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8.223833 - South African Orchestral Works, Vol. 2

South African Orchestral Works, Vol. 2


Gideon Fagan was born at Somerset West in the Cape and received his early musical training at the South African College of Music, Cape Town, from 1916 to 1922. Thereafter he studied at the Royal College of Music in London for four years obtaining the highest degree in conducting. He lived in England for twenty-seven years before returning to South Africa in 1949. During his stay in Britain, Fagan held a variety of conducting posts and acquired experience in all aspects of orchestral work, composing and arranging for theatre and film productions and writing large-scale vocal, choral and orchestral works. On his return to South Africa, Fagan was appointed Manager of the Music Department of the South African Broadcasting Corporation, eventually becoming Head of Music in 1964. During his thirteen years with the SABC Fagan consistently exerted himself to advance the cause of South African music. He founded the South African Broadcasting Corporation Junior Orchestra and conducted, on occasion, the National Symphony Orchestra of the SABC and other South African orchestras. Fagan was twice awarded the National Education Department’s triennial prize for “the best concert work written in South Africa” and his achievements and services to music were acknowledged in 1963 when the Swiss International Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him life Fellowship (FIAL).

Concert Overture in D was commissioned by the SABC in 1954 and first performed in the Johannesburg City Hall. The work contains no programme and is written in classical sonata form with two distinct subjects. Ilala was completed in 1942 and in December of that year it received its first public performance in Manchester at a concert of the Hallé Orchestra. During the same month, it was recorded by the BBC Northern Orchestra for the BBC’s transcription library. The composer directed both these performances and since then the work has gained international recognition.

The thematic material of the work is founded on the composer’s incidental music to the film David Livingstone, but the tone-poem has no direct relationship with the film music. Ilala, near Lake Bangweolo in Bisa Country, Central Africa, is the African village where the famous explorer and missionary David Livingstone died while on his way back to Scotland. Some of the main themes are treated in pastoral style, while the general expansiveness of the instrumentation calls to mind the vast open spaces and the great lakes of Central Africa. The work is also characterized by very strong African rhythms. The closing section suggests the last struggles of the great explorer and finally his passing from this life.

W.H. Bell was a pioneer of music in South Africa and had a very great influence on the development of music there. Born in the English city of St. Albans, William Henry Bell obtained his musical training from the Royal Academy of Music, where he was appointed him professor of harmony and counterpoint in 1903, becoming organist of All Saints Church in London. In 1912 he left England and moved to South Africa where he took up the post of Principal of the South African College of Music in Cape Town. When, in 1919, the College was incorporated with the University of Cape Town, Bell was the first holder of the title of Professor of Music, and the first Dean of the recently formed Faculty of Music. Through his vigour and drive the College has exerted an influence felt throughout South Africa’s cultural life. Bell retired in 1935 and to mark the occasion, the University of Cape Town awarded him an honorary doctorate in Law.

A South African Symphony was composed in 1927 and first performed in Cape Town on 1st March 1928.

Alison Gaylard

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