Royal Academy of Music Students’ Orchestra

Havergal Brian

Selected and annotated by Malcolm MacDonald

This concert on November 30th included a manuscript work entitled Ballade for violoncello and piano by Geoffrey Robbins (a student), played by Edna Elphick (cello student), with the composer at the piano. The young composer writes as to the manner born. The Ballade is almost a fulfilment, for it revealed a natural sense of invention, construction and balance. When the present period of uncertainty has been outgrown, and the composer can think ahead and continuously, he will, if he is diligent, write works of distinction1. He treated the cello in expert style. The work was well played and made an excellent impression. Another interesting item was the performance of the first movement of Dohnanyi’s String Quartet in D flat, op15, revealing some beautiful moments and refined expressive playing from the young quartet. We would like to hear it again, for recent claims have been made for Dohnanyi that he is the equal of Brahms as a writer of chamber music. The impression we received of this movement was that it sagged and had too many loose ends.

The RAM students’ orchestra has never lacked enterprise or the spirit of adventure. At their concert at Queen’s Hall on December 4th, the performance of Richard Strauss’s Tod und Verklärung was sufficient in itself to suggest the enormous advance in orchestral technique since the work was first performed in London. No one living today can be more conscious of this than Sir Henry J Wood, the conductor of the admirable students’ orchestra. The performance was unusually satisfying. As a last farewell to Edward German2, a former RAM student, the orchestra played the slow movement from his Norwich Symphony in refined, expressive style.

  1. Further information on the subsequent career of Geoffrey Robbins, anyone? ↩︎

  2. German had died on 11 November of the previous year ↩︎

Musical opinion, February 1937