Log in

No account? Create an account
Brigg Fair [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
20th Century English Music

[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Night Mail [May. 22nd, 2008|09:52 pm]
20th Century English Music

I found this video on YouTube.  I've long been curious about the film Night Mail, a documentary made in the 1930s with music and poetry by Benjamin Britten and W. H. Auden.  I think this part is the ending.  Somewhere I've seen a clip from Coal Face, another documentary they collaborated on, and it had similar rhythmic text spoken over music with a similar machine-like sound.  Unfortunately they're both difficult or impossible to find now.

If anyone were likely to make me weep with joy over a mail train arriving in Scotland, it's Benjamin Britten.  How I love him.

And wow, the music sounds a lot like Turn of the Screw, but it's nearly 20 years before he wrote that.  Dear Britten.  He was just always Britten.

linkpost comment

(no subject) [Apr. 5th, 2008|01:02 pm]
20th Century English Music


Hello everyone!


I have just acquired a CD featuring the Piano Concerto by Edward Elgar.

As you may know, Elgar contemplated finishing his Piano Concerto for several years.

In the Fifties Percy Young edited the second movement with string accompaniment.

Now Robert Walker has elaborated the sketches to make a performing version of about 36 minutes.

To say the least, I was very disappointed. Walker nowhere reaches the great example of Anthony Paine’s realisation of the 3rd Symphony. Apart from a few bars the spirit of Elgar is lacking almost completely. This is certainly not a Concerto by Elgar, not even a concerto in homage to Elgar but most likely a concerto by Robert Walker based on material by Elgar. Moreover the instrumentation is out of tune with Elgar’s methods, a very dull 19th century affair.

Has anyone of you had the chance to listen to this concerto live or to the recording?

I would very much like to know how you think about it.


Here is a review by Rob Barnett from musicweb.


Kind greetings,


link1 comment|post comment

Sinfonia Antartica [Mar. 27th, 2008|03:18 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |confusedconfused]

Does anyone have a recommendation for a good recording of Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica?  I have the Decca/London Sir Adrian Boult recording from 1953, and I love it (and grew up with it), but it's mono.  But one thing I especially love about it is that it has opening quotations spoken by John Gielgud before each movement, and I don't think all recordings have those spoken parts.  If I buy another recording, it must have those spoken parts because I love them.


ETA:  I'm thinking of maybe getting this, a complete set of the symphonies (and much more) conducted by Bernard Haitink.  This was an excellent review of all the best Antartica recordings, and I think it's persuaded me to go for Haitink.

Only problem is that that recording doesn't include the narratives that are often spoken before each movement (and which I like).  But wikipedia says that while those texts are written in the score, the score also indicates that the third and fourth movement are meant to flow right into each other without pause, so obviously speaking the text there would cause an interruption.  So, Mr. VW, what did you want?  Did you want the texts simply printed in the program?

I read somewhere that it was described as a tone poem, which I had never really considered before.  I sort of just thought of it as incidental music for an imaginary movie in my mind (knowing that it had begun life as incidental music for Scott of the Antarctic.)  But I'm not exactly sure what is and isn't a tone poem.  If it's a tone poem, are the short texts he wrote in the score meant to be what the music is conveying?  Because the texts don't really convey much of the story at all, really.  One has to see the movie and/or read the liner notes to make the mental connection that the movement that begins with "Love, all alike, no season knows, nor clime,/ Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time" refers to Wilson and his wife back at home in England.  Or is it a tone poem that doesn't supply us with the entire text but expects us to know because it's part of culture at large?  Does that still count as a tone poem?

I know that L'après-midi d'un faune by Debussy is a tone poem, and that there's an actual specific poem by Mallarmé that it's based on.  Does a tone poem always have a specific poem/text to go along with?  I've never quite understood the specifics.  A ballet has a story, but is not a tone poem.  (Ignoring the exception of the ballet faune for the moment).  But is, say, the 1812 Overture a tone poem?  If not, why not?  What about Symphonie Fantastique or Till Eulenspiegel or Peer Gynt?

linked at musichistory.

