RAWSTHORNE'S RECORDER SUITE - A mystery solved. by John Turner

The first edition of Lennox Berkeley's Sonatina for recorder and piano (Schott, London, 1940) included the following Pubhsher's Note, dated September 1940:

"This Sonatina by Lennox Berkeley is the first of a series of contemporary works for recorder (or flute) and piano which were written at the instigation of Mr. Manuel Jacobs, by Stanley Bate, Lennox Berkeley, Christian Darnton, P. Glanville Hicks, Walter Leigh, Alan Rawsthorne and Franz Reizenstein. The Publishers are reluctantly obliged to delay publication of the complete series owing to the present emergency".

The works by Berkeley and Bate were premiered by Carl Dolmetsch at a studio meeting of the London Contemporary Music Centre on June 17th 1939, held at Robert Mayer's home in St. John's Wood.1 In the same concert Edgar Hunt premièred the Suite by Christian Damton and a Sonatina by Peter Pope. The Damton Suite was subsequently withdrawn by the composer, but the Bate and Leigh Sonatinas were published by Schott in the same series as the Berkeley Sonatina, as were the Sonatina by Stanley Bate's wife at that time, Peggy Clanville-Hicks, and the Reizenstein Partita.

The Berkeley Sonatina has now become a rightly adored ingredient of both the recorder and the flute repertoires. After its première the work received many performances from Carl Dolmetsch, and was one of Berkeley's earliest successes.2 Manuel Jacobs himself, writing under the pseudonym "Terpander", extolled the work as "probably the best modern composition" for the solo recorder. 3 He went even further: "Lennox Berkeley is far and away the best, because the most consistently musical, of a brilliant group of British composers now in their thirties and forties, which includes such names as Michael Tippett, Benjamin Britten and Alan Rawsthorne".

No recorder work by Rawsthorne was ever published, despite Schott's clear assertion that it had been written. Edgar Hunt believed that it had been composed but withdrawn by the composer, who was not satisfied with it.4 Until 1992 it was assumed, that, if it had been written, it had either been destroyed by the composer (it was not amongst his manuscripts when he died in 1971), or else had been lost when his flat in Bristol was destroyed in an air-raid in November 1940.

It now appears that not only was the work actually written, but also that it was actually released by the composer for performance in another guise, namely as a suite for viola d'amore and piano. The existence of this piece was until recently only known from a reference to it in the postscript to a letter sent by Rawsthorne to the BBC in 1942.5 A photostat copy was kindly sent to the Rawsthorne Archive at the Royal Northern College of Music by Jean Gubbins, the present director of the Midland Chamber Players Music Society.6 The work was commissioned by Harry van der Lyn, who apparently made a studio recording of the work with George Miles in the BBC's Birmingham Studios. On Harry van der Lyn's death his library passed to Jean Gubbins, and was found to include a photostat copy, of the piece. The copy now in the Rawsthorne Archive is a photostat of that copy, and the whereabouts of the original manuscript, if it still exists, is unknown.

A perusal of the copy clearly reveals that the commissioner did not get a new work. Double stops for the viola d'amore were added (presumably by the composer) at a later date, and with a thicker nibbed pen. The original instrumental designation for the solo line was roughly erased, and replace by "Viola d'amore", though the beginning and the end of the original "Treble Recorder" are still discernible. With the obvious accretions removed, the work fits like a glove on the treble recorder for which it was conceived. In two places, alterations have been made by sticking patches over the original passages. In one place the patch affects only the instrumental line, and the new passage fits perfectly on the recorder without alteration. (Sarabande, bar 16). In the other (not in the composer's hand) the context suggest strongly that the piano right hand and recorder parts have been transposed, presumably for reasons of balance with the viola d'amore (Fantasia, bars 47-52). In a further place, the piano right hand has been more or less transferred (on the manuscript) to the viola d'amore (possibly but not certainly by the composer), and the restoration of the piano part must be somewhat conjectural owing to the heavy crossings out (Jig, bars 79-83). In the only problematic passage a note below the recorder's range appears (Sarabande, bar 22), presumably by oversight (not unknown in much present day recorder writing!) but the previous bar (on the previous line) for the solo instrument has been re-written in the composer's handwriting, presumably to lead to an A in the next bar, which however was not actually written in.

The music throughout bears Rawsthorne's distinctive fingerprints, though in a deliberately antique form, as befits an instrument at that time associated almost exclusively with early music, and with the lightest of piano parts bearing in mind the nature of the solo instrument. The opening Sarabande is followed by a Fantasia on "Wooddy-cock', the tune of the Giles Farnaby piece from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, which was one of the favourite Dolmetsch recorder repertoire pieces at the time. The Air is followed by an Allegro movement whose title has been mostly chopped off in photo-copying, but is probably "Jig ", judging from the remnants. As it happens, Arnold Dohnetsch also wrote a "Fantasie, Ayre and Jigge", his being for three recorders!

It remains a matter of speculation why the original version of the work was withdrawn or withheld, and the second version never published. Perhaps Rawsthorne too recognised the qualities of the Berkeley Sonatina. Certainly the Rawsthorne Suite does not test the bounds of the recorder from both musical and technical points of view, as did the Berkeley, but we still have an idiosyncratic and haunting work from one of Rawsthorne's most productive and inspired periods, and a welcome if unexpected addition to the recorder repertoire. The recorder writing is as idiomatic and comfortable as one might expect, judging from (I believe) his only other use of the instrument, in the incidental Music to "Hamlet' (1961 Royal Shakespeare Company Production).7

I am very grateful to Tony Hodges and Geoffrey Thomason (RNCM Library), to Edgar Hunt (doyen of all matters recorderistic) to Richard Butt, (formerly Head of Music, BBC Birmingham), and to Jean Gubbins, for the information and help so willingly given when I first had the hunch.

1 The Recorder News, No.2 1938-39, The Society of Recorder Players, pp 13/14
2 Peter Dickinson, The Music of Lennox Berkeley, London, Thames Publishing, 1988, p.60
3 The Recorder News, New Series, No.6, April 1952. The Society of Recorder Players.
4 Personal telephone communication, 20th December 1992
5 Alan Poulton (compiled and edited). Alan Rawsthorne; a Catalogue of his Music. Kidderminster, Bravura Publications, 1984 (Bravura Studies No.3) p.23
6 The Creel (Journal of the Alan Rawsthorne Society), Vol. 2 No.2, Autumn 1992, Rotherham, The Alan Rawsthorne Society, 1992, p.87.
7 Reproduced in Poulton, loc. cit., following p.73

Taken from THE CREEL, the joumal of The Friends of Alan Rawsthorne and The Rawsthorne Trust Vol.2 No.3 Spring 1993
The première of Rawsthorne's Suite in its original version for recorder was given by John Turner and Peter Lawson at the Cheltenham International Music Festival on I l th July 1993.

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