About this Recording
8.557752 - ENGLISH STRING MINIATURES, Vol. 5
English  German 

English String Miniatures, Volume 5

 

Pamela Harrison was born and brought up in Kent before studying at the Royal College of Music with Gordon Jacob (composition) and Arthur Benjamin (piano). In 1943 she married the cellist Harvey Phillips, and her Suite for Timothy was written for the first birthday of her son five years later. Her main interest always lay in chamber music, and so this suite is one of only a handful written outside this area, others being a piano concertante, and settings for tenor and strings of Baudelaire, Dowson, Herrick and Thomas.

Francis Chagrin was born Alexander Paucker in Romania, picking up his new name en route to England via France. In 1943, in London, he founded the Committee (later Society) for the Promotion of New Music which gave first performances of many works by composers, both leading and less well known. His own compositions included two completed symphonies, much chamber music, songs and concertante works, including a Romanian Rhapsody for Larry Adler, film scores, including The Colditz Story, An Inspector Calls, and the many Hoffnung music cartoons made by Halas and Batchelor, and television series, including The Four Just Men. The Renaissance Suite is practically scored for 'string orchestra (and/or wind quartet)' and consists of versions of anonymous sixteenth and seventeenth century pieces. The Gagliarda section is particularly striking with its irregular phrase lengths, while the whole is a happy mix of the authentic and the modern day.

Percy Eastman Fletcher was born in Derby and with a practical experience of playing violin, piano and organ, spent a great part of his life as a West End musical director at various theatres, culminating at His Majesty's from 1915 until his death. One of his earliest successes there was the long-running Chu Chin Chow. His own music covers songs, choruses. and orchestral miniatures and suites. He wrote at least two brass band classics that remain in the repertory, are regularly wheeled out for contests and stand up well against later examples from more distinguished hands. However, the vast majority of his output, apart from the perennial Bal Masqué, remains unheard. The Folksong and Fiddle Dance, curiously subtitled 'suite', is a succinct diptych of charm and vitality that has a freshness and spontaneity that marks so much of his music.

Paul Lewis was born in Brighton, and spurned university and music college to make his own way as a composer, gaining his first television score at the age of twenty. Since then he has continued to write prolifically for the medium, most notably with Arthur of the Britons, and more recently, with Woof! and Bernard's Watch. Suite navarraise was written after a holiday in the French Basque region, and was inspired by the birth there in 1553 of Henri de Navarre, later Henri IV of France. In the final stage of pregnancy, his mother made a long and arduous journey to the ducal seat of Pau, singing all the way to the unborn child to imbue him with her spirit. In Arrive à Pau we hear flourishes as the procession approaches, and a folksong-like melody as the mother-to-be arrives, still singing. Berceau d'un prince refers to the ancient turtle shell, preserved in the chateau at Pau which was Henri's cradle. Le vert galant was the nickname, highly suggestive in colloquial French, given to Henri as he grew into an enthusiastic womaniser. Appropriately, the movement is marked Allegro vigoroso.

Albert Cazabon was born in London, the son of one Alphonse Cazaubon, a French violinist and Director of Music at the Carmelite Church in Kensington Church Street. A child prodigy on the violin from the age of four, he later studied in Paris and London with, among others, Gustav Holst. He worked as a conductor and arranger (he was music director at the Everyman Theatre, Hampstead) including for silent films. Through his wife, a one-time next-door neighbour and childhood friend of Percy Grainger, he went to Australia to work as music director at Sydney's Prince Edward Theatre, after Basil Cameron had turned the job down, even writing a song for the grand opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932. Back in England after the War, he directed music at Stratford in the 1940s, and in the 1950s gave regular BBC broadcasts with his own orchestra. The Giocoso probably dates from this period, since he was known to have made an arrangement for small orchestra in 1955 at the request of Billy Mayerl.

Thomas Roseingrave was a gifted organist, employed at St George's, Hanover Square, and a composer whose career went downhill after a failed love affair with a pupil. His style was distinctly daring, and too harmonically harsh for his contemporaries. Not for him the national style of Handel or the Scarlattis, but rather a development of the more chromatic Purcell fantasias and the Elizabethan madrigalists. It is therefore no great surprise to find that this nonconformist attitude found a sympathetic resonance with the twentieth-century composer, Humphrey Searle, onetime pupil of Anton Webern. For the bicentenary of Roseingrave's death in 1966, Searle took three movements from a set of fifteen voluntaries and fugues for organ or harpsichord, and scored them for string orchestra. It may also have been a nod in the direction of his teacher's transcriptions of Bach, although Searle's treatment of eighteenth-century music is, dare one say, a great deal more conformist.

John Ireland was born in Cheshire to literary parents, and entered the Royal College of Music at the age of fourteen, teaching there himself from 1913 to 1939. A pupil of Stanford, his output included over ninety songs, many delicate piano miniatures, and a small number of orchestral works. Of the latter, those scored only for strings contain some of his most eloquent music. The Concertante Pastorale is wholly original, but others stemmed from different sources – The Holy Boy [English String Miniatures, Vol. 2, Naxos 8.555068], the third of his four preludes for piano, and the present Downland Suite from a brass band work commissioned as a competition test-piece in 1932. Nine years later Ireland began to make a string version, but finished only the two central movements before fleeing his Channel Islands home ahead of the invading Germans. He seemed to lose interest in the project and the work was completed in 1978 by his pupil, Geoffrey Bush. Several changes were made in the transcription. The Prelude and Minuet were shortened and the Elegy expanded. The theme of this last movement is heard once more at the climax of the final Rondo, again subtly altered.

Philip Lane


Close the window