GMG Classical Music Forum

The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: Dundonnell on November 23, 2007, 06:38:28 PM

Title: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on November 23, 2007, 06:38:28 PM
I share-in common with many contributors to this forum-the warmest admiration and, sometimes, love for the music of the many great or else worthy British composers born between 1857(Sir Edward Elgar) and 1913(Benjamin Britten and George Lloyd). In recent years there has been a very substantial revived interest in the accessible music produced by, inter alia, Bantock(b1868), Vaughan Williams(b1872), Bridge(b1879), Ireland(b1879), Bax(b1883), Bliss(b1891), Howells(b1892), Moeran(b1894), Finzi(b1901), Rubbra(b1901), Alwyn(b1905). Great composers like Holst, Walton and Tippett date from the same period. There has also been recent interest in more minor figures from the same period-like Coleridge-Taylor(b1875) and York Bowen(b1884). Although late Britten and, especially, later Tippett could be considered more demanding music most of the works of these composers are, as I said, "accessible".

The generation born between 1915 and 1933 has not been so fortunate with the one very obvious example of Sir Malcolm Arnold and the growing interest in Richard Arnell. Both these composers produced-in the main-fine examples of what I am calling 'accessible' compositions. Most of the others however enjoyed only a brief period of exposure to the public in the late 1940s and 1950s before being swept away by the mania for 'new' music in the 1960s. This despite the fact that several of these composers were serialists(to a greater or lesser extent) but worked within traditional musical forms.

My list contains- Humphrey Searle(b1915), Bernard Stevens(b1916), Arnell(b1917), John Gardner(b1917), Geoffrey Bush(b1920), Peter Racine Fricker(b1920), Arnold(b1921), Ruth Gipps(b1921), Robert Simpson(b1921), Iain Hamilton(b1922), Arthur Butterworth(b1923), Anthony Milner(b1925), Wilfred Josephs(b1927), John Joubert(b1927), Graham Whettam(b1927), Alun Hoddinott(b1929) and Kenneth Leighton(b1929). There will be others!

Now it is true that all Searle's symphonies have been recorded by CPO and Simpson's by Hyperion but they are certainly not played in public. It is also true that composers like Searle, Fricker, Simpson, Hamilton and Hoddinott(the last of whom is still very much alive and active!) demand a considerable amount of concentration from the listener. To that extent their works are more 'difficult' but certainly not more difficult than Maxwell Davies(b1934), let alone Harrison Birtwistle(b1934)! Others-like Arthur Butterworth-are much easier to assimilate.

Richard Arnell is-at last-getting his due. Is it not time that the others of this (largely) 'lost generation' have their music revived?
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: tjguitar on November 23, 2007, 07:19:41 PM
We have individual threads for some of the ones you mention, definitely Arnold.  Decca released 3 box sets (only in the UK) of his music a year or two ago, compiling recordings from Conifer, it's own back catalogue and elsewhere.  I like his music.  Chandos did 2 or 3 CDs of his film music as well, I enjoy his work. Simpson as well (only his symphonies). I'm sadly not familiar with the others aside from one piece from Leighton (suite "veris gratia")
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Mark on November 24, 2007, 01:24:46 AM
A piece by Arnold which I think has long been unfairly neglected is his beautifully lyrical Guitar Concerto. I have a recording on the reissue label, IMP, but there doesn't seem to be many alternative recordings against which to make comparisons. Anyone care to suggest a good disc?

As for Arnold in general, his neglect by the British classical music establishment was sickening. I forget now who remarked the following, but when Malcolm Williamson ('Who?', I hear you cry) became Master of the Queen's Music - a very high-profile but these days almost meaningless royal position - someone within the classical music world commented, 'I see the wrong Malcolm's got the job'. Says it all, really. Arnold has been overlooked for too long. :(
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Montpellier on November 24, 2007, 01:55:15 AM
Merely a hypothesis, I'd suggest that the concert and radio public already had enough to listen to.   British music started to wake up with Bantock and Elgar and definitely took off with Vaughan Williams.   But the 1880s yielded a barrage of composers in the wake of Vaughan Williams; many forgotten now but at the time their modern brand of music reigned.  It was chromatic in the nicest way and still within reach of tradition which has proved itself more immediately accessible than music composed along more abstruse lines.   But there was enough of this new wave of British music.   Hence composers who followed, born in the first decades of the 1900 got less of a look in.   They added little - or were so different, their music could hardly be embraced by the public, remembering that recording was in its infancy so radio and concerts were the only outlet.  Plus the intervention of the Great War that unsettled things far beyond 1918.   
The musical situation wasn't helped by conductors who tended to promote music that grabbed them: Beecham, a good example.   Reports indicate that even then, concerts were poorly attended.  But if Delius concerts were sparsely attended what should one expect of Searle?   Changes were to come though, with Simpson and Glock in the BBC and the end of WW2.     