ETA again - This review (Boult's complete VW symphonies) cracked me up.  The title of the review says it all - "As good as anyone needs - this isn't Beethoven."  No, really?  Thanks for that warning!  
link9 comments|post comment

Community Newby [Feb. 16th, 2008|03:26 pm]
20th Century English Music


Hey, this is my group! Unfortunately it seems not to be very active.


I am absolutely in love with 20th century English music. (In fact my love affair starts in the 19th century with Parry and Stanford.)


May I start with a recommendation?

Last week’s BBC’s Composer of the Week was Herbert Howells. You can listen again to the shows up to seven days via BBC’s iplayer (www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/cotw). Howells died 25 years ago, on February 23rd, 1983.

It’s a fine introduction to this great composer, offering specially recorded material and interviews.


Grace, you may be interested to learn that Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Symphonies Nos. 6 to 8 will be broadcast at the end of February in BBC’s Afternoon Performance. You probably know that his 8th (called ‘Antarctic Symphony’) was commission by the British Antarctic Survey to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film ‘Scott of the Antarctic’.

link8 comments|post comment

Dives and Lazarus [Oct. 14th, 2007|05:27 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |curiouscurious]

Long time no post!  I apologize for that.

Is "Dives and Lazarus" still sung anywhere?  I know the tune - somehow I've always known the tune - but didn't know its name until listening to Vaughan Williams' "5 Variants on Dives and Lazarus."

I wonder how I know it?  I think I must have sung, or heard sung, something else to the tune.  For some reason I want to sing the hymn "Bound for the Promised Land" (starting with "On Jordan's stormy banks I stand and cast a wishful eye...") but it doesn't work.  At least... I don't know.  I'm confused at my own musical memory.  Or maybe "I sing the mighty power of God."  Often times I think now it's becoming popular to put hymns to tunes of folksongs.  I know there's some hymn gets sung to "Waly Waly" (The water is wide), and I've heard hymns and spirituals sung to Danny Boy, The Ash Grove, and ....

WAIT!  Is this the same tune as Star of the County Down?  Dives and Lazarus I mean?

In other news, I just watched The Songcatcher this weekend and it was fascinating!  How very cool that they made a movie about musicology and folk songs.  Does that count as ethnomusicology?

PS - It's Child Ballad 56, right?  I'd like to hear someone sing it.  The words don't really seem to fit, for me.  And if it's the second one there, how do you pronounce Diverus?  DI-ver-us?

ETA:  Thanks to gnomic_noodler who pointed out that the tune is also known as "Kingsford," and in looking it up, I found that it also matches the ballad "Pretty Caroline."  Those tunes certainly do get around...

linked at musichistory .
link7 comments|post comment

...Gloriana [May. 26th, 2007|10:32 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |frustratedfrustrated]

I was just browsing YouTube and came across this all-too-brief clip of 'Gloriana' - taken from Phyllida Lloyd's acclaimed adaptation for film of the Opera North revival of the opera that Britten wrote for the celebrations of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. [A production which I was priveleged to see live.]
I wish there was more... :o(

linkpost comment

...a Britten song (sort of) [May. 10th, 2007|08:26 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |amusedvery amused!]

I came across this video of British comedian (and pianist) Dudley Moore performing his own parody of a Britten/Pears song:

link2 comments|post comment

a picture of Britain [Apr. 28th, 2007|09:22 am]
20th Century English Music

[mood |mellowmellow]

I turned on the TV this morning and UKTV History is showing the complete series of 'A Picture of Britain' - presented by David Dimbleby.  In it he takes a journey through Britain that explores the beauty and contrasts of scenery that inspired artists, poets, writers and composers. There are six programmes which tour the whole of the UK.

