a selection for recital purposes. He does not come to a final conclusion, but I think he considers that this set has considerable ‘continuity of thought between the one piece and the next’. I listened to these straight through: I certainly felt that the work is well-balanced, has much stylistic consistency and takes the listener on an emotional journey through a well-judged set of experiences, from the ‘Edwardian bombast’ of the opening Prelude in C major to the deeply funeral final Prelude ‘Addio’. This expedition includes references to baroque dance forms such as a ‘musette’, a ‘sarabande’ and a ‘gavotte’.
It has been suggested that the first set of Twenty Four Preludes was Stanford’s ‘war diary’ whereas the present work is his ‘peace diary.’

Like the previous volume of Charles Villiers Stanford’s piano music, the liner notes are excellent. Christopher Howell has reprinted his important essay on ‘Stanford the Pianist’ which examines his early years as an accomplished player, his enjoyment of chamber music and accompanying songs. There is a succinct overview of the entire corpus of piano works before a detailed study of the pieces presented on these two CDs.  I have relied heavily on these notes in making this review.

The quality of Christopher Howell’s playing is superb. I have remarked before that it would be easy to be condescending when playing the ‘educational music’ yet he brings considerable integrity to the pieces presented here, no matter their technical difficulty. I have no complaints about the excellent sound quality of these two discs.

Stanford’s piano music tends to be ‘summative’ of the past, without ever descending to pastiche I concede that by and large it is ‘conservative’ in its sound world. He is happy to use tried and tested forms and pianistic devices, yet he always brings his personal honesty and imagination to whatever he writes. These pages reveal that there is considerable depth, romanticism, accommodation to classical models, inspiration for young pianists and exploration of the then emerging ‘Celtic Twilight’. Every piece presented here is worthy of our attention. 

I understand that this major project will be fairly soon be completed with a third volume. So far, it has been a wonderful experience coming to terms with Charles Villiers Stanford’s music for the piano. I look forward to this with considerable impatience.

Track Listing:
Two Novellettes (1874)
Suite, op.2 (c.1875)
‘Fare Well’ (1916)
Six Song-Tunes (1919/20)
Toy Story (For the Children (1919/20)
Ten Dances (Old and New) for Young Players, op.58 (1894)
Toccata in C major, op.3 (1875)
Sonatina in D minor (1922)
Sonatina in G major (1922)
Twenty Four Preludes in all the keys, op.179 (1920)
Christopher Howell (piano)
With thanks to MusicWeb International where this review was first published. 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford: Complete Music for Piano Solo Volume 2 Part I

It would be easy for listeners to dismiss this edition of the complete piano music of Charles Villiers Stanford as a conceit.  Here is a composer who is writing sub-Brahms, Schumann, and occasionally Wagner, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At this time, Debussy and Scriabin, in Europe and Cyril Scott, William Baines and John Ireland in the United Kingdom were in the vanguard of pianism. The ‘insidious’ influence of jazz had arrived from the USA and was beginning to influence musicians in Europe. In 1909 Arnold Schoenberg issued his atonal (but beautiful) Three Piano Pieces, op.11. These are a million miles away from everything on these discs.
Yet this reviewer would give up a lot of piano music from ‘progressive’ composers to be enabled to enjoy what Stanford has written for the piano. I have wondered why this is. I believe it comes down to three things: honesty, technical competence and sheer musical pleasure.  With perhaps a fourth reason for good measure: the hint of the Celtic Dawn. 

The second volume of this major exploration of Charles Villiers Stanford’s piano music opens with Two Novellettes. These pieces date from 1874 and have remained in holograph until Christopher Howell created the present performing edition. It was produced during his first half year visit to Germany. There he studied with the ‘dry’ and ‘desiccated’ composer and Schumann enthusiast Carl Reinecke (1824-1910). The Novellettes owe much to Schumann’s exemplars complete with appropriate mood-swings redolent of the German’s alter-egos, Eusebius and Florestan.  The second Novellette opens with a Schubertian theme, soon to be replaced by something from Schumann, and enjoying an operatic gallop theme as the third subject. As an aside, the adjectives applied to poor Reinecke were soon to be heaped on Stanford – usually by people who knew little of his music.

The Suite for pianoforte, op.2 was penned around 1875 and featured four old time dances – Courante, Sarabande, Gigue and Gavotte. The movements are connected by some quasi-improvisatory passages. However it is not really a pastiche of Baroque music, more a re-presentation of these traditional forms for the Victorian audience. Howell notes the incipient ‘Celtic’ tone of the pensive Sarabande and the semi-Wagnerian harmonies of the final Gavotte.

‘Fare Well’ was written only two days after the death of Field Marshall Horatio Herbert Kitchener, (1850-1916) sunk of the coat of Orkney aboard HMS Hampshire.  The music alludes to the Westminster chimes (Kitchener had a house near the Abbey) and also to the Stanford’s own music including the heart-breaking melody of ‘Fare Well’ from the last of the Songs of the Fleet, op.117 which features in the central section. It may not be his greatest work for piano, but it is certainly a most moving tribute.

‘Six Song-Tunes’ presents a series of interesting and melodious little pieces well suited to the needs of the piano teacher. These pieces may be simple, but they are never patronising. ‘Tunes’ presented include ‘Sleep’, ‘Sun’, ‘Marching’, ‘Swing’, ‘Dance’ and ‘Sea’.

