Wednesday, November 19, 2014
When orchestras used the ash trays on their music stands
That photo shows the composer Doreen Carwithen at a recording of her music. The image is held by Cambridge University as part of the William Alwyn Archive; because as well as being a noted composer in her own right, Doreen Carwithen was the second wife of William Alwyn. The caption provides no further information about the - presumably BBC - session at which the photograph was taken, but the sign on the front of the podium asking the musicians to 'Please use ash trays on music stands' is clearly legible.
There has been much pleading recently for a higher profile for women composers, so it is strange that a new recording of Doreen Carwithen's 1948 Concerto for Piano and Strings has slipped under the radar. A CD from the independent SOMM label couples Doreen Carwithen's Concerto with piano concertos by Gordon Jacob and Malcolm Williamson - the latter a now strangely forgotten composer who achieved some prominence during William Glock's tenure at the BBC. The new recording by pianist Mark Bebbington and the Innovation Chamber Ensemble (players drawn from the CBSO) conducted by Richard Jenkinson is not the first of the Carwithen Concerto: Chandos has recorded it as well as her Violin Sonata and String Quartets. The stature of Doreen Carwithen's Concerto for Piano and Strings is indicated by its appearance in a 1952 Promenade Concert alongside works by Mozart, Haydn and Delius; back in 1952 orchestras may have used the ash trays on their music stands, but there was no late night contemporary music ghetto at the Proms. Sample Doreen Carwithen's Concerto here, and more on smoking during concerts here.
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