'Tapping in to the love of landscapes that is a fundamental part of the British character, we follow Dimbleby in six programmes that take him around the country covering the North, South, East and West of Britain, the Heart of England and the Highlands and Glens. By exploring the artistic response to the landscape, A Picture of Britain contemplates subjects such as travel, nationhood and romantic yearning.'

This is an inspiring set of programmes because not only do you get a history of the UK through arts, but loads of footage of gorgeous English countryside, and beautiful music by English composers including Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Elgar, Britten, Delius etc. 

If you miss out on the TV show it's available on DVD: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Picture-Britain-Complete-BBC-TV/dp/B000B8TJBM, and there's a book as well .
linkpost comment

The Lark Ascends... [Apr. 10th, 2007|03:39 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |pleasedpleased]

I caught this on BBC News and was really pleased!

The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams has been voted the top piece of classical music in a radio poll.
It is the first time a British composer has won the annual Classic FM Hall of Fame vote.

The homage to the English countryside is one of four home-grown works in the top ten, with Vaughan Williams getting another entry and Edward Elgar two.

Also, in a list of the Top Ten composers represented in the list, Elgar came 3rd (with 14 entries) and Vaughan Williams came 6th with 9 entries.

Elgar's Violin Concerto was the 'highest climber' - Up 148 places, from 239 to 91.

Vaughan Williams' 'Towards The Unknown Region' was tenth in the list of 'Top Ten New Entries' (at number 296).

linkpost comment

something for the opera fan... [Apr. 10th, 2007|03:25 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |contentcontent]

I know some members are opera fans - and wanted to make you aware of a website I think you'll appreciate. It's called OperaBase.

I found it via the BBC's 'Click' site, which says: 

Operabase.com is a database of all the operatic information you could hope for. On the opening page select your language - a nice touch for those not wanting to surf in English - and it is currently being translated into 20 languages!

As a database tool this website boasts the ability to search the details of over 35,000 opera performances since August 2005.

Search by either performance, artiste or company using the links in the left hand panel, then fill in the search criteria accordingly.

A nice touch when searching for names is the "sounds like" option, since you may have just heard the name mentioned on the radio and not caught it properly. 

linkpost comment

ghosts! [Mar. 31st, 2007|12:32 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |contemplativecontemplative]

Hello, brigg fairers!  I'm back.

For my birthday earlier this month, my fabulous mom got me the Ian Bostridge CDs of Britten's The Turn of the Screw.  I already had one recording of it, but it was a live recording with inferior sound quality.  (I had chosen it because it had fabulous Anthony Rolfe-Johnson in it, and it does have a good cast with excellent performance.)  I think this is the first time I've owned two recordings of the same opera.  I've wanted to for a few operas, but it always seemed too decadent, especially since there are many operas I haven't even heard once yet (like Death in Venice).

Does anyone know Turn of the Screw?  It's based on the Henry James novella which is a terrifying ghost story and one of my favorites - the story, that is.  It's about a Jane-Eyreish governess to two lovely children in a house haunted by former servants. 

I've just never been able to fall in love with this opera, no matter how much I try.  I thought before that perhaps it was because I just didn't have a very good recording (in spite of the stellar cast).  But no, even with this excellent recording, which is making me appreciate a lot of things I never noticed before, I still can't get too crazy about it.  I do like it very much, but not the way I love some other Britten operas.  It makes me feel wrong not to love it!  I think I would really like to talk to Britten about it.  To ask him questions.  Why did you do this part this way? 

Maybe I'm more critical because I already loved the Henry James story so much.  And also, the story is written in such an ambiguous way, and you can't be nearly so ambiguous on stage.  Either the singer is on stage or he's not.  With a written ghost, we depend on the narrator and only see what she sees.  (Although Peter Maxwell Davies' The Lighthouse has a terrifying quasi-ghost-scene that's very ambiguous, and leaves the ghosts to the viewer's/listener's imagination.  I wanted to scream while I was watching it!)

