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.