Alan Rawsthorne and the Macnaghten Concerts

The last issue of The Sprat carried an obituary of Iris Lemare, an early champion of Rawsthorne. To do full justice to her it is necessary to take account of her pioneering work with THE MACNAGHTEN CONCERTS. This organisation was founded in December 1931, by three students: Iris Lemare (conductor), Elisabeth Luytens (composer) and Anne Macnaghten (violinist), with the principal aim of promoting contemporary English composers of all schools by presenting concerts in which their music was prominent. During the first six years - at a time when broadcasting and recording were in their infancy and television was unknown - works by thirty young composers were presented. Prominent among them were Benjamin Britten, Arnold Cooke, Gerald Finzi, Elisabeth Lutyens, Elizabeth Maconchy, Alan Rawsthorne and Michael Tippett. At first the series had no name, but in 1933 they were called the 'Macnaghten-Lemare Concerts and during 1934-37 they were organised solely by Iris Lemare and called 'The Lemare Concerts'. The name 'Macnaghten' was adopted some years later as a general title for the entire series.

Alan Rawsthorne's name initially appeared in the programme of the Macnaghten Concerts in 1934, when the Macnaghten Quartet gave the first performance of a String Quartet by him, composed two years earlier. It was later withdrawn and remains unpublished. This was the first occasion on which any work by the young composer had been given at a London concert. It was well received. The Times described it as "the success of this concert promises well for the future"; Christian Darnton in The Music Lover said "I shall be surprised if the next few years do not see Mr. Rawsthome very much in the front of the musical world", and in the Musical Times Marion Scott wrote: "Here is a composer one had never heard of and whom one would gladly meet again".

Other works by Rawsthorne have appeared in these concerts (including the early 'Macnaghten-Lemare' and 'Lemare' concerts in the 1930s) throughout their history. Among the more interesting occasions one may note the following:

1936 Overture for chamber orchestra (first performance, unpublished);

1937 Concerto for clarinet and string orchestra (first performance);

1956 A Rose for Lidice (first concert performance);

1964 the film, Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci with Rawsthorne's score;

1965 60th birthday concert for him, given in the course of the Cheltenhamham Festival, when the programme included the first performance of Tankas of the Four Seasons, a work for tenor and chamber ensemble commissioned for the occasion by the Macnaghten Concerts.

It is pleasing to be able to report that Anne Machaghten, C.B.E., continues to support Alan Rawsthome through her membership of the Friends of Alan Rawsthorne.

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