It is perhaps not too surprising that an island nation should feature the sea in the compositions of its native composers. Examples of these – from well known and some less well known composers – featured in the last meeting of the Society on 27 January 2020.
Society member Ed Tinline kicked of the second half of the season with a wide selection of pieces composed by British composers, all with the sea as their inspiration.
We started with part of Vaughan William’s Symphony No 1, A Sea Symphony composed in 1909. Inspiration for the symphony came in part from Walt Whitman. It was premiered when he was 38 and established him as a leading composer.
Brighton born Frank Bridge was next with his Symphonic Suite: The Sea composed in 1910. Then a piece by Judith Weir with her Lament, Over the Sea from her The Bagpiper’s String Trio first performed in 1989. Judith was the first woman to be appointed Master of the Queen’s Music.
Next – another woman – Ethyl Smyth with her Overture: The Wreckers from 1906. I wrote ‘jaunty’ at one point with some interesting orchestral colours. Dame Ethel Mary Smyth attained prominence as one of the most accomplished female composers in a male dominated environment, and as one of the main representatives of the suffragette movement. Tchaikovsky said of her ‘[she] one of the few women composers whom one can seriously consider to be achieving something valuable in the field of musical creation’. Source: British Library.
The first half ended with Arnold Bax’s On the Sea-shore And Elgar’s Sea Pictures.
The second half started with the unfamiliar Mass of the Sea composed by Paul Patterson composed in 1983. Next was By the Sleepy Lagoon written at Selsey by Eric Coates – who like Frank Bridge, was born in Brighton – looking across the bay and is used as the theme for Desert Island Discs on Radio 4.
The Kent coast inspired David Matthew’s Overture: From Sea to Sky composed quite recently in 1992. The Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes are very familiar. Interestingly, Britten was taught composition by Frank Bridge.
The penultimate piece was The Needles by Matthew Taylor commissioned by the LSE Music Society in 2000. Finally we returned to Elgar and another of his Sea Pictures composed at the end of the nineteenth century.
A fascinating evening and a wide range of music based on this one idea.
Next month’s meeting is Berlioz’s vocal music and is on Monday 10 February.
The second half of the season kicks off on Monday 27 January with an evening devoted to the music of Vaughan Williams and other British composers . Ed Tinline will present the evening entitled Behold the sea.
It starts at 7:30 and where to find us is on one of the tabs at the top of the site. There is free parking outside and access is reasonable for those with disabilities (a small step). £3 for non-members. We look forward to seeing you.
George Lloyd was born in 1913 in St Ives (Cornwall) and had a traumatic life. Both his parents were keen musicians and encouraged his talent from an early age. Illness meant he was taught at home then left to continue his studies in London.
He wrote his first symphony at 19 which was premiered in Penzance. We heard the Introduction, Theme and Five Variations and it was music which showed great accomplishment. Two other symphonies followed as well as two operas; The Serf and Lernin. The latter was also first performed in Penzance before being transferred to London where it had an unusually long run. Alan Forshaw, the presenter, played the Duet from the opera and it was an outstanding piece of music.
A crucial event in his life was joining the Marines as a bandsman and took part in the awful North Cape convoys to supply the Red Army in WWII. A most terrible event took place in many of his fellow marines were drowned in fuel oil. This affected his mental wellbeing and prolonged hospitalisation with what was still being called shellshock, now called PTSD.
It was physically difficult for him to write music because of the shaking but with devoted care from his wife he was able to start again. A movement from a subsequent symphony demonstrated a change in style.
He wrote music for brass bands and one such was HMS Trinidad March, the ship he had served on. He had almost no success with commissions from the BBC with his scores returned with no comment. A member of the audience suggested this might have been the influence of William Glock and the pressure to use the 12 tone scale which Lloyd has little time for.
He quit the musical life and he and his wife opened a market garden in Dorset. He began to be appreciated in later life and had some of his work performed at the Proms and he did well in America. Albany Records recorded several of his works. We heard a movement from the 4th Piano Concerto and a movement from the 6th Symphony. Other pieces included extracts from the Requiem, and the Black Dyke Mills Band playing a memoriam following the IRA atrocity in the Royal parks.
