Author Topic: Alan Bush(1900-95)  (Read 10478 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Alan Bush(1900-95)
« on: January 07, 2009, 05:18:21 PM »
The first 10 years of the 20th Century saw the birth of a generation of exceptionally fine British composers-Finzi and Rubbra(1901), Walton(1902), Lennox Berkeley(1903), Alwyn, Rawsthorne and Tippett(1905), Cooke and Frankel(1906), Maconchy and Grace Williams(1907), Wordsworth(1908), Orr(1909) and Still(1910). Few however have had their reputation so far eclipsed as the most senior of the generation, Alan Bush.

It is fascinating to re-read the chapter written by the distinguished British composer and musicologist, Hugh Wood, in the 1961 edition of the Pelican 'European Music in the Twentieth Century(ed.Howard Hartog). Wood dismissed composers like Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bliss, Walton and Malcolm Arnold with near contempt. Rubbra, Berkeley and Rawsthorne merited a paragraph each. Finzi, Cooke, Frankel, Richard Arnell, Robert Simpson were mentioned only in passing.

The composers on whom Wood lavished most attention were Tippett and Britten(not surprisingly!) but followed closely by extended discussion of composers like Elizabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Peter Racine Fricker, Iain Hamilton-each of whom had, at least, flirted with serialism.........and Alan Bush! In fact, Bush managed to merit two whole pages and Wood seemed to place him next behind Tippett and Britten among diatonic composers.

Part of the problem for Bush was that he was a convinced and committed Marxist who not only sympathised with the political left(as did some other British composers) but was a 'political composer' in so far as he wrote operas based on stories of 'class struggle'("Wat Tyler" and "Men of Blackmoor") and included a choral finale in his Piano Concerto(1937), a la Busoni, in which a male voice choir declaims a marxist text by the poet Randall Swingler. The concerto is 57 minutes long and was premiered in a performance conducted by Sir Adrian Boult(who must have conducted through gritted teeth ;D) ;D)

Bush wrote four symphonies. Nos. 1(1940) and 2 'The Nottingham Symphony'(1949) have been recorded by Classico Records in performances by the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Bostock which can best be described as 'worthy'. (This is the CD which Harry has recently been advertising in his posts ;D).

The Symphony No. 3 'The Byron Symphony' for baritone and chorus(1960) is a whopping 50 minutes long and was commissioned by the East German Government and first performed in Leipzig. The Symphony No.4 'Lascaux Symphony' dates from 1983. Neither of these last two symphonies have ever been recorded.
The Violin Concerto of 1948 has made it to disc in a recording by Manoug Parikian/BBC Symphony Orchestra, Norman del Mar(Claudio Records). The chamber music and instrumental music is highly regarded.

Bush was an influential teacher for many years at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The Alan Bush Music Trust has an excellent website devoted to his music-

http://www.alanbushtrust.org.uk/default.asp?room=Home

I can't help thinking that behind the politics there may well have been a substantial composer here whose neglect is to be regretted.


Harry

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2009, 01:03:33 AM »
Thank you Colin, for this piece, with useful information, I rather learned a thing or two. I always dive into the music first, before I start reading about the composer. That way my mind is not clouded too much by what ever happened in the past. I began listening to Bush, because a friend of mine in South Africa send me a cd with samples of his artistry. I so much enjoyed that, that the recording you mentioned came to the surface with JPC for just 6 euro's, so I bought it. I have to disagree with you in matters that this recording is worthy, I would stress that this recording is much more as worthy, for it brings to me a composer that is well represented by a thoughtful interpretation and more than satisfying recording. The depths which Bush travails is for me a recognition of many feelings in myself. The rhythmic precision, and the fine writing for strings, articulated in a genial way by this orchestra is a constant joy for me, and I will today play it again, for the joy I experience by you Colin starting a thread about him. 

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2009, 01:45:33 AM »

It is fascinating to re-read the chapter written by the distinguished British composer and musicologist, Hugh Wood, in the 1961 edition of the Pelican 'European Music in the Twentieth Century(ed.Howard Hartog). Wood dismissed composers like Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bliss, Walton and Malcolm Arnold with near contempt. Rubbra, Berkeley and Rawsthorne merited a paragraph each. Finzi, Cooke, Frankel, Richard Arnell, Robert Simpson were mentioned only in passing.

The composers on whom Wood lavished most attention were Tippett and Britten(not surprisingly!) but followed closely by extended discussion of composers like Elizabeth Lutyens, Humphrey Searle, Peter Racine Fricker, Iain Hamilton-each of whom had, at least, flirted with serialism.........and Alan Bush! In fact, Bush managed to merit two whole pages and Wood seemed to place him next behind Tippett and Britten among diatonic composers.

