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8.223605 - WOOD: Paris Suite / A May-Day Overture
Haydn Wood (1882–1959)
It seems astonishing that a composer whose output boasted a substantial body of orchestral works including fifteen suites, nine rhapsodies, eight overtures, three big concertante pieces and nearly fifty other assorted items; six choral compositions, some chamber music—notably a string quartet and over a dozen instrumental solos—seven song cycles and something in excess of two hundred individual songs, should today be remembered more or less by just three of those vocal items (Roses of Picardy, A Brown Bird Singing and Love’s Garden of Roses) and a single movement of his London Landmarks Suite—Horse Guards, Whitehall. It’s not as if his musical credentials were in any serious doubt. Quite simply, Haydn Wood, along with others of similar stylistic ilk, fell victim to changes in fashion and especially the sharp reaction against music which preferred to concentrate on appeals to the heart rather than the head, as it were (although, as will be heard on this recording, not all his work was without serious import).
Haydn Wood was born into a musical family in the Yorkshire town of Slaithwaite on 25th March, 1882. Although his first name was pronounced English rather than in the manner of the great Franz Joseph, it was, nonetheless, Austria’s famous musical son who dictated the nomenclature. Just days before his wife was due to produce her off-spring, the future composer’s father took himself off to hear a performance of—appropriately enough—The Creation and duly vowed that if the new arrival were to be a boy, he would christen it Haydn. The gender requirement being fulfilled, the promised name was accordingly bestowed.
The young Wood was only two when the family moved to the Isle of Man and it was here that he spent his childhood years. His innate musical talents were encouraged by other members of the household and it was from an elder brother that he began taking lessons on the violin. It was soon obvious that his skills as a performer lay far beyond the ordinary and within a remarkably short space of time, he had earned a local reputation as a child prodigy. Before his teens, he was giving recitals and, in his later years, he used to enjoy telling how he received what he then regarded as the ultimate accolade—being invited by the Douglas municipal authorities to play for holiday-makers for two weeks in succession. At that time apparently, no-one was ever engaged for more than one week. Mind you, not all members of the audience were overjoyed at this exception to the rule and the young violinist’s mother was mortified to overhear the comment “Heavens! This terrible kid again!”
Wood’s exceptional abilities were eventually given wide recognition with the awarding to him at the age of fifteen of an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music where he was able to benefit from the tuition of of Enrique Fernandez of Arbos for violin, and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford for composition. Through the latter’s good offices, he was introduced to no less a person than Joseph Joachim, who was visiting London. The great Hungarian-born virtuoso was highly impressed with the young man’s playing and, on his return to the capital three years later, went to the College with the express intention of hearing Wood once again. Another distinguished violinist / composer who granted him a private audience was Pablo Sarasate who also expressed admiration and delight at what he heard. Both men were present at the special concert commemorating the opening of the Royal College of Music’s Concert Hall on 13th June, 1901 when Wood was the solo violinist and they lent their wholehearted support to the decision to send him to Brussels for special training under the world-renowned teacher, Cesar Thomson.
On completion of his studies with the Belgian maestro, Haydn Wood embarked on a world tour as solo violinist with the soprano, Mme. Emma Albani, the most popular oratorio singer of her day. His association with the celebrated Canadian artiste was to last for some eight years, but during this time, composition began to play an increasingly important role and, amongst a number of major works that appeared in these early years were a substantial Piano Concerto and a Phantasy String Quartet, the latter coming second in the first Cobbett Prize competition in 1905. He might well have continued writing in such “serious” vein were it not for his meeting with and, in 1909, duly marrying the soprano Dorothy Court. It was for her that he started writing lyrical, sentimental ballads that were eventually to overshadow every other area of his creative output. He often appeared on the musical stage with her and shared in the enthusiastic applause which invariably greeted his songs. Although requiring little compositional effort—the refrain of Love’s Garden of Roses, for example, came to Wood one evening in 1914 while he was travelling on top of a London bus in the Finchley Road; he quickly alighted and, by the murky light of street gas-lamp, quickly scribbled the tune down on the back of an envelope—these vocal miniatures brought him considerable wealth, Roses of Picardy alone earning him an estimated £100,000.
