Maggie Hamilton - EditorFrom the current issue of Choir & Organ
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM*
Writing this with summer festival season well under way, it is heartening to note that, despite the slings and arrows of outrageous financial fortune in the arts world, there is still a steady stream of new music being commissioned. Choir & Organ
is a great supporter of new music in our features, reviews and news: apart from our own New Music series, this issue we preview a choral work by Thea Musgrave, to be premiered in the City of London Festival.
But though concert organisers may be willing to programme a premiere, it seems to be rather more difficult to get a deuxième. Perhaps the idea of witnessing a new work of art being born generates a frisson of excitement that helps to attract audiences, whereas a performance of unknown repertoire that has been around for a while is less likely to balance the books. There is a danger that, apart from wallowing in the warm bath of old favourites from previous centuries, we constantly chase after something brand new instead of taking the time to listen to, and savour, unknown works that have been out of the stable for a while. In our second feature about the Three Choirs, we reflect on some of the Festival’s past commissions that are now heard but rarely. Meanwhile, for organists, the works of William Faulkes – Britain’s most prolific Victorian composer – get an airing.
This issue we carry an obituary for Brian Couzens, founder of Chandos Records, whose admirable legacy includes setting on disc the works of lesser-known composers. Chandos’s first-ever release was of Ernest Bloch’s Sacred Service – not an obvious winner for bursting on to the global recording scene. Before Brian died, Chandos had released a CD of the choral works of Goffredo Petrassi, an Italian composer an exploration of whose works could bring choirs some good, solid repertoire to get stuck into.
Maybe it’s time to brush the dust off some of those ‘known unknowns’ (pace, Donald Rumsfeld) and explore the musical riches we already have.
*Yes, I know Humphrey Bogart didn’t actually say this in Casablanca…