     
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: 71 dB on November 24, 2007, 04:15:08 AM
I know next to nothing about the composers discussed in this thread. There seems to be so many British 20th century composers to explore! If I explore 20 new composers and buy 2 CDs of each it's 40 CDs! What if I don't like any of them?  :P

Finnish classic radio neglects British composers. Elgar is played sometimes, Arnold & co. never.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: tjguitar on November 24, 2007, 11:04:46 AM
Quote
piece by Arnold which I think has long been unfairly neglected is his beautifully lyrical Guitar Concerto. I have a recording on the reissue label, IMP, but there doesn't seem to be many alternative recordings against which to make comparisons. Anyone care to suggest a good disc?

I have two recordings.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51FCSDT67QL._SS500_.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Z5BCH9H5L._AA240_.jpg)

The Decca is analog I think, but still good. The Chandos has his Serenade for guitar & strings as well. 
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on November 24, 2007, 12:51:43 PM
We have individual threads for some of the ones you mention, definitely Arnold.  Decca released 3 box sets (only in the UK) of his music a year or two ago, compiling recordings from Conifer, it's own back catalogue and elsewhere.  I like his music.  Chandos did 2 or 3 CDs of his film music as well, I enjoy his work. Simpson as well (only his symphonies). I'm sadly not familiar with the others aside from one piece from Leighton (suite "veris gratia")

I did say "with the one very obvious exception of Sir Malcolm Arnold...". Arnold's neglect in the concert hall over the years has-very fortunately-not been matched on CD. There are three complete sets of his symphonies and almost all of his other compositions have been recorded, some more than once.

Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on November 24, 2007, 01:04:06 PM
A piece by Arnold which I think has long been unfairly neglected is his beautifully lyrical Guitar Concerto. I have a recording on the reissue label, IMP, but there doesn't seem to be many alternative recordings against which to make comparisons. Anyone care to suggest a good disc?

As for Arnold in general, his neglect by the British classical music establishment was sickening. I forget now who remarked the following, but when Malcolm Williamson ('Who?', I hear you cry) became Master of the Queen's Music - a very high-profile but these days almost meaningless royal position - someone within the classical music world commented, 'I see the wrong Malcolm's got the job'. Says it all, really. Arnold has been overlooked for too long. :(

Regarding Arnold's non-appointment as Master of the Queen's Music in 1976, it has to be conceded that Harold Wilson(the then Prime Minister) is alleged to have confused Malcolm Arnold and Malcolm Williamson but that is probably apocryphal. 1976 was not a good year in Arnold's life. He was living in Dublin and his life, sadly, was a mess. It is a matter of some doubt whether in the circumstances his appointment would have been realistic.

It is equally true that Malcolm Williamson-whose music, incidentally, should not be underestimated-also had a 'colourful' persona and was probably not the right person to appoint either. It appears however that he was recommended by both Benjamin Britten and Sir Adrian Boult-a very formidable combination!
Had I been asked for a recommendation in 1976(as if!!) I would have suggested Alun Hoddinott, perhaps a bit young at 47 but a composer capable of composing choral music and formal music suitable from the holder of the post. It was not an easy appointment to fill at that time. There were compelling reasons for rejecting most candidates.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Mark on November 24, 2007, 01:15:28 PM
I have two recordings.

(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51FCSDT67QL._SS500_.jpg)(http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Z5BCH9H5L._AA240_.jpg)

The Decca is analog I think, but still good. The Chandos has his Serenade for guitar & strings as well. 

Thanks for this. The Chandos recording had been vaguely on my radar. :)
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: not edward on November 24, 2007, 07:36:06 PM
Thanks for this. The Chandos recording had been vaguely on my radar. :)
There also was an HMV Classics disc (don't know if it's still around, I bought it around 2001 when still living in Edinburgh) with Julian Bream playing the Arnold guitar concerto, Takemitsu's To the Edge of Dream (a guitar concerto in all but name) and All in Twilight and the complete set of Lutoslawski's Folk Melodies. Great coupling and performances.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Mark on November 25, 2007, 01:33:23 AM
There also was an HMV Classics disc (don't know if it's still around, I bought it around 2001 when still living in Edinburgh) with Julian Bream playing the Arnold guitar concerto, Takemitsu's To the Edge of Dream (a guitar concerto in all but name) and All in Twilight and the complete set of Lutoslawski's Folk Melodies. Great coupling and performances.

I'll look out for it, thanks.

But hey - let's not derail this thread with too much talk of Arnold. ;)
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: pjme on November 26, 2007, 01:18:20 PM
I've recently bought 2 Lyrita discs ( I used to have the Lp's). Really wonderful music by very talented young composers ,then at the start of their career ( Milner was only 23 when he composed Salutatio...!, Crosse  ca 26 and Maw 29....) Have listened to everything several times now.
For me it was like meeting old friends again . Milner is the most traditional ( Salutatio is moving in its simplicity...) Maw and Crosse can be exuberant.