For those of us who knew little of this composer’s work it was a revelation. He had a sure touch when it came to orchestration. I felt his style would have suited film music where he may have done well. We were grateful to Alan for his work in preparing the evening.
Please note we now have a page on Facebook – Salisbury recorded music society.
We are pleased to attach the new programme for 2019 – 20. It is an exciting programme with a lot to interest people who like classical music. Several presenters have chosen an English theme this year – five in all – as well as other classics such as Handel and Berlioz. There are two members’ evenings which are open to non members. You can download the programme from here although there will be hard copies available in the Tourist Office; Oxfam’s Music Room and the Library.
Hard copies of the programme is available in the Tourism Information Centre in Fish Row, Oxfam Music Room in Catherine St; and in Salisbury and Amesbury Libraries.
The second half of the season starts tonight, Monday 5 February and we are delighted to welcome Simon Coombs from the Vaughan Williams Society who is going to discuss and play music by this great English composer. Starts at 7:30 as usual and is only £3 to non-members. Parking is easy and free and details of how to find us are on the ‘Find us’ tab at the top of the site.
We look forward to welcoming existing members back also any new visitors.
The music of James Oswald, described as the ‘Scottish Orpheus’
James Oswald was born in the little town of Crail, Fife and started life as a dancing master in Dunfermline. He spent time in Edinburgh and
then went to London and started to compose music based on Scottish tunes then the rage in the 1740’s. He set up shop near St Martin’s Churchyard and this became a meeting place for expatriate Scots. He developed his links with the English aristocracy and was appointed Chamber Composer by George III.
We were delighted to welcome Jeremy Barlow to the meeting, an authority on this period of music. Jeremy is one of the most versatile musicians on the British early music scene, with a career encompassing writing, lecturing, and performing. After studying at Trinity College Cambridge and the Royal Academy of Music, London, his first job was as flutist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
But what characterises Scottish music and makes it so recognisable? The basic reason is that it is based on the pentatonic scale not the normal 7 note scale we are used to. It also has a base accompaniment which is a chord which only changes one note at a time as the melody progresses. The third feature is something called the ‘Scotch Snap’, a short accented note before a longer note. These combine to give Scottish music its particular sound.
As an introduction, Jeremy played the Birthday Ode for Queen Mary composed in 1692 by Henry Purcell. This uses a Scottish tune in the base line. We also heard contemporary examples by William McGibbon; Francesco Geminiani and Alexander Erskine, Earl of Kelly. The main part of the evening was music by Oswald which included Airs for the Seasons, the curiously named Dust Cart Cantata and the Divertimento No. 8 for English guitar. Jeremy Barlow directed the Broadside Band in Airs for all the Seasons, Oswald’s finest work.
Oswald became particularly friendly with John Robinson-Lytton the owner of Knebworth House in Hertfordshire. After Robinson-Lytton died he married his widow and moved into Knebworth, he had surely come a long way.
An interesting evening concerning the work of a composer few would be familiar with.
I am indebted to the notes provided by Jeremy in writing this piece
Next meeting 13 November which is a members’ evening so please let Tony Powell know what your choice is.
Many composers taught pupils in a kind of apprenticeship scheme. Composers often needed the money and no doubt the son or daughter of a wealthy family brought in a useful income. Some pupils went on to have promising careers – others did not have sufficient talent to succeed.
