Author Topic: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)  (Read 567 times)

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Offline Albion

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Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« on: October 30, 2020, 03:20:55 AM »
I couldn't find a thread for Edward German, but as with Sullivan his concert works have only recently received the attention that they deserve. The splendid Welsh Rhapsody (1904) has long been availalable in a good recording under Alexander Gibson made in 1968 (coupled with Ethel Smyth, Hamish MacCunn and Hamilton Harty) but the three-volume series issued by Dutton with John Wilson at the helm are mandatory for anyone who thinks that German's only contribution to British music was the comic opera Merrie England (1902):



Symphony no.1 in E minor (1887)
Overture, The Tempter (1893)
Prelude Romeo and Juliet (1895)
Hamlet, Symphonic Poem (1897)
The Willow Song (1922)

CDLX7156



March Rhapsody on Original Themes (1897/1902)
Symphonic Suite in D minor (The Leeds Suite) (1895)
Symphony No.2 in A minor (The Norwich) (1893)

CDLX7202



Much Ado about Nothing, Incidental music (1898)
The Tempter, Incidental music (1893)
Marche Solennelle (Funeral March in D minor) (1890)
Henry VIII, Incidental music (1892)
Romeo and Juliet, Incidental music (1895): Dramatic Interlude
Coronation March and Hymn (1911)

CDLX 7285

BBC Concert Orchestra/ John Wilson

Two further orchestral discs also worth seeking out on the Marco Polo label (8.223695 and 8.223726) include the Overture Richard III (1889), the Symphonic Suite The Seasons (1899) and the Theme and Six Diversions (1919) together with further performances of the Norwich Symphony and the Welsh Rhapsody. His finest comic opera, Tom Jones (1907) has also received an outstanding recording on the Naxos label (8.660270-71).

German had a very distinctive harmonic and melodic idiom, instantly recognisable, and (like Sullivan) he was a supreme master of the orchestra.

 :)
« Last Edit: October 30, 2020, 04:00:00 AM by Albion »
A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2020, 10:18:03 AM »
I have all of the discs you mention and have read the very informative biography on German too - for those who don't know, German was one of the most influential composers (along with Elgar) in making sure that composers got proper Royalties for performances and publication of their music - he helped found PRS (Performing Rights Society) in the UK. 

However, I must admit I struggle to find much of a spark of genius in his music.  The most recognisable feature is an all-too-often rit-ti-tum compound time rhythm which ends up sounding faux-olde-worlde.  Its why I just can't engage with Merrie England or Tom Jones.  The worst thing you can say about early Eric Coates (Springtime Suite etc) is that it sounds like Edward German.  I can admire and respect the craftsmanship and the hard work - I just don't hear any genius........

Offline Scion7

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2020, 05:05:18 PM »
I would agree that German is, for example, like William Walton, an excellent craftsman - if you don't expect a Saint-Saens or a Rachmaninov, you should be able to turn to his music from time to time for variety and enjoyable listening.
The Norwich Symphony is always rewarding.
The Germans, who make doctrines out of everything, deal with music learnedly; the Italians, being voluptuous, seek in it lively, though fleeting, sensations; the French, more vain than perceptive, manage to speak of it wittily; and the English pay for it . . . - Stendhal

Offline Albion

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #3 on: October 31, 2020, 03:38:06 AM »
However, I must admit I struggle to find much of a spark of genius in his music.

No, certainly not genius but supreme craftsmanship, charm and a consistent desire to provide his listeners with a melodious musical diversion - criteria enough for me to warrant German a place in my collection! I agree entirely that he was occasionally prone to lapse into what almost amounted to a caricature of his own idiom (the curse of 6/8 time, especially the jig, and certain predictable harmonic sequences) which reached its nadir in the comic opera A Princess of Kensington (1903).

IMVHO the peaks of British music run Dunstable-Tallis-Byrd-Purcell-Sullivan-Elgar-Vaughan Williams-Holst-Walton-Tippett-Britten-Arnold-Maxwell Davies (a very personal choice I know and no doubt open to adverse criticism), but there is surely room to explore and appreciate the Eton Choirbook, Taverner, Fairfax, Gibbons, Boyce, Arne, Potter, Sterndale Bennett, Balfe, Loder, Cellier, Mackenzie, Parry, Stanford, Cowen, Wallace, German, Bantock, Coleridge-Taylor, Brian, Hurlstone, Holbrooke, Boughton, Bridge, Foulds, Bax, Boughton, Scott, Harty, Bax, Dyson, Bliss, Howells, Finzi, Rubbra, Alwyn, Arnell, Bate, Rawsthorne, Fricker, Cooke, Jones, Hoddinott, Williams, Hamilton, Wordsworth et al. and to listen with pleasure whilst accessing a wider conspectus of British music.

As several members may recall I tussled in vain with the moderators of a certain other forum, as did several others, over their seeming obsession with "genius" and "masterpieces": I think that the quotation which is at the bottom of every one of my posts speaks for itself...

