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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

British Music: The Journal of the British Music Society
Volume 24 2002
Editor: Roger Carpenter
Mervyn Roberts (1906-1990); Colin Scott-Sutherland
Scotsman & Cosmopolitan: Alexander Campbell Mackenzie and the British Choral Movement; Jürgen Schaarwächter
Alice Mary Smith (1839-1884); Ian Graham-Jones
Percy Turnbull (1902-1976); Jeremy Dibble
Sir R.R. Terry (1865-1938); George Sharman
Six Sonnets in Tribute to E.J. Moeran; Jon Manchip White
One Morning in Spring - Norfolk folksong collected and arranged by E.J. Moeran.
Published by the British Music Society


Enquiries to Hon. Treasurer: Stephen Trowell, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster, Essex RM14 3DE ( 01708 224795 [also sales, special offers, Membership Leaflet, Publications Catalogue and Recordings] Annual subscription to the BMS 18.00 (UK residents only); Patron 25.00 (minimum) (UK residents only); Life (UK residents only): 225 or 2 payments of 120 consecutive years. Membership is of course open to those living outside the UK; indeed it is positively encouraged. You should contact Mr Trowell for details of the subscription.

The British Music Society does a huge service to British Music . This is especially apparent in its efforts to represent the lesser known composers and artists. I presume much of what can be written about Elgar, Britten and Delius has already been penned. It is with the margins of the discipline that this Society deals best. One just needs to look at the list of society publications, both written and recorded, set out on the back of the journal, to see what I mean [see also website]. There are chamber works on CD by York Bowen and Cyril Scott; an excellent book that has just been republished, Goodnight to Flamboro' all about William Baines and of course the helpful British Composer Profiles.

The 23 previous issues of this magazine have built up an impressive record of musical achievement in this 'Land without Music.' Some two thousand pages of close written text and illustration pay tribute to a host of lesser-known composers and little known details about more famous composers. One of the best things about these journals is the reprinting or first publication of a number of compositions. It was in an earlier journal that I first saw the score of one of my great desiderata for the piano recording studio, Greville Cooke's Cormorant Crag. From the pen of a priest his is a fine work - almost symphonic in its conception. (Axe grinding!)

The present Volume 24 is one of the most interesting issues of the Journal of the British Music Society that I have read in a number of years. It is almost as if it were written just for me.

There are articles about two or three composers whom I have long regarded as being in need of repristination or in some cases plain recognition. These include the Welsh composer Mervyn Roberts, the Scottish composer and educationalist Alexander Mackenzie and a fine centenary portrait of the 'Geordie' composer Percy Turnbull.

Recently I reviewed a marvellous CD by Louise Farrenc, a French composer, who unusually for a lady wrote two symphonies. It is exceedingly encouraging to discover our very own Victorian symphonist in the person of Alice Mary Smith.

There is a reprint of Six Sonnets, written by Jon Manchip White in tribute to Jack Moeran, which were originally published in 1948. Finally there is a facsimile of the same composer's Norfolk folksong, One Morning in Spring.

It is not necessary to comment in detail about all these articles - they are all well written and provide fascinating insights into obscure corners of our art. However a few observations are appropriate.

Mervyn Roberts is one of those composers of whom I am aware but have not really heard much of his work. Recently there has been a CD of two-piano music, On Heather Hill, recorded by Bruce Posner and Donald Garvelmann. (Olympia OCD 680 review). Yet there is a reasonable catalogue of piano and vocal music that just cries out to be explored. It is easy to suggest that this music is in the style of Ireland and Bax - but this does not recognise the obvious fact that no composer writes music in a vacuum. Roberts brings exquisite craftsmanship to his writing and composes music that is interesting and satisfying in its own right. It is just a pity that Colin Scott-Sutherland's article will appeal to the naturally curious if not the already converted.

Jürgen Schaarwächter considers Alexander Campbell Mackenzie in the context of Victorian and Edwardian choral music. I know a number of this composer's orchestral works - thankfully Hyperion have released a fair few of them on CD. However, apart from a few yellowing Novello vocal scores in my possession I have heard nothing of his choral works. Surely his 'Columba' and one or other of the Robert Burns' works deserve at least one revival over the coming few years.

It is easy to think of Victorian women composing drawing room or salon music. Yet just look at the achievements of the novelists! The Brontes, Radcliffe and Braddon for example. So it is perhaps not too surprising to discover a lady who wrote big music: the symphonies of Alice Mary Smith to be precise. It is hard to comment on their worth until one hears them - but according to Ian Graham-Jones, who is preparing a performing edition of these works, they are well worth an airing. Let us hope that when he has finished his editing that some resourceful recording company will issue them on CD.

There is an extremely specialist article on R.R. Terry who was instrumental in the revival of early church music. George Sharman considers Terry in light of his editorial work and also his original contribution to liturgical music, which was considerable.

Jeremy Dibble's excellent portrait of the Newcastle born composer Percy Turnbull is fascinating. He was not a prolific composer, but if one listens to the recording made by SOMM CDs of his piano and vocal works one sees that he is a neglected master. Maybe he is not in the first rank of composers, but certainly his music is fresh and interesting even if slightly derivative of the standard piano repertoire.

This is not only a good read but also an indispensable part of a serious British Music archive. It ought to encourage the British Music enthusiast to subscribe to this most worthwhile organisation to ensure that the music they love and cherish is promoted in the years to come. It is so important that the lesser names in the musical pantheon are written and enthused about. Life would be so boring if we only had the Big British Five to listen to all the time.

John France

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