That said, TotS does have its moments of terror - particularly the moment where Mrs. Grose, the old housekeeper, suddenly realizes that the man the governess has just seen and described is the (dead) former valet, Peter Quint.  And I love this recording.  For the evil and melismatic ghostly Peter Quint, I adore my Anthony Rolfe Johnson, but I also adore Ian Bostridge.  They're both such wonderful vocal actors, in addition to being excellent singers.  I've never seen either of them on stage, alas.  And one thing I prefer about this recording is that the two children are played by children, a girl and boy soprano.  Oftentimes they get a woman to play the girl (and still have a boy soprano.)  A woman may give a stronger performance than a girl, but I think she ought to sound childlike like the boy, especially since she's supposed to be younger than the boy.  They should match.

This new recording is making me love the opera more.  Maybe I just need some time.
link8 comments|post comment

Teenage Britten... [Mar. 18th, 2007|04:21 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |bouncybouncy]
[music |Britten - Double Concerto]

I've recently come across a recording of a Double Concerto by Benjamin Britten, scored for Violin and Viola with orchestra. I was aware of the Violin Concerto (actually one of my favourites!), and had heard of the Double concerto but never found a recording. Then at the local publilc library I noticed a CD of it so I've borrowed it to listen to. It was written in 1932 when young Benjamin was just 19 and still a student at the Royal College of Music in London - at the same time as he wrote his Sinfonietta. It more or less complete, but it's thought that his experience in rehearsing the newly completed Sinfonietta with a student orchestra in the autumn of 1932 discouraged him from going on to complete the score (he is quoted as complaining: "I have never heard such an appalling row!"). So the score was 'realised' by Colin Matthews, although according to him there was little to do as 'the instrumentation was so meticulously indicated in the draft that what is heard is virtually 100% Britten'.

This is very listenable work - full of good tunes, great orchestration and textures and is certainly not as 'heavy' as the Violin Concerto. There are three movements: I) Allegro ma non troppo, II) Rhapsody. Poco lento, III) Allegro scherzando - Allegro non troppo.

I found three versions available at Amazon.co.uk.
link2 comments|post comment

why has this been neglected? [Feb. 26th, 2007|11:33 am]
20th Century English Music

[Current Location |Wakefield, UK]
[mood |enthralled]
[music |Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto!]

I recently downloaded a recording of a violin concerto which has been scandalously neglected since it was written in early 1900s. It's the Violin Concerto in G Minor by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor [1875-1912]. A sadly neglected English composer!

He was born in Croydon to an English mother and a Sierra Leone Creole father, and studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London. He toured America in 1904 and his most well-known composition was 'Hiawatha's Wedding-feast'.

The American performance of the violin concerto had to be postponed because the parts were sent on the RMS Titanic. It has been recorded by Philippe Graffin and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra. Here's a snippet from the notes:

'The concerto - which has only been performed a handful of times and never recorded before the present account follows the traditional three-movement format. The solemn and lyrical character of the sonata-form first movement seems to recall Dvorak at times, Grieg at others and, in the rich use of the brass section, Elgar, whom Coleridge-Taylor revered. Some of its melodic contours occasionally suggest the influence of Negro spiritual themes.'

I've only listened to this piece a couple of times but it has a real warmth and passion, and some memorable tunes. It definitely had the 'English feel' to it - and all Brigg Fair members would love it, I'm sure.

Sadly, on September 1, 1912 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia complicated by exhaustion from overwork. He was just 37 years old. Although he took on an excessive work load of composing, conducting and teaching, he still had difficulty supporting his family. When he published a work of music he received only a small one-time payment from the publisher. The circumstances of his death contributed greatly to the subsequent adoption of a system of royalties for composers in the U.K.

More at http://chevalierdesaintgeorges.homestead.com/Song.html#1 

There's a recording of the violin concerto at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.


link3 comments|post comment

Just a little something.... [Feb. 13th, 2007|09:02 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |thankfulthankful]
[music |What to YOU think..?!]

