A Cunning Blog

Long words. Short words. Words that say something.


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Oh no! Nono!

Cross posted from my Unbound Page, where there are details of the book I’m researching on Dartington International Summer School of Music.

A letter from William Glock to John Amis, dated July 1962

Dear Johnny

The worst has happened. I’ve been trying desperately to get in touch with you.

Nono has finished his piece.

I think he stayed away from Darmstadt (‘ill’) in order to finish it, and anyway I feel we must do our best to put it on.

But… It’s for soprano, viola, cello, d.b., celesta, keyboards, 1 tam-tam, 12 crotales covering all 12 semitones – but the exact pitch I don’t know; are you an authority on crotales? If Gigi’s letter (sent apparently 5 days ago) reaches me tomorrow morning I’ll let you know.

‘Gigi’ is Luigi Nono, Italian avant-garde composer, disciple of Schoenberg and Webern, central figure of the notorious ‘Darmstadt School’, (a term which he coined in a 1958 lecture).

Nono’s only published work for 1962 is Canti di vita e d’amore: sul ponte di Hiroshima. It’s not clear what work that Glock was referring to and, in the end, the ‘new work’ listed in the program didn’t happen. But the soprano mentioned below, Dorothy Devow, was at Dartington that year at the same time as Nono, and gave the premiere of Canti at the Edinburgh Festival at the end of August, with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Performers: (1) D. Devow – cd she be asked to come down earlier, to learn her part? L. N. will bring the material with him on Friday.

(2) Nono will conduct

(3) students can play the cymbals, tam-tam, crotales (6 players). Also the celeste – but this presumably has to be hired. Cd it be put on the Steinway truck?

Sorry to spring this all on you; the news came at 11.55pm last night.

Menuhin: $200. It seems reasonable.

Much love,

W

Re:- the crotales. There are cr. graves and aigues, if no more; so we better wait. I’ll phone.

Did Nono and Devow rehearse at Dartington? Did the students work out the crotales? And who were these students? It was quite a class: Peter Maxwell-Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett, Harrison Birtwistle, Hugh Wood, Robert Saxton, Brian Elias, Alexander Goehr, Cornelius Cardew, Nick Maw and Susan Bradshaw among them. Nono taught in Italian, with Max as interpretor. He was an iconoclast, an ardent communist and hard taskmaster. His other claim to fame, at Dartington at least, was his refusal to shake hands with Benjamin Britten, on artistic grounds.

Can anyone out there enlighten me on what work William was talking about? And do you think it’s reasonable to pay Yehudi Menuhin $200?

I’m off to have another rummage… And you can too if you chip in to my book project. It’s now funding at Unbound. Let’s make this thing happen!

 


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Rummagining

Digging through an archive is a bit like piecing together a puzzle. Most of the bits are there, but they need putting together, and once you have put them together you realise that something is missing. It’s like the yarning, cryptic crosswords and QI (mixed in with a fair amount of drudgery.) But every so often things fit together in new and exciting ways.

I was intrigued to find out more about early performances of Le Marteau sans Maitre. Yes, I know, nasty modern music, but that was a big part of the Summer School. You could have your Mozart and Schubert, but you needed to listen to something written yesterday too.

Pierre Boulez’s notorious work was first performed in 1955 at the ISCM Festival in Baden-Baden but I was pretty sure its first UK performance was at Dartington.

To the archive!

First, a photo: 59.42

I can make out “Boulez” and Le Marteau sans maitre, but not much else. It’s a picture of Ilona Halberstadt, a film producer and scholar, who later founded “Pix” magazine. She was also involved with Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra in the 60s.

Then here’s the concert programme:IMG_5024

August 9th, 1959 it says, in my father’s handwriting. I can almost smell the roneo ink.

And then, by recent happenstance, an introduction to the fearless conductor, John Carewe, who agreed to dredge his memory for that performance. Here’s what he remembers:
“The idea of doing it was mine. William [Glock] was enthusiastic. I had been in Paris studying with Messiaen and Boulez (I think 1956/7). I guess I gave my first concert (RFH recital room, based round 2 performances of Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No 1) in Jan 1958 and William invited us to Dartington. Of course I knew Le Marteau and loved it and its challenges, hence my desire to do it..
There was a new printed version available. We started rehearsals about 7 months before that August. We had one session together (after which we sacked the percussionist and Richard Rodney Bennett took over the part). After that I took lots of rehearsals with one, two or three players. There was no guitarist at that time who could have played it so Cornelius Cardew learnt to play guitar! All the others were young professionals intrigued by the problems. In Dartington we rehearsed from 9.00 am to late evening for 5 or 6 days before the performance. I guess we got travel, bed and food and possibly £10 each for all that work.  But we loved it!”

