About this Recording
8.571373 - SQUIRE, W.H.: Miniatures for Cello and Piano (Gledhill, Tadashi Imai)

W.H. Squire (1871–1963)
Miniatures for cello and piano


William Henry Squire, known as W.H. Squire, was considered Britain’s leading cellist between the late 1890s and the late 1920s. He made some 200 recordings for The Gramophone Company (1898–1914) and then Columbia (1914–1929) and played, as Henry Wood said, with an all too scarce nobility of tone.

W.H. Squire was born at Ross-on-Wye near Hereford on 8th August 1871 and died in London on 17th March 1963. A Foundation Scholar at the Royal College of Music from 1883, aged just 11, Squire studied the cello with Edward Howell and, from 1887, for his last two years there, composition with Hubert Parry.

After Howell died in 1898, Squire replaced him as a teacher at the RCM (until 1919) and he also taught at the Guildhall School of Music from 1911 (to 1917) on Landon Ronald’s new Professional course there. Squire was Principal Cello both at Covent Garden in the mid 1890s and then in the Queen’s Hall Orchestra, which played for the Promenade Concerts under Henry Wood, from 1897–1901.

Most of W.H. Squire’s compositions are for the cello, or are Ballad Songs (popular songs on ‘homely’ themes). What both string playing and singing have in common, is the ability to create emotion and expression through the description of an audible slide connecting two notes, a kind of musical ‘joining the dots’ to help a ‘picture’ take shape. This carrying of the sound from one note to another is known as portamento. Controlling the subtle variables of slide speed, bow pressure and melody timing (rubato), as well as the colour (or ‘timbre’) of the string selected, is largely what makes string playing expressive.

In his cello miniatures Squire shows himself to be a master of emotional gesture conveyed particularly through his strategically placed use of portamento.

The musical ‘meaning’ of upwards slides is not as clear-cut as with downwards ones (which invariably represent a sigh, cry or moan): sliding upwards may represent heroic or optimistic leaps, but equally quite the opposite—a sense of struggling upwards. String methods since that of violinist Louis Spohr in 1832 advise that an upwards slide from one finger to a different one be played by the finger used to sound the first of the two notes being joined. This is problematic because it makes a disconnect between the end of the beginning finger’s slide ‘journey’ and putting down the new finger—a barrier perhaps to fully expressive connections. This almost universally accepted method was eventually labelled by Carl Flesch in 1923 as B-portamento, the ‘B’ standing for beginning finger. There were only a few exceptional circumstances in which suggested understandings of good taste allowed a slide on the finger used for the second note being joined—a technique known as L-portamento (‘L’ standing for last finger).

Not only does Squire make frequent use of these ‘exceptional’ allowable circumstances to incorporate L-portamento (such as when sliding to a harmonic or to a different string), but the time at which he was composing was significant, since from about 1890 L-portamento use became more widespread, particularly in the violin playing of Sarasate, Ysaÿe and later Kreisler and Heifetz. By c.1930 portamento of any type was going out of fashion, replaced by a new aesthetic preference for a ‘cleaner’ more clinical sound, popularized by cellist Pablo Casals, using stretches and fewer slides. Also, vibrato as an expressive device supplanted portamento, shifting the focus to the beauty of individual notes rather, perhaps, than their relationships to one another.

Thankfully, Squire’s cello miniatures, largely composed between the ages of 18 and 33, sit comfortably within this window of opportunity for portamento expression and L-portamento in particular.

This recording brings together for the first time twenty of W.H. Squire’s finest cello miniatures. Many were written with three contemporary audiences in mind: the Associated Board cello grade examinations, the Promenade Concerts at Queen’s Hall and the Bechstein (now Wigmore) Hall.

Just as 1890 proved to be the start of a brief era of L-portamento popularity, so too was it the beginning of music examinations started by the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music. Twelve of Squire’s original cello miniatures have been AB syllabus selections over the years, including eight recorded here: Romance, Minuet, Gondoliera, Danse rustique, Tarantella, Tzig-Tzig, Bourrée and Humoresque. These were all chosen after Squire himself examined for the Board between 1900 and 1919.

W.H. Squire made 40 solo appearances at the Promenade Concerts (1897–1902). He usually played a ‘set’ of two pieces during the ‘miscellany’ of concert items at the Proms, on fourteen occasions playing his own pieces, four of which are recorded here: Sérénade, Tzig-Tzig, Chansonnette and L’Adieu. Solo items with piano were useful to conductor Henry Wood as they filled some programme time and eased the pressure on rehearsal, only nine hours being available for six concerts per week. After 1904, the date of the last cello miniature on this recording, Promenade programmes changed to incorporate longer concerto works, making programme fillers such as Squire’s less important.

W.H. Squire introduced three of the pieces at Bechstein Hall: Bourrée in 1902 and Canzonetta and Harlequinade in 1903. He played nineteen times at Bechstein Hall (1901–13) and once more after it reopened as Wigmore Hall, often ‘assisting’ in a vocal recital with instrumental contrast, or playing cello obbligato during the songs themselves, as was fashionable.

Romance, Op. 5, No. 1, W.H. Squire’s first original cello miniature, written when he was just 18 years old in 1890, chooses the cello’s ‘blank canvas’ key of C major.

Gavotte humoristique, Op. 6 was composed in 1890. The Strad magazine of February 1913 reported that ‘The truth is that as a student Mr. Squire found it difficult to master harmonics satisfactorily, and he wrote this little piece to enable himself to practise them in a convenient form.’

Scène de Bal, Op. 8, also from 1890, was recorded on an early Russian Gramophone disc by S.Y. Morozov as Scène de ballet in 1901.

