The orchestral season

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

Another of HB’s yearly testimonies to the fact that, if programming wasn’t much better in those days than now, it certainly wasn’t worse.

The programmes of the orchestral concerts to be given in London during the forthcoming season should delight the hearts of the most confirmed pessimists. Not one new work, or any work by an English composer, is to be found in the programmes of the eight concerts of the London Symphony Orchestra, though attraction will be found in some works by Richard Strauss, little known in England. For instance, Burger als Edelmann (suite), an aria from the opera Guntram, and a group of songs to be sung by Ursuleac. At the same entire Strauss concert. Clemens Krauss will also conduct Till Eulenspiegel and the Dance and Finale from Salome.

Apart from Ravel’s left-hand Study3 for piano and orchestra and Cesar Franck’s Variations for piano and orchestra, the remaining items are familiar classics. Weingartner will conduct two concerts, and one concert each will be directed by George Szell, Fritz Busch, Stanley Chapple and Bruno Walter. Anthony Collins will direct three violin concertos (Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovsky), with Mischa Elman as soloist. Three successive concertos by the same soloist may prove a feat, but it is bad psychology, which may be proved by experience.

Beecham will direct six of the twelve concerts to be given by the Royal Philharmonic Society. The second concert (on October 27th, entirely Sibelius) inaugurates the Sibelius Festival. First performances include a Sinfonietta for violin, viola, violoncello and small orchestra (Weingartner), Violin concerto in C (Bloch), Variations on a theme by Handel (Brahms-Rubbra), announced as a first performance with new orchestration. This is a little mysterious, for I have so far been unable to discover any previous orchestration of Brahms’s work4.

The Sibelius Festival of six concerts begins on October 27th at Queen’s Hall, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Beecham.

The attitude of the Philharmonic to English novelties is not quite so chilling as that of the London Symphony Orchestra. Elgar’s Falstaff, Walton’s Symphony in B flat, Bax’s November Woods, Goossens’s Concerto for oboe and orchestra, and Delius’s Appalachia Variations are included. Weingartner is announced to conduct two concerts, and one each by Boult, Goossens, Walter and Wood.

The BBC programmes are also enterprising. Boult will conduct nine of the sixteen, and Wood and Walter two each. Beecham, Goossens and Cameron will direct one concert each. Modern foreign novelties and English music have always had fair consideration by the BBC: and so we note that an entire Elgar concert will be given under the direction of Wood, symphonies by Bax, Walton and Vaughan Williams, and a choral work by Holst are included; also works by Busoni, Prokofieff and Honegger.

There are also the concerts of the Courtauld-Sargent, the programmes of which are not yet to hand; the Beecham Sunday afternoon orchestral concerts at Covent Garden; and the admirable seven orchestral concerts by Robert Mayer for children and students on Saturday mornings at Central Hall, Westminster.

  1. Sic↩︎

  2. Neither have I — but I suppose the announcement only meant that the orchestration was of recent date. ↩︎

On the other hand, by La main gauche

Musical opinion, October 1938, p. 9