(http://www.lyrita.co.uk/covers/SRCD0259.jpg)    (http://www.lyrita.co.uk/covers/SRCD0267.jpg)




Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Mark on November 26, 2007, 01:21:26 PM
I've recently bought 2 Lyrita discs ( I used to have the Lp's). Really wonderful music by very talented young composers ,then at the start of their career ( Milner was only 23!, Crosse 26 and Maw 29....) Have listened to everything several times now.

(http://www.lyrita.co.uk/covers/SRCD0259.jpg)    (http://www.lyrita.co.uk/covers/SRCD0267.jpg)


I shall look out for these when they become available on eMusic. ;)
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: pjme on November 26, 2007, 01:25:50 PM
OK! Sound and performances are still very good. Crosse's "Changes" would make a great Prom work! Maw's Scenes and arias was performed at the Proms ...possibly ten years ago.

Peter
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on November 26, 2007, 04:50:11 PM
I chose 1933 as the last year of the period I was writing about quite deliberately because a number of composers of a younger generation were born in the succeeding years: Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle and William Mathias in 1934, Nicholas Maw in 1935, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett in 1936, Gordon Crosse in 1937 and John McCabe in 1939...for example.

You are quite correct however to highlight these two excellent Lyrita CDs. The Milner Salutatio Angelica is indeed a beautiful work.
Some years ago I managed to acquire a Claudio Records CD of Milner's 1st Symphony and Variations for Orchestra. I have no idea whether it can still be found but these two works are well worth hearing. Milner-like Rubbra-was very much influenced by his Roman Catholic faith. His 1st Symphony dates from 1971 but there are two further substantial symphonies. No.2 is a big choral symphony from 1978 and the 3rd dates from 1987. The information about Milner on the ChesterNovello website makes me very keen to hear both works and more Milner in general. Milner died, after a long illness, in 2002.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: vandermolen on November 27, 2007, 03:25:15 AM
I like Malcolm Williamson's Symphony 1 Elvamini (especially in the old EMI Groves recording, just reissued on Lyrita). A case of undeserved neglect is Wilfrid Josephs, almost totally unrepresented on CD. I would love to be able to hear one of his symphonies (there are 12). As it is, I have to make do with the (very impressive) theme music for the 1964 TV series "The Great War" (recently issued with the Daily Mail in the UK). I had his fine Requiem on LP but that is all; A strange omission, bearing in mind we now have a complete set of Benjamin Frankel and Egon Wellesz's symphonies (Wellesz's No 2 "The English" is another favourite).

http://www.musicweb-international.com/josephs/index.htm
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: violinconcerto on December 13, 2007, 08:51:38 AM
I can also recommend the violin concerto by John Veale (*1922), Christopher Headington (1930-1996) and David Ellis (*1933). Some other composers are also still missing here..
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: lukeottevanger on December 13, 2007, 09:17:59 AM
Well, hey, add the violin concerto of Hugh Wood to the mix - IIRC from my chronolgically-ordered CD shelves he's a 1932-er. But you ought not to ignore his beautiful cello concerto either, and as for the piano one - one of the most interesting and attractive works of its type in the last few decades, it seems to me.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: vandermolen on December 13, 2007, 02:02:56 PM
I also have the Anthony Milner CD (Claudio Records) of Symphony 1 and the Variations for Orchestra. The opening of the Variations is quite beautiful.

Right at the end of this period comes David Morgan (born 1933) whose fine "Contrasts" has just been issued by Lyrita:

http://www.lyrita.co.uk/

(Under January releases "Premiers and Encores"). Morgan's excellent Violin Concerto (with which Contrasts was coupled on my old Lyrita LP), is due out early in 2008 and is well worth investigating.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on December 13, 2007, 03:45:44 PM
Thanks to those of you who have named some other composers to add to the mix!

I have read good things about John Veale's music and really must get hold of his Violin Concerto(coupled with the Walton on Chandos).

I cannot remember hearing any Hugh Wood for many, many years. I may have been deceived into thinking that the music was too 'difficult' for my taste at the time. With the passage of years however that may turn out to have been a false impression. I shall try the NMC recordings of his Symphony and the Violin and Cello Concerti.

David Ellis and David Morgan are just names to me but I shall receive the Lyrita CD with Morgan's Contrasts soon and look forward to hearing his Violin Concerto.

