Author Topic: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)  (Read 3176 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« on: September 20, 2009, 12:04:49 PM »
Thought we had a thread on Mcewen. I really like the Solway Symphony and 'Grey Galloway' from the Border Ballads - also the string quartets. His music should appeal to admirers of late Romantic music and Bantock fans might enjoy it.  For me, the valedictory 'Where the Wild Thyme Blows' (1936), Mcewen's last work for orchestra, is his masterpiece - a hauntingly poetic score, with a bleak sibelian quality to it (also it reminded me a bit of Holst's 'Egdon Heath'). Do investigate this interesting Scottish composer.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2009, 12:34:23 AM »
Clearly not a popular composer  ;D
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Offline jowcol

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2009, 11:33:07 AM »
Okay, I couldn't let Jeffrey twist in the wind. Also, I've got the blood of four different clans mixed up on my family tree, so I had to give it a try. (So why does a Scottish composer use a Mc and not a Mac?)   I went to Classicsonline and picked this up. 

(For the record Jeffrey has been a TERRIBLE influence on my bank account, even though I haven't gone as far as to collect 20 versions of Walton's First  ::))


Where the Wild Thyme Blows is spooky, haunting, and I  KNOW I'll be listening to it more and more.  I also get the Tapioloa/Egdon Heath vibe from it. I haven't tried the others yet, I think I'll play this one a few more times. But really cool if you like late Romantic.  Also I'm getting a taste of RVW's 9th.

I've also noticed our friend Jeffrey has a thing for "Valedictory works".   It's part of the psychological profile I'm working up...... >:D


"If it sounds good, it is good."
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Offline The new erato

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #3 on: September 25, 2009, 11:40:41 AM »

I've also noticed our friend Jeffrey has a thing for "Valedictory works".   It's part of the psychological profile I'm working up...... >:D



Ah - the plot thickens. The "Profiler" has been called in.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2009, 12:52:04 AM »
Okay, I couldn't let Jeffrey twist in the wind. Also, I've got the blood of four different clans mixed up on my family tree, so I had to give it a try. (So why does a Scottish composer use a Mc and not a Mac?)   I went to Classicsonline and picked this up.  

(For the record Jeffrey has been a TERRIBLE influence on my bank account, even though I haven't gone as far as to collect 20 versions of Walton's First  ::))


Where the Wild Thyme Blows is spooky, haunting, and I  KNOW I'll be listening to it more and more.  I also get the Tapioloa/Egdon Heath vibe from it. I haven't tried the others yet, I think I'll play this one a few more times. But really cool if you like late Romantic.  Also I'm getting a taste of RVW's 9th.

I've also noticed our friend Jeffrey has a thing for "Valedictory works".   It's part of the psychological profile I'm working up...... >:D



If you think that your bank balance is in a bad way you should see mine (and other members of this forum are implicated in this sorry financial mess!) However, I was able to scrape around to buy the reissued EMI Walton's First Symphony (cond. Walton). I already have the same recording in an earlier incantation (several actually) but this one has a different cover photo. So what I never said before was that all my 24 versions of Walton's First Symphony are of the same recording  ;D

Glad you like Vaughan Williams's 9th Symphony - one of the great 'valedictory' scores. I look forward to reading your psychological profile (the words obsessive-compulsive may feature). I though that our other Scottish friend Colin (Dunndonell) might respond but he seems to have been absent for a long time  :(

Thanks for responses  :)

Glad you liked the Wild Thyme - great work
« Last Edit: September 26, 2009, 01:01:14 AM by vandermolen »
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Offline The new erato

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2009, 12:56:39 AM »

If you think that your bank balance is in a bad way you should see mine (and other members of this forum are implicated in this sorry financial mess!) However, I was able to scrape around to buy the reissued EMI Walton's First Symphony  ;D I already have the same recording in an earlier incantation (several actually) but this one has a different cover photo. So what I never said before was that all my 24 versions of Walton's First Symphony are of the same recording  ;D

Glad you like Vaughan Williams's 9th Symphony - one of the great 'valedictory' scores. I look forward to reading your psychological profile (the words obsessive-compulsive may feature). I though that our other scottish friend Colin (Dunndonell) might respond but he seems to have been absent for a long time  :(

Thanks for responses  :)

Glad you liked the Wild Thyme - great work
I just caught on to the fact (due to a recent BBC television program about 60ies pop) that Waltons nephew was a record producer for the Who in the 60-ies. William Walton was queried as to what he thought about this rock music, and he answered that he thought it wasn't modern enough. Sorry for the OT.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2009, 01:14:21 AM »
I just caught on to the fact (due to a recent BBC television program about 60ies pop) that Waltons nephew was a record producer for the Who in the 60-ies. William Walton was queried as to what he thought about this rock music, and he answered that he thought it wasn't modern enough. Sorry for the OT.

OT

I remember an interview on TV with Walton; when asked for his views on pop music , he replied (in a very posh voice) " Oh, I don't like groups like The Whooooo"
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline jowcol

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2009, 04:15:05 AM »

I look forward to reading your psychological profile (the words obsessive-compulsive may feature).

Actually, I think everybody in this forum, by definition, is obsessive-compulsive.  I know I am.

(BTW-- another one of Jeffrey's major obsessions-- the slow elegaic movements....)
"If it sounds good, it is good."
Duke Ellington

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2009, 02:52:02 AM »


(BTW-- another one of Jeffrey's major obsessions-- the slow elegaic movements....)

