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By Marion M SCOTT

The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, USA, Monday, February 23rd, 1920

Marion Scott writing about A Shropshire Lad

By the Christian Science Monitor special correspondent

LONDON, England – The Queen’s Hall Symphony concert, which took place on January 10, was in a sense immensely symphonic, since it included Schubert’s Symphony No. 7 in C major, one of the longest works of its kind, yet the net result of the program was lyrical, for it opened with George Butterworth’s English rhapsody, "A Shropshire Lad", passed on to an aria from "Hamlet", by Ambroise Thomas, centered on the great Schubert symphony, which was followed by Saint-Saëns’ fifth pianoforte concerto, and ended with Ravel’s "Rapsodie Espagnole", in all of which the lyrical ideal predominates. Most of them are works infrequently heard in London, with the exception of Schubert’s C major symphony, and it was a big thing for a conductor to take over the program as Frank Bridge did, at a moment’s notice, and carry it through as it stood. For Sir Henry Wood, though announced to conduct, was prevented from doing so at the last; Frank Bridge was called in, and took the concert right along to a successful issue. No doubt Bridge would have got better results yet if he had had more time for rehearsal, and in any case he still has things to learn about the different national types of rhythm. He also uses gestures when conducting which are wider than the result obtained, i.e. he wastes some force, but taken all in all he proved, once again, what a ready, admirable musician he is. If his tempi were unimaginative in the first three movements of the symphony, he secured a better performance of the finale, and the audience evidently appreciated his good sportsmanship in taking over a difficult task.

George Butterworth’s rhapsody is a singularly poetic piece of work, and grows upon one with each hearing. In it he has used the theme of his own setting of "loveliest of trees, the cherry now", from "A Shropshire Lad", and the rhapsody forms an epilogue to his two song-cycles based on that book. "It does not," says Mrs. Newmarch in her "Descriptive Notes", "interpret the poem as it stands, but it gives a kind of reminiscent impression, as though suggesting the feelings of some one who had heard the song long ago, and in whom the memory of it stirs vague regrets and longings." The charm of this rhapsody resides equally in its thematic material and its scoring, the latter being as delicate and almost fastidiously refined as that of the French school, yet with the sensuous element eliminated and the air of an English countryside substituted.

Felice Lyne sang the aria from Thomas’ "Hamlet." It is one of those songs designed to exhibit a high voice and florid technique, but otherwise totally insincere, judged as music. Unless the voice be beautiful, the technique perfect, as in the famous Italian bel canto of history, there can be no justification for singing it, and Felice Lyne only half persuaded one toward believing her justified.

In the Saint-Saëns piano concerto Arthur de Greef was the soloist. He combined clarity with fervor in his interpretation, brought out all the picturesque elements in the music, and held close the attention of his audience.

Marion M Scott

The Christian Science Monitor, Boston, USA, Monday, February 23rd, 1920

This article appears here with the kind permission of Pamela Blevins


Marion Scott home page

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