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The Music Room => Composer Discussion => Topic started by: vandermolen on September 20, 2009, 11:04:49 AM

Title: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on September 20, 2009, 11:04:49 AM
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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on September 24, 2009, 11:34:23 PM
Clearly not a popular composer  ;D
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: jowcol on September 25, 2009, 10:33:07 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


Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: The new erato on September 25, 2009, 10:40:41 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on September 25, 2009, 11:52:04 PM
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
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: The new erato on September 25, 2009, 11:56:39 PM

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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on September 26, 2009, 12:14:21 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"
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: jowcol on September 26, 2009, 03:15:05 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....)
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on September 27, 2009, 01:52:02 AM


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

Especially if they they have a valedictory quality  ;D
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Lethevich 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: cilgwyn on December 04, 2011, 10:13:34 AM
(http://img220.imageshack.us/img220/5829/scan10026.jpg)
By dinasman (http://profile.imageshack.us/user/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! :)
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Szykneij on July 07, 2012, 07:45:32 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on June 19, 2017, 12:50:32 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).
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on June 20, 2017, 05:51:38 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: SymphonicAddict on June 20, 2017, 02:39:54 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on June 20, 2017, 08:58:47 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.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Symphonic Addict on May 23, 2022, 11:45:46 AM
(https://www.chandos.net/artwork/CH10084.jpg)

Listening to the No. 6 Biscay, a work full of appealing ideas and memorable music. The 2nd mov. Les Dunes has an English flavour not too dissimilar to VW's pastoral style, and the 3rd mov. La Racleuse is simply infectious, sounds like an American dance where all people are having fun.

A pity that this quartet cycle has not been finished yet.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Roasted Swan on May 23, 2022, 12:37:58 PM
(https://www.chandos.net/artwork/CH10084.jpg)

Listening to the No. 6 Biscay, a work full of appealing ideas and memorable music. The 2nd mov. Les Dunes has an English flavour not too dissimilar to VW's pastoral style, and the 3rd mov. La Racleuse is simply infectious, sounds like an American dance where all people are having fun.

A pity that this quartet cycle has not been finished yet.

And it won't be....... not on Chandos at least.  A great shame as the McEwen quartet cycle is one of the finest/most diverse written by any British composer.   No.7 "Threnody" is a genuinely remarkable work and should be much better known..
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: foxandpeng on May 23, 2022, 01:04:48 PM
the McEwen quartet cycle is one of the finest/most diverse written by any British composer.   

+1 from me
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Symphonic Addict on May 23, 2022, 02:59:56 PM
And it won't be....... not on Chandos at least.  A great shame as the McEwen quartet cycle is one of the finest/most diverse written by any British composer.   No.7 "Threnody" is a genuinely remarkable work and should be much better known..

Sad news... the only possibility is that another record label will continue the project then.

Other quartets I find to be quite fine are Nos. 4, 13, 15 and 16.


+1 from me

+2
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Roasted Swan on May 23, 2022, 10:54:56 PM
The problem here is one that all record label and chamber musicians (especially) tussle with.  The simple fact is there is very little money or indeed qudos to be made in recording this type of music.  I know that Mike Dutton at Dutton has all but stopped recording any chamber music not because of quality but simply because the sales do not merit the cost and time they take.  For the players, to prepare an hour's worth of unknown music takes a lot of private and group practice and rehearsal.  And the reality is that almost no local chamber music societies will then be breaking down your door to ask you to repeat your recording of a McEwen String Quartet.  You might offer them a nice little attractive McEwen Quartet as a small part of a much larger programme and they'll ask if you can do "The American" or "Death and the Maiden" instead!  You can probably do this if just a couple of discs are involved but to commit (as a quartet) to learning all 17 of the McEwen Quartets is a huge chunk of your time booked out on music that is niche in the truest sense of the word.  If it were me - I'd love to play them - but I need to pay my bills too.