I should have mentioned Ian Parrott(b.1916) and Thomas Wilson(b.1927) in my original list.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: lukeottevanger on December 13, 2007, 03:50:36 PM

I cannot remember hearing any Hugh Wood for many, many years. I may have been deceived into thinking that the music was too 'difficult' for my taste at the time. With the passage of years however that may turn out to have been a false impression. I shall try the NMC recordings of his Symphony and the Violin and Cello Concerti.

I'd try the Piano Concerto first - it's a later work, but a most ingratiating one. I defy anyone not to find the slow movement utterly bewitching.
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Dundonnell on December 13, 2007, 04:19:13 PM
I would like to try the Piano Concerto but £18 is the cheapest price on Amazon for what I think is a CD single. That's perhaps a bit steep!
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: vandermolen on August 31, 2009, 12:18:03 PM
I have been listening to David Morgan's 'Contrasts' - a wonderful work, powerful, lyrical, moving:
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: Lethevich on June 18, 2010, 04:39:09 AM
I've just survived (:P) the first movement of George Lloyd's massive Arctic symphony (No.4), inspired by traumatic times from the composer's work during WW2 in the arctic convoys.

It's a very assured work, very of its time, i.e. a fully tonal frame of reference, but lacking the plushness of late Romanticism, and exhibiting a reluctance to create flowing themes - instead focusing on angular and declamatory moments interspaced by lyrical sections. Arnold's highly adaptable style, minus his fingerprint garishness, is one frame of reference, especially in his film music, and the film music of other contemporaries. Shades of "mechanical" music like Holst's Mars are apparant too in the wonderful ringing and growling brass. Based on the opening, in which the listener is thrown into the bustle without any attempt to set an introduction, I was concerned with thoughts of note-spinning, but despite a distinct lack of Vaughan Williams-esque formal clarity, the music is both attractive and engaging. Any thoughts of Pettersson-lite were finally fully dispelled by the wonderful melodic ending to the movement, a culmination of threads implied earlier on which transform into a rousing conclusion. Surpisingly affecting music from a composer who evidently knows what he is doing.

The ghostly scherzo is a welcome contrast to the opening movement, and startlingly delicate and muted compared to what came before. Once again, it's lacking any plush or folk-tinged edge, somewhat emotionally distant and pictoral rather than romantic - I keep thinking of those piercing strings in the first of Britten's sea interludes.

Still, I can't help but be daunted by the timings: 18:05, 12:41, 13:36, 20:38 - I'm not even half-way through yet :-\

Dang, I just noticed that Lloyd fails to meet the criterion for this thread by two years. Too old, George :'(
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: False_Dmitry on June 18, 2010, 08:04:38 AM
It's often forgotten that Donald Swann (1923-1994) was a prolific "serious" composer, in addition to his stage career with Michael Flanders.   A vast repertoire of songs & song-cycles (altogether about 2000 songs!),  his operas PERELANDRA and THE VISITORS, THE STORY OF BONTZYE ZWEIG, and REQUIEM FOR THE LIVING are good places to start...  although trying to get hold of recordings is a next-to-lost cause in several cases :(
Title: Re: British Composers born 1915-33
Post by: vandermolen on June 19, 2010, 05:39:14 AM
I've just survived (:P) the first movement of George Lloyd's massive Arctic symphony (No.4), inspired by traumatic times from the composer's work during WW2 in the arctic convoys.

It's a very assured work, very of its time, i.e. a fully tonal frame of reference, but lacking the plushness of late Romanticism, and exhibiting a reluctance to create flowing themes - instead focusing on angular and declamatory moments interspaced by lyrical sections. Arnold's highly adaptable style, minus his fingerprint garishness, is one frame of reference, especially in his film music, and the film music of other contemporaries. Shades of "mechanical" music like Holst's Mars are apparant too in the wonderful ringing and growling brass. Based on the opening, in which the listener is thrown into the bustle without any attempt to set an introduction, I was concerned with thoughts of note-spinning, but despite a distinct lack of Vaughan Williams-esque formal clarity, the music is both attractive and engaging. Any thoughts of Pettersson-lite were finally fully dispelled by the wonderful melodic ending to the movement, a culmination of threads implied earlier on which transform into a rousing conclusion. Surpisingly affecting music from a composer who evidently knows what he is doing.

The ghostly scherzo is a welcome contrast to the opening movement, and startlingly delicate and muted compared to what came before. Once again, it's lacking any plush or folk-tinged edge, somewhat emotionally distant and pictoral rather than romantic - I keep thinking of those piercing strings in the first of Britten's sea interludes.

Still, I can't help but be daunted by the timings: 18:05, 12:41, 13:36, 20:38 - I'm not even half-way through yet :-\

Dang, I just noticed that Lloyd fails to meet the criterion for this thread by two years. Too old, George :'(

I like this work too - best performance is on Lyrita I think. Symphony No 7 and 8 are also worthwhile.  I saw him conduct Symphony 11 in London and had a nice exchange of letters with him.