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January - March
2019

John Turner – master recorder-player

John Turner

Peter Dickinson

The author pays tribute to the virtuoso recorder player who has created a substantial repertoire and supported hundreds of composers known and unknown.

The figures for the premieres given by the pioneering British recorder player, John Turner, are overwhelming. Almost a hundred solo works; over two hundred with recorder and keyboard; nearly three hundred involving recorder and voice; and that’s before including the over sixty works for recorder and orchestra and some seventy-six CDs. This represents a phenomenal level of activity over many years and it is unique.

How did all this start? Turner’s mother was a good pianist who taught piano and French and her father, who ran a haulage service, was for many years choirmaster of All Saints, Shillong, Assam, and a masonic organist in Calcutta. Turner has said that his main influences have been his school music teacher; the composer Thomas Pitfield; and his colleague and friend, the early music pioneer David Munrow.

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Private Passions – Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen

Graham Parlett

Arnold Bax and Harriet Cohen with the score of the left hand Concertante, Royal Albert Hall 25th July 1950

The first recording of Harriet Cohen’s Russian Impressions, played by Mark Bebbington, is being issued by Somm together with works by the greatest love of her life, the ‘ultra-modern’ composer Arnold Bax, who was admired even by Schoenberg.

When the pianist Harriet Cohen died in 1967, it was found that she had bequeathed all her papers to the British Museum Library on the understanding that they should not be opened for thirty years. They included a trunk labelled ‘Letters from close men friends’ and hundreds more from a wide variety of famous people, ranging from Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and George Bernard Shaw to Edward Elgar, Pierre Boulez and Gracie Fields.

Among the collection were approximately 1600 written communications from Arnold Bax, the earliest a letter dating from 1912, the last a telegram that he sent from Cork on the Saturday he died (3 October 1953) asking her to meet him in Dublin on the following Monday. Their relationship had been public knowledge for many years, and references to it had appeared quite openly in newspapers and magazines. For example, a photograph of ‘Miss Harriet Cohen and Mr. Arnold Bax sun-bathing at St. Margaret’s Bay’ appeared in The Tatler of 7 September 1932, while another, taken at the Queen’s Hall box office, was published in The Bystander of 1 November 1933 and shows him looking startled by the photographer’s sudden appearance.

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The Resurrection of Nikolai Roslavets

Lucy Hibberd

Nikolai Roslavets

The author outlines the remarkable story of this largely unknown twentieth-century Russian composer, whose music came to be almost totally neglected during the Soviet era.

Nikolai Andreevich Roslavets was excised from the canon and written out of history only to be rediscovered and celebrated after his death. Due to this his music is less widely recognized, despite him using adaptations of innovative compositional techniques such as the twelve-tone row in many of his compositions. As a result of the socio-political pressures placed upon him by the hostility of Soviet government at the time, Roslavets remained an undiscovered prodigy throughout the most part of the early Twentieth Century.

Roslavets’ interest in music revealed itself from a very early age, and whilst in Moscow he was predominantly recognized as a composer of modernist music. Best known for his avant-garde compositional style - particularly his adaptation of the more commonly known twelve-tone row - Roslavets embarked on creating a new system of tonal organization in order to develop music away from the old system of classical harmony.

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Gerald Cumberland in Salonica: Bach before Puccini?

Gerald Cumberland

Gerald Cumberland was the pseudonym of the British author, journalist, poet, and composer Charles Frederick Kenyon (1879-1926). Kenyon was also a librettist and a writer of essays on various subjects.

Trained as a musician, for several years Kenyon was the drama and music critic of The Daily Critic. In 1901, under his own as name, he produced a study of the work of the writer and playwright Hall Caine and in 1904, a work for beginner musicians.

As a composer, his musical scores included The Maiden and the Flower Garden (1914), an operetta for children. The orchestration by Julius Harrison of his Cleopatra cantata helped the young Harrison towards recognition as a composer.

Cumberland was also a frequent contributor to Musical Opinion. The following was written in 1919, after an extended stay in Salonica, where for two years, serving in the British Army, he was virtually cut off from what one might term all musical provender.

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Take Note

Jack Pepper

Jack Pepper

I remember my first piano lessons well. Aged seven, my mother would drive me half an hour through rush-hour traffic, through rain and through darkness, so that I could have thirty minutes totally immersed in music. Lessons were broad, always covering far more than playing ‘See-saw’ from the children’s piano book; my teacher was also a composer, and never restricted our lessons to bashing keys. I would arrive at my teacher’s apartment and immediately be shown the latest avant-garde composition he had been working on; I would be played dissonant and polyrhythmic scores that saw the pianist leap across the piano. We would often finish lessons by listening to a piece of classical music; Schoenberg, Stockhausen and Boulez featured heavily. I remember gawping in amazement (and contempt, it must be said) as a string quartet zipped up and down in four helicopters. For a young person, this was my first in-depth encounter with classical music. I’d taken a bite and, fascinated with the unexpected, unpredictable and then-ineffable flavours and spices, I wanted more.

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