Frankly I'm pretty amazed we got 10 of the 17 quartets.  I don't know all of the unrecorded ones too (locating performing materials is another issue.....!) but a couple are more like "suites" rather than the standard serious string quartet.  This chimes with the popularity of a sub-genre within string quartets that is all but lost/forgotten today.  Think the Glazunov Suite for Quartet or the Bridge Idylls (There is a rather wonderful Peter Pan Suite for String Quartet by Walford Davies but that is another story).  These are collections of "character" studies which can be absolutely delightful.   One of the McEwen Quartets is "A Suite of Old National Dances" [No.12] and another is "Nugae" which is officially String Quartet No.5.  This is subtitled "Bagatelles" and is a series of 7 movmements with slightly diminutive titles such as "March of the Little Folk" / "Lament" but its rather good.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Symphonic Addict on May 24, 2022, 10:10:27 AM
The problem here is one that all record label and chamber musicians (especially) tussle with.  The simple fact is there is very little money or indeed qudos to be made in recording this type of music.  I know that Mike Dutton at Dutton has all but stopped recording any chamber music not because of quality but simply because the sales do not merit the cost and time they take.  For the players, to prepare an hour's worth of unknown music takes a lot of private and group practice and rehearsal.  And the reality is that almost no local chamber music societies will then be breaking down your door to ask you to repeat your recording of a McEwen String Quartet.  You might offer them a nice little attractive McEwen Quartet as a small part of a much larger programme and they'll ask if you can do "The American" or "Death and the Maiden" instead!  You can probably do this if just a couple of discs are involved but to commit (as a quartet) to learning all 17 of the McEwen Quartets is a huge chunk of your time booked out on music that is niche in the truest sense of the word.  If it were me - I'd love to play them - but I need to pay my bills too.

Frankly I'm pretty amazed we got 10 of the 17 quartets.  I don't know all of the unrecorded ones too (locating performing materials is another issue.....!) but a couple are more like "suites" rather than the standard serious string quartet.  This chimes with the popularity of a sub-genre within string quartets that is all but lost/forgotten today.  Think the Glazunov Suite for Quartet or the Bridge Idylls (There is a rather wonderful Peter Pan Suite for String Quartet by Walford Davies but that is another story).  These are collections of "character" studies which can be absolutely delightful.   One of the McEwen Quartets is "A Suite of Old National Dances" [No.12] and another is "Nugae" which is officially String Quartet No.5.  This is subtitled "Bagatelles" and is a series of 7 movmements with slightly diminutive titles such as "March of the Little Folk" / "Lament" but its rather good.

Record labels like CPO could embrace the project since that company has recorded lots and lots of obscure chamber repertoire (or Capriccio too). Their instalment of British string music is an instance (granted, it's not properly chamber repertoire, but it's less-known stuff).

I keep my fingers crossed even if there are no clues about recording them soon.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Roasted Swan on May 24, 2022, 11:29:59 AM
Record labels like CPO could embrace the project since that company has recorded lots and lots of obscure chamber repertoire (or Capriccio too). Their instalment of British string music is an instance (granted, it's not properly chamber repertoire, but it's less-known stuff).

I keep my fingers crossed even if there are no clues about recording them soon.

Absolutely - I have no idea what financial model allows CPO to record so much VERY obscure music so well.  I can't imagine the disc sales cover the production costs.  I can oly think that the German orchestras have some "inclusive sessions" built into their contracts which allows companies to record this material at a fraction of the usual session fees.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Biffo on May 25, 2022, 12:37:25 AM
Chandos themselves were known for obscure music one time. The very recordings of the quartets they did release proves that. Another label once again lost to the endless swarm of Mainstream and the Big Money.

I got two volumes of this set recently and the recent posts have inspired me to listen to the "Biscay" Quartet for the first time. Really enjoying it. I also have two of the orchestral works discs, the Solway Symphony and three tone poems.

I don't think that is a very fair description of Chandos - I doubt they make Big Money from any of their recordings, Their latest releases have works by Dora Pejacevic, Coleridge-Taylor, John Ireland, Dutilleux and Weinberg.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Roasted Swan on May 25, 2022, 12:58:20 AM
Chandos themselves were known for obscure music one time. The very recordings of the quartets they did release proves that. Another label once again lost to the endless swarm of Mainstream and the Big Money.

I got two volumes of this set recently and the recent posts have inspired me to listen to the "Biscay" Quartet for the first time. Really enjoying it. I also have two of the orchestral works discs, the Solway Symphony and three tone poems.