Especially if they they have a valedictory quality  ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Lethevich

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2011, 09:32:14 PM »
Having listened to the composer's music for a good few weeks, I can conclude that I am very impressed by everything I have heard. The composer's basic style offers an intoxicating sense of Stanford-deluxe; all that you enjoyed about Stanford, but wish were less restrained, might possibly be found here. Occasionally the orchestral music offers real clues as to where Bax and Vaughan Williams emerged from.

The Border Ballads, especially Grey Galloway (a favourite of Havergal Brian), are magnificent. Expertly proportioned works, and with strong melodic material that always comes in well before the mind begins to wander. The scoring also ideally fits the subjects - the brass towards the end of the aforementioned piece is such a beautiful resolution, not dissimilar from the mystical way that Bantock wrote. The opening of Hymn on the Morning of Christ's Nativity is another example of how far removed the composer's music can be from his compatriots, with its decidedly impolite proto-Baxian tone.

The quartets are excellent as well, offering a consistently rewarding and contrasting series of works which are rather individual in tone. The 7th and 16th quartets, both with a strong concept, are tailored towards their differing moods. The harmonic language is also slightly more advanced from what I am used to from Parry, Mackenzie, etc, though it always serves to flavour the traditionally structured works than transform them. I find them easily able to stand alongside those of, say, Taneyev, Myaskovsky, Glazunov, etc. The violin sonata disc on Chandos is very impressive, full of the mythical Romanticism of a composer like Medtner. I would insta-buy a recording of his piano trios (he apparently wrote four) if such a thing were recorded, not to mention the rest of the sonatas.

I suppose that my overriding feeling of the composer's output is that it should be dry and academic, but never is. This is not to say that McEwen's music pushes the envelope all that often, but it's always startlingly creative and affirmative, and quite impressively rarely feels as though the composer is just going through the motions.

Fans of Hebrides-style Mendelssohn, Stanford's Irish rhapsodies, and perhaps those frustrated by Bax's meanderings really ought to hear this. Perhaps even Rimsky Korsakov (a very tentative link) fans could find something of value - certainly those who admire Medtner's violin sonatas really need to investigate McEwen's chamber music.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2011, 09:33:47 PM by Lethe Dmitriyevna Pettersson »
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Offline cilgwyn

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #10 on: December 04, 2011, 10:13:34 AM »

By dinasman at 2011-12-04

After listening to some French chamber music by Faure,amongst others,I put this on. Apart from his use of folksongs in the Scottish Rhapsody (Prince Charlie) you probably wouldn't these pieces were by a Scottish composer if you heard them 'blind'. But who compares when the music is as good as this? Radio 3 could  schedule some of this music instead of all the usual stuff.

Actually,I'm VERY impressed,indeed. This music is really VERY good!! ;D I think I will dig out my cds of the String quartets and piano music next! :)

Offline Szykneij

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2012, 08:45:32 AM »
I just heard Mcewen's "Violin Sonata No. 6 in G Major" (Olivier Charlier, violin; Geoffrey Tozer, piano; Chandos) on the local classical radio station and was quite impressed. It was composed after he retired to southern France and is distinctively Ravelian in effect.
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Offline SymphonicAddict

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2017, 01:50:32 PM »
I'm listening to Grey Galloway from Three Border Ballads (Chandos recording) right now. What a wonderful piece of music, simply astounding, it sounds so heroic! Comparisons are not good, but it's somewhat similar to Bantock's style (they were born the same year, indeed).
« Last Edit: June 19, 2017, 01:53:37 PM by SymphonicAddict »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #13 on: June 20, 2017, 06:51:38 AM »
I'm listening to Grey Galloway from Three Border Ballads (Chandos recording) right now. What a wonderful piece of music, simply astounding, it sounds so heroic! Comparisons are not good, but it's somewhat similar to Bantock's style (they were born the same year, indeed).
Brilliant! My Mcewen thread arises Phoenix-like from the ashes after five years in hibernation.  8)
Grey Galloway is very fine indeed.
You must hear 'Where the Wild Thyme Blows' a very poignant and moving valedictory score.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2017, 06:53:13 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline SymphonicAddict

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #14 on: June 20, 2017, 03:39:54 PM »
Brilliant! My Mcewen thread arises Phoenix-like from the ashes after five years in hibernation.  8)
Grey Galloway is very fine indeed.
You must hear 'Where the Wild Thyme Blows' a very poignant and moving valedictory score.

Yesterday I listened to the complete Border Ballads along with the Solway Symphony, Hills o' Heather and Where the Wild Thyme Blows. I enjoyed so much all these works, they are in a full postromantic/impressionistic vein. Where the Wild Thyme Blows reminded me of Delius, I felt a quiet and foggy atmosphere, also a melancholic air. I don't know why composers like this one are not recorded more often. I think the answer is pure marketing issue. Really sad.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
« Reply #15 on: June 20, 2017, 09:58:47 PM »
Yesterday I listened to the complete Border Ballads along with the Solway Symphony, Hills o' Heather and Where the Wild Thyme Blows. I enjoyed so much all these works, they are in a full postromantic/impressionistic vein. Where the Wild Thyme Blows reminded me of Delius, I felt a quiet and foggy atmosphere, also a melancholic air. I don't know why composers like this one are not recorded more often. I think the answer is pure marketing issue. Really sad.
Yes, very much agree with you. Good that Chandos recorded them at all. The chamber music on Chandos is also worth investigating although the orchestral works like the Solway Symphony remains my favourite. There's a very early recording of the Solway Symphony but the Chandos version is the one to have.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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