I saw this on YouTube and thought of all who proudly admit to it being a favourite!  Enjoy!  

Paul x  ;o)
link3 comments|post comment

Vaughan Williams symphony #8 [Feb. 10th, 2007|02:56 pm]
20th Century English Music

[Tags|, ]

This is just to say that I CANNOT get VW's symphony #8 out of my head!  How it lodges in the brain!!

Paul, did VW particularly favor the viola?  Now that I think about it, there is a lot of lovely viola highlighting in VW works.  I imagine that that's somewhat rare, that the viola more often gets overlooked?

And OT - I just made a banner for the community profile. Now we can advertise!  Read the profile information and see if that sounds more suitable than what it was before - more inclusive.  (And all just so Percy Grainger can have a spot...)
link8 comments|post comment

Billy Budd [Feb. 10th, 2007|04:24 am]
20th Century English Music

[Tags|, , ]
[mood |satisfiedsatisfied]

Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten is my Very Favorite Thing.  Such is my love for this beautiful, powerful, amazing, gripping opera that I want to infect EVERYONE with my love for it!  So I shall summarize and commentate upon it.  Today briggfair    , tomorrow the WORLD!

link24 comments|post comment

superb CD for all viola players! [Feb. 7th, 2007|10:05 pm]
20th Century English Music

I've just discovered a great CD of English Viola Music. 

It's called 'English Music for Viola' (very imaginative!) and features Paul Coletti on viola accompanied by Leslie Howard on piano.

The playlist features many little-known pieces for viola by Britten, Vaughan Williams, Grainger, Bridge, Bax and Rebecca Clarke. It starts with a favourite of mine - the Elegy for Solo Viola by Britten.  The playing throughout is beautiful and powerful, and Leslie Howard's accompaniment is sensitive and never over-stated.  The full track listing is:
  1. Elegy (for solo viola) - Benjamin Britten
  2. Romance - Vaughan Williams
  3. Lullaby No 1 - Rebecca Clarke
  4. Morpheus - Rebecca Clarke
  5. The Sussex Mummer's Christmas Carol - Percy Grainger
  6. Arrival Platform Humlet (for solo viola) - Percy Grainger
  7. Legend - Arnold Bax
  8. Pensiero - Frank Bridge
  9. Allegro appassionato - Frank Bridge
  10. Sonata - Rebecca Clarke
The Grainger piece with the intriguing title 'Arrival Platform Humlet' is explained [in Grainger's own words] in the accompanying booklet:
'"Awaiting the arrival of a belated train bringing one's sweetheart from foreign parts: great fun! The sort of thing one hums to oneself as an accompaniment to one's tramping feet as one happily, excitedly, paces up and down the arrival platform." This 'humlet', or little hum, was apparently written in Liverpool Street Station and Victoria Station in London, in 1908.'
This is perfect music for settling down to in the evening with a glass of wine...

This CD is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

powered by performancing firefox

link4 comments|post comment

Grainger and schmaltz [Feb. 6th, 2007|11:22 am]
20th Century English Music

[Current Location |work]
[mood |cheerfulcheerful]
[music |Guess what?]

Here via grace_poppy, so I'm now going to blame her for my whistling 'Brigg Fair' under my breath over and over again - it must be one of the most adhesive tunes I know! I suppose that's one way traditional folk songs survive.

I know the song via the Grainger choral version, which I love for its combination of his shamelessly, even self-indulgently, rich harmony with the simplicity of the original tune. (Is this a common theme with these composers? GCSE Music was a long time ago, but I seem to recall VW in particular making a point of exploring modal and otherwise 'folky' sounding harmony in his music. Hence 'Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis', another of my all time favourites, although of course that's a hymn rather than a folk song.) In contrast, another of his settings, 'Shallow Brown', left me cold although the soloist I heard (Stephen Varcoe) was giving it everything he had.