 ;)

if you don't expect a Saint-Saens or a Rachmaninov, you should be able to turn to his music from time to time for variety and enjoyable listening

Quite: every listener has their own favourites - some concentrate on the mainstream international canon whilst others enjoy exploring the music of a particular country, a specific genre or a certain historical period. In every case there will naturally be greater and lesser contributors. It is a wonder of the CD/ digital era that such a wide diversity of repertoire is now available for us to access (should we wish to)...

 :)
« Last Edit: October 31, 2020, 11:49:41 AM by Albion »
A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)

Offline Scion7

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2020, 03:47:23 AM »
I was also quite taken with the Welsh Rhapsody when I heard it on the BBC and managed to grab the Gibson record and take it with me to the Colonies in 1970.
The Germans, who make doctrines out of everything, deal with music learnedly; the Italians, being voluptuous, seek in it lively, though fleeting, sensations; the French, more vain than perceptive, manage to speak of it wittily; and the English pay for it . . . - Stendhal

Offline Albion

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #5 on: November 02, 2020, 04:24:42 AM »
I was also quite taken with the Welsh Rhapsody when I heard it on the BBC and managed to grab the Gibson record and take it with me to the Colonies in 1970.

Yes, the Welsh Rhapsody is a splendid piece, in effect a concise one-movement "Symphony on Welsh Airs" in four linked sections. German was stung by criticism of his first two symphonies (especially by George Bernard Shaw's scathing dismissal of The Norwich) and ceased using the term: it is possible to view his Symphonic Suites (The Leeds and The Seasons) as de facto symphonies 3 and 4 with the Welsh Rhapsody as number 5 (with its compact structure pre-empting Parry's 5th and Stanford's 7th, both from 1912). After all there was a great vogue for programme or illustrative symphonies throughout the nineteenth century, thinking especially of Spohr, Liszt and Raff.

Intriguingly, at virtually the same time that German dropped the nomenclature, the eminent American composer George Whitefield Chadwick (1854–1931) did exactly the same thing. Having written three numbered symphonies between 1881 and 1894 he styled his later such productions Symphonic Sketches (1895–1904), Sinfonietta (1904) and Suite symphonique (1905–9)...

 :)
« Last Edit: November 02, 2020, 05:51:24 AM by Albion »
A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)

Offline Scion7

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #6 on: November 02, 2020, 09:24:29 PM »
Most of his piano music is pleasant if not outstanding, the majority being juvenilia.

I find the Suite for Four Hands (1890) an exception.  In 2018, a recording made in 2001 was issued by the Davies Piano Duet (Helen & Harvey).  Since they are older artistes and she is not some dazzling brunette in a much-too-short mini-skirt, this won't get the media attention, of course.

The material is posted on Youtube, if anyone cares for a listen.

1. Humoresque (Allegretto)
2. Reverie (Andante)
3. Valse Fantastique (Allegro moderato [Tempo di Valse])
4. Caprice (Allegro Spiritoso)



The Germans, who make doctrines out of everything, deal with music learnedly; the Italians, being voluptuous, seek in it lively, though fleeting, sensations; the French, more vain than perceptive, manage to speak of it wittily; and the English pay for it . . . - Stendhal

Offline Albion

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A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)

Offline Albion

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #8 on: November 03, 2020, 03:02:13 AM »
And a couple of other works in broadcast performances:

Romeo and Juliet, Prelude (1895)
BBC Concert Orchestra/ Simon Joly (broadcast on BBC Radio 3 26th August 1986)


http://www.mediafire.com/file/u329087u2iq6kf2/German_-_Romeo_and_Juliet%252C_Prelude_%25281895%2529.mp3/file

Theme and Six Diversions (1919)
BBC Concert Orchestra/ Simon Joly (broadcast on BBC Radio 3 26th August 1986)


http://www.mediafire.com/file/955um6oe7d7ic41/German_-_Theme_and_Six_Diversions_%25281919%2529.mp3/file

 :)
A piece is worth your attention, and is itself for you praiseworthy, if it makes you feel you have not wasted your time over it. (SG, 1922)

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Sir Edward German (1862-1936)
« Reply #9 on: November 03, 2020, 01:22:19 PM »
And a couple of other works in broadcast performances:

Romeo and Juliet, Prelude (1895)
BBC Concert Orchestra/ Simon Joly (broadcast on BBC Radio 3 26th August 1986)


http://www.mediafire.com/file/u329087u2iq6kf2/German_-_Romeo_and_Juliet%252C_Prelude_%25281895%2529.mp3/file

Theme and Six Diversions (1919)
BBC Concert Orchestra/ Simon Joly (broadcast on BBC Radio 3 26th August 1986)


http://www.mediafire.com/file/955um6oe7d7ic41/German_-_Theme_and_Six_Diversions_%25281919%2529.mp3/file

 :)

I worked with Simon Joly in the mid nineties.  Jolly he was not........