Here’s a (terrible) picture of them rehearsing.59.98

Now I’m hoping to find someone who remembers hearing it for the first time.

Could that be you? Do get in touch!

 

This is a cross post from my Unbound updates page. Unbound is the game-changing publisher which finds authors with something to say then uses crowd-funding to make it happen. There are more details of my book, Sanctuarya pictorial history of Dartington International Summer School, over there, and that’s where to go if you want to get updates on what I’m finding out and pledge your support by signing up to get a copy when it comes out next year. (Go on, you know you want to!) If you’ve already signed up, thank you thank you thank you,  and do take another look because Unbound’s just relaunched a bright and shiny (and pink) new site.

 


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Drumroll please…

Are you ready?

countdown

https://unbound.com/books/sanctuary

I’m thrilled and not a little bit nervous to announce my new book, Sanctuary, a history of Dartington International Summer School in words and pictures.

You may have gathered from that something was in the pipeline. I’ve been spending time revisiting my alma mater, and rummaging through the cardboard boxes in my father’s study, which contain the archives of the Summer School. Let me tell you, there’s gold in there. Photos, letters, diaries, programs, dating back to the very first Summer School at Bryanston in 1948.

IMG_3426 (1)The Summer School archive is the subject of my studies for a doctorate at UTS. It will become a thesis and a collection of stories, probably using lots of long words and stuff. In the mean time, however, I’ve been looking into how to get the fascinating contents of those boxes out to a wider audience. Now, thanks to UK publisher Unbound, I am delighted to launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for the picture book.

https://unbound.com/books/sanctuary

Ah. Yes. Sorry. You have just been sucked into yet another crowd-funding campaign. But why do I feel the need to apologize? A book about a summer school where composers and performers and students and listeners gorged themselves on music and ideas was never going get a twentieth-century publishing deal. So I’ve gone for the eighteenth-century publishing model, with a twenty-first century spin. If Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens can fund their books by advance sales, so can I, especially with the help of Unbound!hall

IMG_3493

Conducting Course, 1983

Over the next year I’ll be writing words, compiling photos and working with designers to create a beautiful picture book to celebrate the Summer School’s 70th birthday. I’ll be blogging about my progress and showing you some of the goodies along the way. And if you like what you see, I hope you’ll sign up to buy a copy of the book.

You can also show your support in non-financial ways. Cups of tea, glasses of wine, a big grin or a stern word when I’m doing the ironing instead of writing, all welcome. Or if you’re not close enough to make me a cup of tea, you could help a great deal by passing this on to anyone you know who might be interested. You know the drill: reblog, retweet, email, whisper secrets, gossip salaciously, dance naked down the street shouting ‘buy Harriet’s book!’. Well maybe. Anything to get the word out.

That link again:

https://unbound.com/books/sanctuary

Go on. Click. You know you want to.

xxx


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Conduct becoming

First concert for the Dartington Festival Orchestra last night, with this year’s crop of student conductors. It was an all-Beethoven program, with Joanna MacGregor clocking up her third concert in as many days in the Triple Concerto, with (equally frantic) Adrian Brendel (cello) and Chloe Hanslip (violin), and a changeover on the podium for every movement.

Conducting Course, 1983

Conducting Course, 1983 (Photo: Charles Davis, Summer School Foundation Archive)

Two hours earlier, I’d been sitting on the grass exchanging memories with a couple of DFO legends. It’s 25 years since I last played in the conductors’ orchestra, back in 1989, when Diego Masson was running the course. It was bloody hard work then, as I’m sure it is now. An opera, a choir concert, a couple of orchestral concerts, and deciphering the more or less vague gestures of rookie stickhandlers. Some of them were good. Very very good. Joyously good. Others were very, very bad. Viola player Nicky Hocking (now Smith) reminded me of the nicknames we used to give those poor lambs to the slaughter. Who could forget ‘Brown Jumper’? Or ‘Branston Pickle’? Or ‘the Surrey Fascist’?

To give them their due, it’s a tough gig for the conductors too. I imagine it’s not unlike a student teacher standing in front of a class of thirteen year olds. Except that the class is made up of 55 professional musicians who may or may not have hangovers but certainly have no time for fools. The viola section, led by the legendarily foul-mouthed Peter Gumbley, backed up by the razor tongue of Nicola, were particularly intimidating. Some of the students rose to the occasion. Some we broke.

