otes &Letters The search for Brian • Malcolm Arnold’s Cello Concerto • The ‘Nazi’ debate rumbles on…
Poor productions I am grateful to Richard Lawrence (August, page 91) for shedding some light on the diabolical Don Giovanni production from Glyndebourne Touring Opera that I attended last autumn. It could have been Spain that was portrayed but I was quite unaware that the Franco era was intended. I am still at a loss to know why there were rough slabs of tarmac piled up for the graveyard scene, which reappeared at the end with the Don’s dining table on top of them. I am also intrigued that with a fairly contemporary production it was necessary to have “period” instruments in the pit. A clash of ideas, surely.
The trouble with so many current productions is that you need a guided tour beforehand in order to understand what is supposed to be going on. I know many operas tolerably well; goodness know what first‑timers make of them. Could anyone honestly have followed last year’s Aida at Bregenz without a guidebook? Frequently there is an explanation in the programme but you really need this well before the performance in order to study the facts with time and good lighting, neither of which is normally available in the auditorium.
I am not sure that many productions merit preservation arnold: should his original Cello Concerto be recorded?
L E t t E r o F t H E M o N t H
What’s in a name? The welcome attention Havergal Brian is receiving through Martyn Brabbins’s Proms performance of the Gothic Symphony prompted a memory from my student days in Leicester in the very early Seventies. In those days I think the only advocates for Brian’s work on LP were the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, either with their principal conductor Eric Pinkett or their guest James Loughran, newly appointed to the Hallé. I used to spend most Saturday afternoons in the Leicester Record Library and recall one occasion when the phone rang and I overheard the young and obviously inexperienced assistant fielding the call with some mystification. In the end she put her hand over the mouthpiece and asked her colleague: “Do we have any music by Have‑a‑go Brian?” Hywel Jenkins Glastonbury, Somerset, UK
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on DVD, although there are certainly some. I am glad that operas are still available on CD so one can hear the singing and the orchestra, and then summon up in one’s mind any production one prefers at the time. John Harington Hawes via e-mail
Arnold original It’s good to have a recording of Malcolm Arnold’s Cello Concerto (“Shakespearean Cello Concerto”, it says on the score) which seemed to be a forgotten work (Session Report, August, page 44). I’ve heard a recording of the premiere performance of this revision by David Ellis and it’s certainly a worthwhile addition to the Arnold canon but it seems a pity not to have a recording of the original version. Having seen the score and had the effect of it described to me (I missed its only performance), I feel it’s a very different kind of work. It has massive orchestral tuttis and a ferociously stark mood. David Ellis has added a lot of detail, some of which fills apparent gaps in the score but which overall makes it a much lighter piece. The additions make it more palatable – and make it a work that is more likely to be performed, so we can be very grateful to him – but they aren’t like real late Arnold. Other late works (especially the Ninth Symphony) that seemed empty and a bit tragic at first have proved to work, for all their oddity. The Naxos disc will be a treasure but we need to hear the rough‑and‑ready original. Andrew Baker Staffordshire Library & Information Service, Stafford, UK
British birthdays Musical anniversaries come and go, some with a little more notice than others. Last year and this have seen the tercentenaries of two of the greatest native‑born English composers, Thomas Arne and William Boyce, but few record labels, including Chandos and Hyperion, seem to have noticed. A second recording of Artaxerxes was welcome but we still await first CD recordings of Comus, The Judgement of Paris, Alfred, Thomas and Sally and Judith, while the majority of Boyce’s sacred music, overtures and Odes remain unrecorded. The doggerel of the Odes has been commented on but surely it’s no worse than that for
8 GRAMOPHONE OctOber 2011
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