Sérénade, Op. 15, from 1892, became Squire’s ‘signature tune’:

It was the piece which Squire played for his first solo at the Proms in 1897, and on his first recording for the new Gramophone Company made on 19th October 1898. Other cellists including Joseph Hollmann also played it. This album leaf of Sérénade’s opening bars was written in 1895 to W.H. Eayres, a Principal Second Violin of the day—at this time in the Philharmonic Society—when he and Squire played in a String Quartet at Eastbourne. The piece is dedicated to Charles J. Ross of Exeter who was a next door neighbour of Squire and a ‘tailor and outfitter’.

Minuet, Op. 19, No. 3, from 1893, has been a regular Associated Board selection since 1923.

Mazurka, Op. 19, No. 4, also from the 1893 set, has never previously been recorded or set for graded examination.

Gondoliera, Op. 20, No. 2, from 1895, was a popular Associated Board choice from 1931–52. Fingering-implied slides are used effectively here to illustrate the pushing of the boat through the water.

Danse rustique, Op. 20, No. 5, also from the 1895 set, has been the second most popular Associated Board examination selection by Squire since it was first listed in the 1920 syllabus.

Chansonnette, Op. 22, from 1896, is of particular historical significance as an enigmatic tribute to Dvořák and his new Cello Concerto, Op. 104 just after this Concerto was first performed with the Philharmonic Society and cellist Leo Stern on 19th March 1896. The miniature pays homage to Dvořak’s larger work in its use of two melody fragments taken from the second subject of the first movement. It is dedicated to ‘A.D.’, most likely standing cryptically for Antonin Dvořak. W.H. Squire played Chansonnette three times at the Promenade Concerts, including for his second appearance there on 10th September 1897.

Tarantella, Op. 23, also from 1896, has been the most popular Associated Board examination selection of W.H. Squire since first chosen in 1928.

L’Adieu was introduced at a London Ballad Concert at Queen’s Hall in December 1896. Subtitled ‘Romance’, it is dedicated to Marian Warren, whom Squire would marry in 1899. It is notable for being the first original miniature to contain a slide indicated by the word gliss (glissando) and not simply by fingering alone. The piece also marks a move away from Augener to a new publisher, Boosey.

Tzig-Tzig, from 1898, is a Hungarian Dance rather in the manner of Popper’s Hungarian Rhapsody, Op. 68 of four years earlier. Tzig-Tzig was performed four times by Squire at the Proms and was first introduced there on 13th October 1898.

Bourrée, Op. 24, was completed on 10th December 1901. It was performed by Squire on 14th May 1902 at Bechstein Hall, together with his Sérénade, as items in a vocal recital. It is dedicated to Joseph Hollmann and marks Squire’s return to the publisher Augener after Boosey, Ascherberg and Bosworth.

Humoresque, Op. 26, also published in 1902, with its fast sautillé bow bounces, took until 1997 before being selected as an Associated Board syllabus choice.

Canzonetta is the first in a set of Six Morceaux Mélodiques, published by Keith Prowse & Co. in 1903. Canzonetta was first performed by W.H. Squire at Bechstein Hall on 8th June 1903, appropriately, as its ‘little song’ title suggests, within a vocal recital. It is dedicated to his wife Marian.

Danse orientale, also from 1903, is dedicated to Hamilton Harty, Squire’s most frequent accompanist for his recordings, who went on to become conductor of the Halle Orchestra and whom Squire later described in a BBC tribute to Harty in October 1951, as ‘a Prince of Accompanists’, perhaps in tacit acknowledgement of Columbia’s billing of Squire himself as ‘Britain’s King of ’Cellists’.

Elégie, the third of the 1903 Morceaux, is dedicated to J.F. [John Frederick] Carrodus, the son of violinist J.T. [John Tiplady] Carrodus, the distinguished violinist who had been Henry Wood’s first choice of leader for the orchestra of the Queen’s Hall Promenades, but who had died on 13th July 1895, just a few weeks before the season opened. Squire may well have been recalling the father’s sad loss when he composed this Elégie.

Madrigal, the fourth of the 1903 set, is dedicated to B. [Bertie] Patterson Parker who had been W.H. Squire’s sub-Principal in the Queen’s Hall cello section from the very first Promenade in which Squire was Principal back in August 1897. Patterson Parker became Principal Cello of the newly formed London Symphony Orchestra in 1904. Madrigal was recorded by Cedric Sharpe, W.H. Squire’s foremost pupil, in 1920 for The Gramophone Company.

Harlequinade, with its clown-like mock virtuosity, was the last of the 1903 Six Morceaux and is dedicated to the twenty-year-old [Arnold] Foldesy, who had first performed in England in 1902, and would later become Solo Cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic for the 1915–16 Season. He was known for his outstanding yet nonchalant technical prowess. W.H. Squire played this Harlequinade, along with Canzonetta, at Bechstein Hall on 8th June 1903.

In Prière, from 1904, at the height of his powers as both a cellist and a composer, W.H. Squire provides a masterclass of L-portamento use. Prière was recorded by Cedric Sharpe for The Gramophone Company in 1916.

Of the twenty miniatures presented on this recording, W.H. Squire himself recorded eight: Sérénade (1898, 1901, 1906, 1911 and again in 1916), Tzig-Tzig (1901 and 1921), Chansonnette and Tarantella together (1914), Harlequinade (1917), Danse rustique (1917), Prière (1920 and 1923) and Danse orientale (1924).

Five of the miniatures—Mazurka, Gondoliera, L’Adieu, Canzonetta and Elégie—are recorded here for the first time.

Dr Oliver Gledhill

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