Another fascinating illustration of how tastes change (or maybe how academic experts are out of touch with more popular tastes). I wonder how many Vaughan Williams performances took place last year, and how many of Searle or Peter Racine Fricker?
formerly VELIMIR (before that, Spitvalve)

"Who knows not strict counterpoint, lives and dies an ignoramus" - CPE Bach

Online vandermolen

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2009, 03:54:48 AM »
I have ordered the Classico CD after observing Harry's enthusiasm for it and look forward to receiving it.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 08:28:18 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2009, 07:10:34 AM »
Harry: Thanks for responding :) I am very pleased to hear how much you like the Bush symphonies. Maybe I was overly critical of the student orchestra? I just felt that a professional orchestra might have made more of the two works.

Paul: How very true! Although I have to say that I do think that Fricker is grievously and unfairly neglected :(

Jeffrey: 'Revenge' for Halsey Stevens and Gardner Read ;D

Harry

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2009, 07:13:17 AM »
Harry: Thanks for responding :) I am very pleased to hear how much you like the Bush symphonies. Maybe I was overly critical of the student orchestra? I just felt that a professional orchestra might have made more of the two works.

[

In that I agree with you Colin!

springrite

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2009, 07:18:39 AM »
Bush's best works are his songs, by a long distance. But because of his political leanings, people do shy away from his works with text. Of course, most of his songs are NOT political. Even those that were at the time are not necessarily so if you take away the historical context. The songs, more than anything else he composed, are most worthy of explorations for musical reasons.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2009, 08:32:03 AM »
Harry: Thanks for responding :) I am very pleased to hear how much you like the Bush symphonies. Maybe I was overly critical of the student orchestra? I just felt that a professional orchestra might have made more of the two works.

Paul: How very true! Although I have to say that I do think that Fricker is grievously and unfairly neglected :(

Jeffrey: 'Revenge' for Halsey Stevens and Gardner Read ;D

The Bush symphonies arrived at work today (they arrive at work and then I smuggle them into the house. I have always believed in open and honest communication with my wife  ;D). So tonight I shall be listening to symphonies by Alan Bush and William Wordsworth  :o ??? :P :-[ :-X. Colin may have a lot to answer for. 
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Harry

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2009, 08:39:11 AM »
The Bush symphonies arrived at work today (they arrive at work and then I smuggle them into the house. I have always believed in open and honest communication with my wife  ;D). So tonight I shall be listening to symphonies by Alan Bush and William Wordsworth  :o ??? :P :-[ :-X. Colin may have a lot to answer for. 

 ;D ;D ;D ;D
That made me giggle incessantly.......

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2009, 08:46:08 AM »
How on earth do you manage to get cds so quickly, Jeffrey? You only ordered the cd a few hours ago ???

Good thing your wife doesn't read your posts on here then, isn't it ;D ;D

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2009, 06:21:53 PM »
A review of the Bush 1st and 2nd Symphonies on Classico-

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2004/July04/Bush_1_2.htm

Harry

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2009, 12:24:41 AM »
A review of the Bush 1st and 2nd Symphonies on Classico-

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classRev/2004/July04/Bush_1_2.htm

See I told you it was good in technical terms, and that the orchestra is quite good, and I did not even know this review. ;D

Somehow the plight of such music is typified by the source of this disc (a Danish company) and its performers (a Music College Orchestra - exemplary in technical and artistic terms).

Offline Dax

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2009, 03:50:40 AM »
I can't say that I've ever been that keen on most of Bush's music. However I did have a listen to the piano concerto yesterday - in 4 movements with a male chorus in the last movement and modelled on Busoni. (are there other choral piano concertos?) It has a curiously lightweight opening, but each movement seems to impress more as it progresses despite the occasional areas of academic sounding counterpoint. The third movement (slow) is somehow the most engaging, being quite, well juicy really without appearing post-romantic. A work deserving of wider attention.

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2009, 04:34:24 AM »
See I told you it was good in technical terms, and that the orchestra is quite good, and I did not even know this review. ;D

Somehow the plight of such music is typified by the source of this disc (a Danish company) and its performers (a Music College Orchestra - exemplary in technical and artistic terms).


