Thursday, November 08, 2007

An unremarkable and commonplace work?

The music world loves mysteries. This week it is why did John Foulds' World Requiem disappear from the repertoire four years after its first performance in 1923? The Independent proclaims proclaims Foulds (left) a 'genius', and suggests suitably exotic reasons for its disappearance. These range from resistance to the composers' socialist views to an establishment cabal that banned his music because of its mystical powers. Meanwhile Leon Botstein has been on Radio 3 ranking Foulds alongside Elgar, Vaughan Williams and somewhat puzzlingly Philip Glass.

So why did Fould's World Requiem drop out of the repertoire? Here is a reason that none of the experts seem to have thought of. It is an unremarkable and commonplace work.

That judgement comes from Peter J. Pirie writing in his 1979 book The English Musical Renaissance which I recommended last week. He says - 'A similar figure was John Foulds (1880-1939), whose World Requiem used to be performed at Armistice Day celebrations for a few years after the First World War. This is a curious genre, compound of the over-sweet taste of England in the 1920s, a megalomania that expressed itself in common chords and commonplaces, and a preoccupation with Wardour-Street Orientalism or vaguely Celtic mysticism'.

But don't take Peter Pirie's word, listen to the World Requiem on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday. Or buy the Chandos recording of the performance when it is released next year.

Just another case of the excruciating boredom of pure fact?
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6 comments:

Kyle said...

Here is a reason that none of the experts seem to have thought of. It is an unremarkable and commonplace work.

Duchen mentioned that Sir Adrian Boult thought it was boring.

Pliable said...

Kyle, yes indeed. Jessica did report that.

Sir Adrian conducted the first UK performances of Berg's Wozzeck and Mahler's Ninth Symphony, among other modern masterpieces.

So you can assume that Sir Adrian knew what he was talking about when it came to early twentieth-century music

Garth Trinkl said...

Speaking of Berg's Wozzeck and Mahler's Ninth Symphony and Requiems, tonight I will try to find my Polksie Nagrania recording of Roman Maciejewski's Missa pro defunctis/ Requiem for 4 solo voices, choir & orchestra (1945-59), dedicated to the victims of all wars (and which was composed in exile in Sweden and California, but premiered at the Warsaw Autumn Festival in 1960). I recall being tremendously impressed by it the times that I have listened to it.
I've been intending to relisten to it for some time. (The on-line RequiemSurvey describes it as Expressionist. Maciejewski also wrote theatrical music for the late Ingmar Bergman.)

http://www.usc.edu/dept/polish_music/composer/maciejewski.html

http://www.worldorchestraforpeace.com/default.aspx

Pliable said...

Garth, and staying with your Polish thread Stephen Layton and the excellent Polyphony are performing the young Polish composer Pawel Lukaszewski's Via Crucis in three concerts with the Britten Sinfonia here in Norwich, and Cambridge and London in March 2008.

I'm only guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised if there is a Hyperion recording on the back of the tour.

It's amazing where 'unremarkable and commonplace' works lead!

http://www.lukaszewski.mail.waw.pl/english.htm

David said...

Interesting. I commented on my blog here:

http://davidderrick.wordpress.com/2007/11/08/world-requiem/

Garth Trinkl said...

I read your blog comment once, David, and will try to read it again later in the Veteran's Day weekend.

Some odds and ends from this morning...

I see that when Valery Gergiev led the World Orchestra for Peace in Petersburg and Moscow, in 2003, the program included Prokofiev's "Ode to the End of War". I also see that, in 2005, the Orchestra, under Credit Suisse funding, commissioned a new, fairly short work by Esa-Pekka Salonen (certainly not a World Requiem).

More importantly, picking up on the end of David's blog comment, I see that the World Orchestra for Peace's founding conductor Sir Georg Solti, in 1995 for the United Nations 50th Anniversary Concert in Geneva, wrote:

'...I picked the Beethoven for the qualities of brotherhood, liberty and humanity, and the Rossini overture as a homage to Switzerland, but the Bartok for a number of reasons. Not only is he one of my favourite composers, but he also encompasses the whole world: his music is very Western, but based on an Eastern culture.'

*

5 July 1995, Geneva, SWITZERLAND
World Orchestra for Peace

Conductor - Sir Georg Solti
ROSSINI Overture: William Tell
BARTOK Concerto for Orchestra
BEETHOVEN Fidelio - Finale Act II
http://www.worldorchestraforpeace.com/concerts/previous-concerts/5-july-1995/default.aspx