Allies All - II
A glance at our Letters pages in this issue will show that Mark Doran's recent plea in his Music Matters column for the preservation of off-air recordings has struck a responsive chord in a number of our readers, many of whom have been surprised at the failure of the BBC to retain copies of broadcasts from as recently as thirty or so years ago. Mark's plea was prompted by the apparent disappearance, after his death, of the late Harold Truscott's personal collection of such broadcasts.
Truscott was a remarkable man, a phenomenal musician who was never a part of the higher musical establishment. He was an inspiring teacher, who acquired a detailed knowledge of all kinds of composers, including those out of fashion (where some have so remained).
For example, the music Erich Wolfgang Korngold wrote in Hollywood after his family fled from Austria in 1938 enhanced many famous films, but the extent of his genius in this field eluded many; Truscott, on hearing that a new film contained music by Korngold, would pack sandwiches and a thermos of tea, go to the cinema and sit through the consecutive showings of the film all day. He would not always watch but would sit with his eyes closed, absorbing the music and appreciating the complete mastery of its composition, until his knowledge of Korngold's work reached a level greater than that of any other musician.
In the '40s and '50s, Korngold's concert and operatic music was almost completely ignored; today, it seems, barely a month goes by without a new recording or concert performances of Korngold's music, and in this issue, we carry a detailed report on the major new production in Kaiserlauten of Korngold's fourth opera, Das Wunder der Heliane, by the composer's leading authority and biographer, Brendan Carroll.
Korngold was a boy prodigy (The Last Prodig/ is the title of Brendan Carroll's biography) whom Gustav Mahler described as 'a genius' when he was only eight years old; in our on-going series of Mahler Studies, marking the composer's twin commemorative years 2010-1 1, we juxtapose critical commentaries on 'Mahler Then (1914) and Now (2010)'. Iin this year's BBC Proms we have heard Mahler's re-orchestration of Schumann's Manfred Overture. In the event, as we report in the next issue in our extensive Proms season coverage, this rather unconvincing make-over on Mahler's part nonetheless showed his commitment to a composer whose orchestral music was in danger of becoming unfashionable; in our own commemorative features on the Schumann bicentenary, we have an important article on Schumann's little-known love-child, and a consideration of the role of the piano in his concertante works featuring that instrument. Returning to Mahler, Mark Doran posits a view of his influence on American popular music which had intrigued a number of musicians of earlier generations - including Deryck Cooke and Hans Keller (of whom more next year) - an influence which was not so far-fetched as might at first be expected.
This year's BBC Proms programmes feature another branch of American popular music - 'musical theatre' as it is known - with a Stephen Sondheim 80th birthday concert (In this issue, we consider if Sondheim's theatre pieces can make good cinema). …