Just because I provide a link to a Musicweb review does not necessarily mean that I agree with every view expressed within that review, Harry :)

I agree that the orchestra is-as you say-'quite good' and for an orchestra of students the performance is indeed 'exemplary'. I just think that it is a fact of life that unfamiliar repertoire is now most likely to come from orchestras which usually have lots of enthusiasm but, sometimes, lack the firepower to deliver a performance which brings out the very best in the music.

Saying that.....since we are unlikely to get the London Symphony Orchestra recording any Bush I shall take my hat off to the students and praise their enterprise, energy and committment ;D

Online vandermolen

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2009, 04:19:36 PM »
How on earth do you manage to get cds so quickly, Jeffrey? You only ordered the cd a few hours ago ???

Good thing your wife doesn't read your posts on here then, isn't it ;D ;D

Yes, that's a spot of luck Colin  ;D I ordered the Bush a few days ago. I have listened to both symphonies now and No 2 'Nottingham' is a great discovery for me - an important 20th Century British Symphony, which really comes into its own in the delightful last movement. I ended up playing the last bit over and over again - it is a really inspiriting Arnell-like conclusion, with the bells adding to the triumphant coda - a really lovely moment. The slow movement is very touching and I really like the whole Symphony. Probably Bush did it no favours calling it 'Nottingham' as it might sound a rather parochial title. I wasn't so keen on No 1 on first hearing - the prologue and first movement sounded rather arid, dry and academic, but the slow movement was good and, having enjoyed No 2 so much, I may find that No 1 grows on me with repeated listening.

Anyway, I am delighted to have discovered Alan Bush  :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2009, 04:54:51 PM »
Yes, that's a spot of luck Colin  ;D I ordered the Bush a few days ago. I have listened to both symphonies now and No 2 'Nottingham' is a great discovery for me - an important 20th Century British Symphony, which really comes into its own in the delightful last movement. I ended up playing the last bit over and over again - it is a really inspiriting Arnell-like conclusion, with the bells adding to the triumphant coda - a really lovely moment. The slow movement is very touching and I really like the whole Symphony. Probably Bush did it no favours calling it 'Nottingham' as it might sound a rather parochial title. I wasn't so keen on No 1 on first hearing - the prologue and first movement sounded rather arid, dry and academic, but the slow movement was good and, having enjoyed No 2 so much, I may find that No 1 grows on me with repeated listening.

Anyway, I am delighted to have discovered Alan Bush  :)

Excellent! I have the Bush cd on my to play list........along with the Melartin Nos. 3-6, the Lyatoshinsky 1-5, the Antheil 3-5, the Peterson-Berger 1-6 etc etc ;D
« Last Edit: January 10, 2009, 12:05:07 PM by Dundonnell »

Online vandermolen

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #16 on: January 09, 2009, 04:59:26 PM »
Excellent! I have the Bush cd on my to play list........along with the Melartin Nos. 3-6, the Lyatoshinsky 1-6, the Antheil 3-5, the Peterson-Berger 1-6 etc etc ;D

I need to listen to the Melartin symphonies too. I have the box set but did not make much of them before. Antheil's 4th and 3rd are favourites of mine and Peterson Berger's 2, 3 (the best) and 5.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Christo

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2009, 01:36:45 AM »
The Bush symphonies arrived at work today (they arrive at work and then I smuggle them into the house. I have always believed in open and honest communication with my wife  ;D). So tonight I shall be listening to symphonies by Alan Bush and William Wordsworth  :o ??? :P :-[ :-X. Colin may have a lot to answer for. 

Exactly.  8) We may hold Colin wholly responsible for:

A) your deranged marital communication habits, and a
B) failed upbringing of my poor little kids.  ;D ;D
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2009, 12:12:35 PM »
Exactly.  8) We may hold Colin wholly responsible for:

A) your deranged marital communication habits, and a
B) failed upbringing of my poor little kids.  ;D ;D

Now, now........ ;D ;D

You don't need to pay any attention to my ravings on behalf of these obscure composers you know ;D ;D

If Jeffrey chooses to smuggle cds into his house without his wife knowing about this nefarious practice that is entirely up to him :) And as for your "poor little kids", I am 100% confident that they will not suffer in any way because you buy the odd(!) cd to add to a collection which one day-in the far distant future-they will inherit :)

Online vandermolen

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Re: Alan Bush(1900-95)
« Reply #19 on: January 10, 2009, 01:44:00 PM »
Exactly.  8) We may hold Colin wholly responsible for:

A) your deranged marital communication habits, and a
B) failed upbringing of my poor little kids.  ;D ;D

My thoughts exactly Johan. Colin has a lot to answer for  ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).