I am not aware of the existence or otherwise of reviews elsewhere of the Lyrita release. But then, since the sad demise of "International Record Review", there seems to be nothing worth reading elsewhere anyway! I cannot go back to "Gramophone" and reviews of paltry length and superficiality.
Regarding the neglect of Butterworth's music in general: there were a number of British composers who shunned the London musical scene and remained within their regional base. Daniel Jones in Swansea and, to a slightly lesser extent, Alun Hoddinott in Cardiff and William Mathias in Aberystywyth were three examples from Wales. During their lifetimes this gave them a great deal of regional exposure. The BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra (as then was) performed their music with great regularity. It also helped enormously than a conductor like the late lamented Bryden Thomson regularly programmed the music of these composers. Thomson also frequently premiered British composers' music when he was at the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra (as then was). So too did conductors like Sir Charles Groves, Sir Edward Downes and Vernon Handley-all gone. In more recent years Richard Hickox set out to record as much British music as possible with Chandos.
Arthur Butterworth was based in Skipton in Yorkshire. His music was rooted in the North, in his experiences of life in Scotland and the Moors and Dales of Yorkshire and Lancashire. Many of his works were premiered in Huddersfield and Slaithwaite.
Times change however. Once these composers have passed on their music appears to quite rapidly become neglected. Without a conductor-champion-and there are no equivalents today to the Thomsons, Groves, Downes, Handleys etc of yesteryear-the music stands a real danger of becoming forgotten except by a few aficianados. Where would Havergal Brian be today were it not for Robert Simpson at the BBC, Malcolm MacDonald's books and articles, and the Havergal Brian Society?
I have remarked before about the situation in which the music of Peter Racine Fricker and Iain Hamilton was largely forgotten after they departed these shores for work at American universities. Hailed as the towering figures of their generation and the great hopes for the future of British music they found themselves largely ignored. When Hamilton returned to the U.K. to find his music no longer being regularly performed he became extremely bitter.
The arbiters of musical taste-BBC producers, music critics, orchestral management-are fickle. I suspect that there are many who have never heard of or have never listened to much if any of these composers' music. I suspect that there are many British music lovers whose broad knowledge of the repertoire is superior to that of many professional musicians. And those professional pianists, violinists, cellists (like Raphael Wallfisch, to pick one example) who do know the broad repertoire have enormous difficulty in persuading orchestral managements to allow them to perform "unknown" British concertos and even greater difficulty in persuading record companies to record these...unless they can come up with a source of substantial external financial support.
I fear that this a subject on which I have written too much (again!) and have ranted too often in the past. One should not despair or give up too much hope. After all, Dutton and Lyrita have done and are continuing to do sterling work under difficult circumstances and the Lyrita Richard Itter Collection promises to fill in so many gaps in the repertoire, albeit with BBC recordings from decades gone past. Even if therefore the music of these neglected British composers seldom surfaces in the concert hall at least we can listen to them in the comfort of our own homes.
« Back to index | View thread »
Thank you for taking part in the MusicWeb International Forum.
Len Mullenger - Founder of MusicWeb