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Re: Alexander Brent-Smith
Posted by Robert Tucker on January 8, 2017, 9:09 pm, in reply to "Re: Alexander Brent-Smith"
I first became aware of Alexander Brent Smith (please note the name is not hyphenated) in the early 1980s when I came across a vocal score of his 'Elegy in memory of Edward Elgar'. I had been interested in the music of Elgar for some years and in 1971 had founded a choral society, the Broadheath Singers, named after Elgar's birthplace, which put on an annual concert devoted mainly to rarely performed and unrecorded choral and orchestral works by British composers born between 1848 and 1900. This ran for over 30 years based in Slough and Eton. Brent Smith's 'Elegy' seemed ideal for my 1984 concert commemorating the 50th anniversary of Elgar's death. When I looked up ABS in the 5th edition of Grove's DIctionary of music I was also interested to read that he had been Director of Music at Lancing College in Sussex from 1912 - 1934, as I was born in Lancing myself. The link was too good to be true and so I realised I just had to do the work. It is very much like Brahms' German requiem in style and has soprano and bass soloists as well. When the 6th edition of Grove (or New Grove as they call it) was published I was disappointed to discover that the entry for ABS, woeful and inadequate though the one in the 5th edition had been, had been dropped altogether. I decided to track down what had happened to his music after his early death. I was put in touch with Herbert Sumsion, then Organist at Gloucester Cathedral, who told me that ABS's niece, Christina Kemp had the music at her house in Brookthorpe near Gloucester where ABS had lived from 1934 until his death in 1950. I arranged to go down to make a note of the music that she had thinking that I would be able to complete the task in an afternoon if the list in Grove 5 was to be believed. To my astonishment I found a large trunk and an enormous attic full of manuscript scores & parts, diaries, cuttings books and programmes etc that hadn't been touched for years. Over the next few years I visited Brookthorpe on a regular basis and catalogued everything I found. Christina had made a list of works herself but I discovered even more pieces. I now have a detailed hand written catalogue which includes such information as orchestrations, performance dates where noted, opus numbers, performers etc. On Christina's death the music was presented to the Royal College of Music where a student made a further catalogue.
As well as the 'Elegy' I have performed 'In glorious freedom'. I have CDs of these plus the Bassoon sonata. I also managed to get the Barton Fair overture, the cello sonata in D minor and the Worcester Rhapsody performed in 1989. There are over 175 works that I know of. This includes a number of orchestral works including concertos and symphonies, a large corpus of chamber music as well as choral works and operas. There is a string quartet in B flat in three movements (score and parts should be at the RCM) but no works for solo violin or viola. However, there is a viola sonata in A minor and six sonatas for violin and piano. I think the music is well worth exploring and in the past the likes of Adrian Boult, Clifford Curzon and Dan Godfrey, for example thought it worth performing.
I would be happy to answer any queries relating to ABS and would be interested to hear of any future performances.
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