Clearly Chandos are NOT "Mainstream and the Big Money".  No-one operating in the CM field is making big money unless they are releasing cross-over material which patently Chandos never has.  I would guess that the sales of the McEwen quartets simply did not merit the work and time and commitment required to complete the cycle.  Perhaps the quartet did not consider the remaining quartets to be of sufficient musical merit?
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Mirror Image on May 26, 2022, 08:33:38 PM
Chandos themselves were known for obscure music one time. The very recordings of the quartets they did release proves that. Another label once again lost to the endless swarm of Mainstream and the Big Money.

I beg you to re-read what you wrote above and actually go look through their catalog of recordings. Chandos have never been about the "big money" or the mainstream. What would be nice is if you or any others who feel similarly to send Chandos a message thanking them. If it wasn't for labels like Chandos, then you wouldn't be able to enjoy a lot of the music that you listen to today and this goes for many labels who have had the courage to record more unknown repertoire. I sent Chandos a message about 10 years ago where I thanked them for their service to classical music. So many of their recordings have given me an endless amount of joy and for that I'm eternally grateful.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: vandermolen on May 26, 2022, 08:47:02 PM
I beg you to re-read what you wrote above and actually go look through their catalog of recordings. Chandos have never been about the "big money" or the mainstream. What would be nice is if you or any others who feel similarly to send Chandos a message thanking them. If it wasn't for labels like Chandos, then you wouldn't be able to enjoy a lot of the music that you listen to today and this goes for many labels who have had the courage to record more unknown repertoire. I sent Chandos a message about 10 years ago where I thanked them for their service to classical music. So many of their recordings have given me an endless amount of joy and for that I'm eternally grateful.
Yes, me too - I can't imagine that they made a lot of money out of Ruth Gipps, Philip Sainton, Patrick Hadley, Hubert Clifford, Bainton or Lyatoshynsky etcetc! (all of whom have given me much pleasure). Their Langgaard symphony 4,5 and 6 CD introduced me to that composer and is one of my favourite CDs ever.
I've asked my daughter for the new John Ireland CD for my b'day. I'm sorry that Chandos never continued with their Malcolm Williamson orchestral series. I've really enjoyed the new Dora Pejacevic Symphony release.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Mirror Image on May 27, 2022, 05:24:18 AM
Yes, me too - I can't imagine that they made a lot of money out of Ruth Gipps, Philip Sainton, Patrick Hadley, Hubert Clifford, Bainton or Lyatoshynsky etcetc! (all of whom have given me much pleasure). Their Langgaard symphony 4,5 and 6 CD introduced me to that composer and is one of my favourite CDs ever.
I've asked my daughter for the new John Ireland CD for my b'day. I'm sorry that Chandos never continued with their Malcolm Williamson orchestral series. I've really enjoyed the new Dora Pejacevic Symphony release.

Yes, indeed.
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Oates on July 12, 2022, 09:24:51 AM
A great composer, I think, despite the limited exposure on CD. Still, Naxos might pick up on him at some point. They have surprised me in digging deep into some lesser known British composers in the past few years.

In the meantime, this Viola Concerto on Hyperion could easily get overlooked (but I haven't heard it yet).

https://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67839 (https://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/dc.asp?dc=D_CDA67839)
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Oates on July 12, 2022, 09:44:33 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.

This was actually Walton's godson - Kit Lambert, son of Constant Lambert, manager and producer of The Who. I believe Pete Townshend was introduced to Walton by Kit Lambert...
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: Roasted Swan on July 12, 2022, 10:02:19 PM
This was actually Walton's godson - Kit Lambert, son of Constant Lambert, manager and producer of The Who. I believe Pete Townshend was introduced to Walton by Kit Lambert...

Interesting fact of the day (perhaps!).  Kit Lambert was indeed the producer for the Who.  He was deeply into the music of Purcell - especially the way (unusual for the time) he suspends harmnonic resolution.  He banged on about this so much to the members of the Who that they incorporated that idea into their seminal album Tommie.  Apparantly the opening guitar riff of  "Pinball Wizard" reflects that influence.......(!)
Title: Re: Sir John Blackwood Mcewen (1868-1948)
Post by: MusicTurner on July 28, 2022, 06:33:11 AM
Good to see this thread, that didn't appear when I did a search function some time ago.

The Wiki article about the composer
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Blackwood_McEwen

Glasgow University page
https://www.universitystory.gla.ac.uk/biography/?id=WH0267&type=P

MacEwen clan site
https://www.clanmacewen.com/famous-macewens