English music

The meeting tonight (Monday 11 November) concentrates on some less well known English composers presented by Christopher Guild.  7:30 as usual.

George Lloyd

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.

Peter Curbishley


Please note we now have a page on Facebook – Salisbury recorded music society.

Next meeting on 28 October  

2019/20 programme

The new season’s programme is now available

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.

Entrance for non members is £3.

Programme 2019 – 20 (pdf)

Members’ evening

Members’ evening had a wide range of interesting pieces

Last night’s members’ evening had a wide range of music – eclectic even – from the traditional, to some pieces with jazz influences and a rarity from South America.

The traditional selections were from the Well Tempered Clavier by Bach and the chosen pieces were from Book 4 – the most difficult to perform.  Angela Hewitt was the pianist and her recordings show great skill and fluidity.  The other traditional selection was of Mozart’s first violin concerto the K207.  Composed when he was probably 17 it is one of five that he composed although there are possibly two more.  Paper analysis suggests an earlier date than originally supposed.

Completely different was Michael Torke’s Javelin one of a series of pieces exploring the relationship between music and colour.  Termed a ‘vitally inventive composer’ by the Financial Times, Javelin is a ‘sonic Olympiad composed for the Atlanta Olympics.

Jazz influences were clearly at work with two acoustic guitar compositions by Clive Carroll The Kid from Clare and Black Nile.  Guitar phenomenon Clive Carroll’s masterful compositions, coupled with his versatility and unparalleled technical virtuosity, have rendered him one of today’s most admired and respected guitarists.

Diego José de Salazar is largely unknown and in writing this it was hard to find anything much about him.  If you do know something, Wikipedia would like to hear from you I am sure.  Bolivian, born in 1659 and his music is classical in style but quite unique.  We heard Saiga el torillo hosquillo this was one of the hits of the evening.

Bantock’s The Frogs of Aristopanes would get the prize for the most curiously name piece of the evening but not only that, it was a version performed with a brass band, in this case the Grimethorpe Colliery band, said by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies to be ‘the finest band in the world’.  They are performing in Sturminster Newton in Dorset in June.

The first half ended with Victoria de Los Angeles performing Piu Jesu from Faure’s Requiem.

The mystery piece turned out to be an orchestrated version of one of Debussy’s preludes by Colin Matthews.  Two arias by Caruso, one from Rigoletto and the other from Othello, the latter sung with Tito Ruffo followed and the evening ended with Lark Ascending  by Vaughan Williams from a poem by George Meredith.

A truly amazing selection of pieces and the chair thanked Anthony for skillfully assembling them especially as he would have been unfamiliar with some.  Evenings such as this can be a collection of hackneyed favourites with little that is unfamiliar.  Although there were some well-known items, the unusual ones added considerable interest.

Peter Curbishley


Next meeting on May 13th

Next meeting: Handel

The next and last meeting of the current programme of the Society is a presentation by Tim Rowe of the music of Handel.  Starting at 7:30 on May 13th as usual it is entitled intriguingly: Pebbles to Polished Diamonds.  

This has been an excellent programme this year and Tim’s evening promises to be a good coda.

Easy parking to the rear.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Society on Monday 29th April 2019 and will be a members’ evening.  Usual place and usual time, 7:30.  A reminder if you are not a member that there is free parking just outside the door.

The following meeting on 29th April is a members’ evening so please bring along a suggestion for playing.  No more than 10 minutes (including any introduction) it will help Tony to put together a programme for the evening.

16 April 2019

Charles Valentin Alkan

An evening of the music of this largely unknown French-Jewish composer

There are many people – even among keen classical music enthusiasts – who have never heard of this composer.  At our meeting last night (4 March 2019) this was corrected with an excellent presentation by Alan Forshaw.

It was perhaps unfortunate that Alkan lived at the time of Liszt and Chopin who dazzled the Paris public with their playing and compositions.  These are now household names and their works regularly played in concerts.  Another factor is that Alkan composed largely for the piano so there are no symphonies, operas or song cycles etc.  This narrowness of repertoire combined with the fiendish difficulty of many of his compositions may have led to his virtual disappearance.

Alkan was a prodigy entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 6 and giving a recital on the violin, at 7.  He was born in 1813 in Paris.  He started composing at 15 and this composition – Variations on a theme from Steibelt’s Orage Concerto – was the first piece to be played.  The second was Concerto da Camera No 2 in C# minor which was first performed in Bath, England which he visited in 1833.

We then heard extracts from Trois Grandes Etudes Nos 1, 2 and 3.  What was notable about these was that No 1 was for the left hand only and No 2 for the right.  Listening to these justifies the word ‘fiendish’.

Although Alkan composed mostly keyboard works, the next piece was the finale from the Piano Trio with strings.  We then heard four examples from Twelve Studies in all the major keys Nos 1, 5, 8 and 12.  These were followed by some extracts from Concerto for solo piano.

Alkan was overlooked by the Conservatoire when they appointed Marmontel – a mediocre talent and former student of Alkan’s – to the post of head of piano studies.  Following this acute disappointment and sleight, Alkan retired from public view for around 20 years although he did continue to compose.

He was a practising Jew being from a devout Jewish family and for a time, was organist at his local synagogue.  He spoke Hebrew.  Some of his later compositions had Jewish themes.

In some senses his life mirrored his compatriot Berlioz – 10 years his senior – who also had problems with the French musical establishment.  Berlioz composed nothing for the piano but some commentators said Alkan was ‘the Berlioz of the piano’.  They differed in that Alkan continued to follow the German tradition whereas Berlioz forged a new individual path whilst continuing to be an admirer of Beethoven.

The chair of the Society, in his vote of thanks said that, like many he suspected in the audience, he had heard little of Alkan, and Alan had shown what a remarkable and individual composer he was.  His music follows fairly straightforward musical forms – variations for example are quite easy to follow – but he pushed his technique to extreme limits.

There is a society devoted to his works http://www.alkansociety.org 

Peter Curbishley


The next meeting is on 18 March and continuing the French theme, is about great French singers of the past.