I happened to be dining last night with the person who persuaded CPO to record all the Humphrey Searle symphonies. In advance of that meeting I counted up the number of symphonies written by a total of 50 twentieth century British composers (from William Alwyn to William Wordsworth). The total came to 288 symphonies. Of these 288 the number neither on cd nor available to download from off-air recordings is now down to 11 (eleven!!). Of these three have never been performed but that situation will improve and the number will reduce yet further with the broadcast by the BBC in September of the first performance of Arnold Cooke's Symphony No.6.
If anyone had told me ten years ago that this would be the situation in terms of the availability in 2016 of British symphonies I would have regarded such a forecast as total insanity!
The information about the possibility of BBC archive recordings of music by the three Welsh composers I mentioned is further very promising news.
This is not only a situation made possible by the record companies-working in extremely difficult financial circumstances-but to the extraordinary generosity of a number of collectors who have opened up their own personal archives of off-air recordings to a wider public through certain forums and through You Tube.
I am happy therefore to set my doom and gloom aside for the moment to acknowledge this. But it is a situation which remains fragile. The record companies themselves operate on pretty narrow financial margins. The forthcoming release by Hyperion of the Erik Chisholm Violin Concerto has virtually bankrupted the Chisholm Trust. And although the music survives on disc or in our collections it seldom appears in the concert hall.
However.....Paul is quite right to take a much more upbeat position than did I and I am more than happy to acknowledge this!
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