He did not give up writing on a larger scale altogether, however. The encouragement of the BBC elicited works such as the Violin Concerto and the Philharmonic Variations for cello and orchestra, whilst miscellaneous suites appeared from time to time. In 1917, he tried his hand at a musical with Cash on Delivery and then, twelve years later, contributed to the show Dear Love, which was staged at London’s Palace Theatre with Claude Hulbert, Sydney Howard, Dino Galvani, Robert Nainby and Vera Pearce in the leading roles. Occasionally, Wood would take to the conductor’s rostrum, usually to direct his own pieces—he was, in fact, given his own programme by the BBC on the occasion of his seventieth birthday—and, from 1939, he served as a Director of the Performing Rights Society. His final years were spent relatively quietly and he eventually died in a London nursing-home on 11th March, 1959, two weeks before his 77th birthday.
 A May-Day Overture
 Variations on a Once Popular Humorous Song
A song considered “once popular” in 1927, written long before by E.W. Rogers, could expect to be classed as unknown in the 1990s. But the tune, given out at the start by solo horn, is instantly memorable. It has what all good themes chosen for variations have, a form which holds together the variations to come, and a melody distinctive enough to be recognised, consciously or unconsciously, in various guises as the work proceeds, whether slowed down or quickened, or jostled around in a triple-time scherzo rhythm. The seven variations, each one a gem, are carefully placed and contrasted to sustain perfect flow and gathering interest. The flippancy of the original concept finds itself outmanoeuvred as the work proceeds, reaching a seventh variation of great dignity. The vigorous rhapsodic finale is a movement in its own right, with the “want-to-know-the-time-ask-a-p’liceman” motif constantly in attendance often at double the speed, inexorably linking us to the original theme. The grandeur of the final climax tells us this is symphonic light music at its best.
[4–6] Suite: Paris
I. Waltz: Apache Life
II. Meditation: In the Tuileries Garden
III. March: Montmartre
 Roses of Picardy (Song Intermezzo)
 A Manx Rhapsody
The majestic opening of A Manx Rhapsody is based on Ny Kirree fo Niaghtey (The Sheep under the Snow), leading to a lively dance Yn Bollan Bane (The White Wort). The composer carries on the dance by introducing themes of his own before the next Manx dance first announced by the oboe, Hie Mee stiagh Dhys Thie Ben-treoghe (The Cutting of the Turf). The contrasting middle section presents the lovely Ushap veg ny moaney dhoo (Little Red Bird of the Black Marsh) quietly played by the strings. There follows a return to rhythms and melodies of the dances heard earlier and the rhapsody trips along to a strongly built ending.
The Haydn Wood suite of 1936, Frescoes, was inspired by the mural decorations by Miss Anna Zinkeisen which graced a famous music publishing house. This movement is based round two shanties, the broad romantic sweep of Shenandoah contrasting with the lively What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor. Clearly Haydn Wood found inspiration from these melodies, since he also featured them in his 1942 overture The Seafarer, which ends the first Wood CD.
 March: The Bandstand, Hyde Park
 An Evening Song
 Dance of a Whimsical Elf (Suite: A Day in Fairyland)
 March: The Horseguards, Whitehall (Suite: London Landmarks)
At the time The Horseguards, Whitehall was published (1946) Britain was beginning to savour the joy of peace after six years of war. Sombre khaki and “tin hats” could now be replaced by the scarlet tunics and high plumed helmets of the traditional Horse Guard uniform. The military aspect of the march is overtaken to become concert music in its own right. This march has become a firm favourite from having been used for many years as the signature tune for BBC radio’s Down Your Way programme. It provides a fitting finale to this second volume of the music of Haydn Wood who, with Eric Coates, represents the peak of 20th century British Light Music achievement.
© 1997 Ernest Tomlinson
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