The 2016 batch mostly scrubbed up well last night. I was particularly impressed by Australian conductor of the first movement of the concerto, who beamed across the orchestra, inciting not just notes, but perhaps even joy. The band also did well, dealing with some — dare I say it — unreasonably brisk tempi in Symphony No. 7. As for the concerto, the soloists soared out from the crowded stage, with Hanslip finding a thrilling clarity to her top register.

tango1

Martynas Levickis rehearsing for Tango Nuevo with Joanna MacGregor and Adrian Brendel

Then a late night concert from Lithuanian accordion star, Martynas Levickis. The Accordion is not everyone’s go-to instrument for musical bliss but, in the hands of Levickis, it may yet become one. He’s a natural communicator and an astonishing performer who had me grinning broadly through music by Bach, Rossini and Levickis himself, and gripped by Sofia Gubaidulina’s De Profundis. 

The future has buttons and bellows.


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From the archive: behind closed doors

A guest post from Jeremy Wilson, archivist to Dartington International Summer School

Being a Trog gives particular insights into the character and personality of artists, never more so than in the green room. Before going on stage some are quiet and withdrawn, some calm and relaxed, while others are unnaturally boisterous.

After the performance their behaviour may be even more revealing. When the violinist Henryk Scherying came off after a particularly long recital the Trog, offering him a glass, said, “you must feel tired after that…” The arrogant Szerying replied, “Does a High Priest feel tired after saying mass?”

A program from 1961. (Dad has all of them).

Coming off the platform for some it is elation, some ‘glad it’s over,’ other quietly content. One evening when a Trog commented on the beautiful encore that Paul Tortelier had just played he replied, “Ah oui. Mais comme l’amour c’est trop court.”

After a performance people can be quite angry with themselves or others. Quite often quartets or duos would come off arguing. The singer Mary Thomas, having performed a lesser composer’s imitation of John Cage’s Aria, stormed into the green room with a black face, hurled the score across the room – “RUBBISH” – then turned round with the sweetest smile on her face and went out to receive her applause.

Then there is the unpredictable. One day, in the early years at Bryanston, Elizabeth Schumann was waiting to go on stage to give a lecture and I, aged 19, was her attendant Trog. The previous lecture, John Clements speaking on the Chorus in Opera, was concluding with a record of the waltz from Gounod’s Faust. “Ah, Wunderbar!” cried Schumann, as she grabbed hold of me and waltzed all round the room with me. I subsequently begged that disc off John Clements and still have it to this day.


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The Best Present

It all started about a year ago. My brother, organised and thoughtful as ever, emailed me looking for suggestions for our father’s 80th birthday.

James and Jacobs Pillow

Bassoonist’s son in Dartington Hall Gardens

After listening politely to my hopeless ideas, he said, “Shouldn’t we get someone to write a piece of music?” Not only that, but he gave John Woolrich a call and the next thing I know, the Dartington brochure comes out with a concert including a new work by Gordon Crosse dedicated to Jeremy Wilson, archivist to the Summer School. Which is how I came to be in the Dartington Hall Gardens on a beautiful summer’s afternoon this August.

I say it started a year ago. It actually started way back in 1951, when my father, a student at Bryanston School, got involved in one of Europe’s post-war cultural rebuilding efforts, a summer school of music run by William Glock. The summer school moved to Dartington Hall in 1953 and has been there ever since, and my father has been a constant presence.

He’s been an audience member, a trog*, a member of the management council and, now, archivist. His collection of photos, programs, the ‘daily’ and the ‘weekly’ are a real treasure trove. His memories are even richer. Moving harpsichords for George Malcolm, defending the Steinway in the Great Hall from being ‘prepared’, waltzing with Elizabeth Schumann and in later years, propping up the bar with Peter Sculthorpe and Wilfrid Mellers, three surprisingly non-grumpy old men of music. This year, even at the age of 80, he was still much in demand. (Good bassoonists are always hard to come by).

His involvement with Dartington Summer School has been the foundation of my musical life. My whole life, in fact, given that he met my mother at Dartington. My first Summer School was at five months, my last at about 23. So I’ve done 24 summer schools. But my father has done a great many more.

So on 19th August me, my brother, my dad and many summer school attendees heard the premiere of  Ambleside Air, a new work for bassoon, by Gordon Crosse, commissioned by the Summer School in honour of their archivist, Jeremy Wilson. Bassoonist Sarah Burnett performed it twice, brilliantly. Now my father is learning it himself (having typed the manuscript copy into his computer – “don’t like Sibelius, much prefer music publisher…”)

Great joy all round. So if anyone is trying to think of a good present for a friend or relative, ageing or otherwise, please consider commissioning a piece of music. It doesn’t clutter up the house and it keeps on giving.

*A trog (or troglodyte) was George Malcolm’s nickname for the team of stage managers.