In last night’s meeting Alan Forshaw played pieces by a variety of composers and asked us to guess who had been their teacher. A combination of style, dates and where they lived or studied gave us a clue in some cases, especially the earlier ones, but it became steadily more difficult as we approached modern times. Once again in a Society evening, we heard examples of music by long forgotten composers who’s music is worthy of a hearing. Many were prolific in their day turning out operas, symphonies and concertos by the dozen. The pieces we heard were:
a piano sonata in C by Johann Muthel a pupil of JS Bach
the Adagio from the Symphonie Concertante in A by Ignaz Pleyel, who’s name survives on pianos and music scores. He wrote 41 symphonies. He was taught by Haydn and his influence was audible
Thomas Attwood (pictured) studied in Vienna under Mozart and his remains are buried in St Pauls. We heard his Rondo from a Trio fo
r Piano, Violin and ‘cello
this was followed by a Fantasia by Steven Storace who was born in London and also studied in Vienna
Carl Czerny is slightly better known and was a pupil of Beethoven. The master’s influence could clearly be heard in his Theme and Variations for Horn and Piano
another pupil of Beethoven was Ferdinand Reis, a native of Bonn (a clue) and his Rondo from a Piano Concerto in C# minor showed a lot of talent
Franz Liszt needs no introduction and was a pupil of Czerny in Vienna. We heard his Hungarian Rhapsody No 13
the immensely talented but almost unknown Carl Filtsch from Romania led Liszt to say when he heard him play, he would give up performing. Tragically, he died in his teens but his Impromptu in Gb Major showed what a loss he was to music
another pupil of Czerny was Thomas Tellefsen from Norway who also studied in Paris. Waltz in Db Major
Valsa Caprichosa from 3 Portuguese Scenes was composed by a pupil of Liszt, Jose Vianna da Motta who was born on the island of Sao Tome off the coast of Africa
Carl Reinecke has almost disappeared from view and is rarely heard today. His Finale from Wind Octet in Bb Major was a delight
Gabriel Fauré needs no introduction who was a pupil of Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. We heard the famous Paradisum from the Requiem
Someone less famous, or even unheard of, is Eugene Gigout also from France who studied in Paris under Saint-Saëns. His Toccata in B Minor is exciting and worth listening to. He was a famous organist in his day (born 1844)
Josef Suk was part of a large musical family and studied under Antonín Dvořák famous for his Symphony from the New World. Suk does sometimes make it onto present day concerts and last night we heard the Andante from the Serenade for Strings Opus 6, a fine piece
Glazunov was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and studied in St Petersburg. A prolific composer and we heard the preamble from Scenes de Ballet
another pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov was Igor Stravinsky one of the composers who had an enormous influence over the course of 20th century musical history and famous for his ballets. His Piano Sonata No 2 was special and well worth a listen if you can
the Australian Percy Grainger had several teachers and studied in Berlin and elsewhere. We heard the extraordinary Zanzibar Boat Song – six hands on one piano
Busoni was the teacher of Frederick Loewe famous for his musicals with Alan Lerner and it was The Rain In Spain from My Fair Lady we heard to illustrate his talent
Lennox Berkeley was a pupil of the enigmatic Maurice Ravel who’s influence could just be heard in Polka Opus 5a
Finally, another pupil of Ravel was Vaughan Williams (and we will be hearing more of him later in the season with a talk from the Vaughan Williams Society coming). We heard part of March ‘Seventeen Come Sunday from the Folk Song suite (1924)
Alan had put in a lot of work to track down some of the more obscure pieces especially in the first half which made it an interesting and worthwhile evening.
The new season’s programme has now been finalised and will soon be printed for distribution. You can see a copy of the brochure here ahead of publication. The committee has put together an excellent programme with two outside speakers and one, for the first time, from the Delius Society. We have one ‘live’ music evening as well as presentations on a wide range of topics from Society members themselves.
Meeting arrangements are as before and parking is easy. New members are always welcome – we’ve had several this year – and if you want to come along to an evening without commitment, there is a small fee of £3 to help with our expenses.
Existing members: if you can do anything to help promote events that would be appreciated.
With last night’s meeting, the current season of the Society came to an end and will resume in September. Next year’s programme is well underway and has a lively combination of home grown and invited speakers as well as a ‘live’ performance. The committee met before the meeting and one item was a review of the year and all agreed that it had been an excellent one. With two live performances as well as the usual fare of CDs, the programme was diverse and interesting. The Society exists to enable people to broaden their knowledge and enjoyment of classical music in a non challenging way.
We had presentations which focused on the Great War, two on famous conductors – Mackerras and Bernstein – and we welcomed Lord Aberdare of the Berlioz Society for a memorable presentation. The role of lesser known composers especially from these shores and from the Baltic countries was also notable. Altogether a successful year.
Meetings take place in Salisbury every other Monday evening during the season which starts again on 19 September. Directions can be found on the ‘Find us’ tab. Parking is easy. New members are always welcome and feel free to come along to a meeting. Full details of the new programme will be published here once it is finalised and a leaflet will be available in the Collector’s Room in Endless Street; Oxfam’s music room and in the Tourism Office in Butcher Row.