The few people I've talked to about Grainger all seem to dislike his music or love it passionately (I apparently do both!), and I wonder if this over-the-topness is to blame: it's glorious, but can tip over almost into a parody of itself. I remember singing one of his Jungle Book settings, a deeply melodramatic description of how different Inuit races were being corrupted by contact with The White Man. At the climax there must have been at least ten vocal lines, four of them tenor, with a fortissimo top C in the highest tenor line. (It was a pretty small hall too, so I bet I wasn't the only one half-deafened!) One of the best concerts I've ever done.
link6 comments|post comment

a bit of musical history [Feb. 5th, 2007|03:34 pm]
20th Century English Music

A good number of years ago now my dad's uncle died and we went to his house to sort out his possessions.  Uncle Will was a great opera lover and often travelled from his home in Dover to London to attend opera performances in the 1930's and 40's.

Whilst clearing out his many rooms I came across a drawer with some old newspaper in the bottom, to act as a lining.  This old newspaper turned out to be a copy of the Daily Telegraph dated Saturday August 23rd, 1947.

Realising this might be interesting historically I folded it up carefully and have kept it safe ever since.  Now that I have a scanner I've managed to scan each page and upload it to Flickr.  I mention here because on one section of one of the pages is a list of forthcoming concerts featuring some rather now-legendary musical names. I won't mention them here, but check out these Clippings for all the details!


powered by performancing firefox

link1 comment|post comment

My personal top treats [Jan. 30th, 2007|10:52 pm]
20th Century English Music

I think it's high time there was a community for lovers of 20th century British music (hoping it can dip into the late 19th and early 21st centuries too).

Just for the sake of discussion and introductions, here's my personal list of my favourite British music (not in any particular order):

  • Vaughan Williams - Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis
  • Tippett - Concerto for Double String Orchestra
  • Britten - Violin Concerto
  • Elgar - Introduction and Allegro for Strings
  • John Taverner - The Protecting Veil
  • James MacMillan - Seven Last Words from the Cross
  • Elgar - Violin Concerto
  • Elgar - Cello Concerto
  • Vaughan Williams - Symphony no 6
  • James MacMillan - Veni Veni Emmanuel
  • Vaughan Williams - the Lark Ascending
  • Britten - Peter Grimes (including Four Sea Interlude & Passacaglia)
  • Britten - String Quartet no3
  • Rebecca Clarke - Viola Sonata
  • Walton - Viola Concerto
  • Walton - Portmouth Point Overture
There may be some I've missed, but that gives a good idea of my taste, I think...


powered by performancing firefox

link3 comments|post comment

First Entry [Jan. 27th, 2007|08:17 pm]
20th Century English Music

[mood |artistic]

I've made a community for 20th century British composers, because they are my favorite!  I love Benjamin Britten especially, and I would talk about him all the time if there were people to listen and talk back!  I also love Vaughan Williams, and am very fond of Finzi, Delius, Grainger, Walton, Holst, Warlock... and all of that group.

In the more recent part of the 20th century, I admire Peter Maxwell Davies.

Well!  To get things started, here's a list of some of my favorite works.  I won't name the composers.  Perhaps you already know them all, or perhaps it should be a quiz!  In no order (except for the first 2):
  1. Billy Budd
  2. Peter Grimes
  3. The Lighthouse
  4. Gloriana
  5. The War Requiem
  6. Sinfonia Antartica
  7. Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
  8. The Lark Ascending
  9. Five Mystical Songs
  10. Fantasia on Greensleeves
  11. Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'
  12. Irish Tune from County Derry (Danny Boy)
  13. Our Hunting Fathers
  14. A Child of our Time
  15. The Planets
  16. Capriol Suite
  17. Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings
  18. St. Nicholas
  19. Turn of the Screw
  20. Everything from Ian Bostridge's English Songbook CD
Up till now, I've had to talk about music just at my journal, and this was my most recent musing (on Britten, primarily).

By the way, take a look at the interests on the profile page and see if there's anyone/anything that should be added (or removed).
link33 comments|post comment

[ viewing | most recent entries ]