I have had a copy of ‘A Toy Story’ for many years: I still play them on occasion and I am never disappointed in their simple charm. This delightful little collection of ‘Schumann-esque’ miniatures does indeed tell a story – from a child alone, the arrival of the post-man, opening the parcel to reveal a new toy, the toy broken, mended and finally enjoyed. Child not alone. Not quite as bathetic as the story implies – clearly an adult was there to fix the toy!
These were some of Stanford’s contributions to the ever increasing demand for pieces needed by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. They were composed around 1919-20. 

Some years earlier (1894) Stanford had written Ten Dances (Old and New) for Young Players, op.58.  I guess that even in the last decade of the nineteenth century few of these pieces were modern in the sense of the ‘latest thing.’  Once again they had educational purposes in mind. They were dedicated to Stanford’s children Geraldine Mary (1883-1956) and Guy Desmond (1885-1953). Howell in his liner notes submits that these pieces hover between the Grade IV and VI marks at today’s level.  I like every one of these ten dances, but my favourites include the ‘Galop’, a dance that came from Germany in the middle 1800s, the ‘Morris Dance’ with its open air feel, and the hauntingly beautiful Parry-esque ‘Minuet’. As Charles Porte has remarked, ‘All these dances are fairly musical and characteristic’ of the composer. I shall be looking for a copy to sit on my piano.  
To be continued...

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Graham Whettam: Sinfonia Concertante for small orchestra

Graham Whettam’s (1927-2007) Sinfonia Concertante for small orchestra was first performed 50 years ago at the Civic Theatre in Darlington on 11 October 1966. Other works that evening included Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the soloist Peter Wallfisch, Mozart’s ‘Linz’ Symphony No.36 in C major, K.425 and Jacques Ibert’s Concertino da camera for alto saxophone with Jack Brymer in a less-than-familiar role.  The Northern Sinfonia was conducted by the Canadian Boris Brott with Whettam directing his own work. The Sinfonia Concertante was repeated in Newcastle on 12 October. It was one of three important premieres for the Northern Sinfonia that year: the other two included Nicolas Maw’s Sinfonia and Wilfred Mellers’ Magnificat. All three works seem to have disappeared from the repertoire.

Graham Whettam’s Sinfonia Concertante for small orchestra has three movements: Maestoso, allegro, andante and allegro. It lasts for about 21 minutes.  The full score was published in 1987 by UK Meriden Music.

Brian Newbould in The Guardian (12 October 1966) gave a major review of this concert: ‘With some relief, no doubt, those in the audience to whom Graham Whettam has been no more than a name will have found his new Sinfonia Concertante an utterance of the direct, uncomplicated kind, designed (so it seemed) to please the ear above all, and engage the mind of him who is willing.  The symphonic element of the title is invoked at the start with a sombre, pounding bass that recalls Brahms’s very first symphonic bars. Although its mood is to return intermittently, and again for a passing moment in the last of the three movements, it is the concertante element that predominates, the elected instruments being flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bassoon and harpsichord against a background of strings.
It is the woodwinds that have summoned Mr Whettam’s more riveting ideas: the string writing rather overworks its less resourceful material. The central slow movement measured by ear, not by the clock, is long in relation to the other movements and its own slight substance. It also dispenses with the harpsichord, which elsewhere had not sounded very much a part of the concertante group, placed as it was by the stage wings.’

The first broadcast performance was given on 9 October 1968 on BBC Radio 3. The concert also included music by Haydn. The Northern Sinfonia was conducted by Norman del Mar (Radio Times)
Edmund Rubbra wrote in a review of this concert in The Listener (17 October 1968):
‘The first broadcast performance of Graham Whettam’s Sinfonia Concertante …showed a skilled hand in the deployment of instruments and a flair for effect. If it left no very clear-cut formal impression, this was partly the result of material that tended to have blurred edges and loose ends.’
Two weeks later the composer responded to this review in a letter to The Listener (7 November 1968):
‘Sir: Dr. Edmund Rubbra, in reviewing the first broadcast performance of my Sinfonia Concertante, referred to ‘blurred edges and loose ends.’ With this I entirely concur, having advised the BBC of over three dozen specified inaccuracies or inadequacies in the performance, these varying from simple ignoring of written dynamics to one passage where crotchets were played in time of quavers. The microphone balance in the recording did not appear to be satisfactory, there being a heavy preponderance of strings. After a two year delay since the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra gave the initial performances of this work under my own baton, the BBC was obliged ‘in the interests of the Corporation’s economy drive’ to quote a senior official, to entrust this first broadcast to a conductor hitherto unfamiliar with the work, and whose only consultation was to advise me by letter that this would be ‘an ordinary common-or-garden pre-recorded broadcast.’ I regret that I was unable to accept this broadcast as an adequate representation of Sinfonia Concertante.
Graham Whettam.’

I find that his work is immediately approachable. There is nothing here to challenge the listener in 2015: there is plenty to interest them. I was particularly impressed with the use of the harpsichord in this work. Strangely, it adds to it contemporary feel and does not strike the hearer as being in any way pastiche baroque. The slow movement is haunting and quite magical. The work is full of delightful conversations between the solo instruments and the string orchestra. This is a piece that would be successful if given a modern recording, possibly coupled with some other music by the composer. It is one of the great works of the 1960s. 

Graham Whettam’s Sinfonia Concertante for small orchestra has been uploaded to YouTube .  It was recorded from a broadcast on 19 May 1982.  The Northern Sinfonia was conducted by Bryden Thomson. The concert included John McCabe’ ‘Sonata on a Motet’ (1976) and Gerard Schurmann’s ‘Variants for chamber orchestra’ (1970)