News & Comment
Symphony in A minor
Saturday 6th December, 2013, All Saints church, West Dulwich, London For the first time since 1935, Dunhill’s symphony – written between 1913 and 1916 – will be performed by the Lambeth orchestra, conducted by Christopher Fifield. All welcome!
Its world premiere, as a result of an invitation by two Serbian musicians in London, took place at the Opera House, Belgrade in 1922, in the presence of the Serb royal family. It was part of a programme of new English music, chosen by, and conducted by Dunhill.
The symphony failed to impress the Carnegie Trust panel in 1917, to whom it was submitted for publication – on the grounds that it was old-fashioned, but later performances at Bournemouth (under Dan Godfrey) and in London were very received.
One movement (Scherzo) was played on Radio 3 earlier this year, but it is arguably the 3rd (Slow) movement that is the most moving part of the work, very probably written as an elegy for some of Dunhill’s close friends who had been killed in France.
Easier piano pieces for the home
Dunhill’s piano pieces, designed for students and for those who like to play at home, are highly rewarding. They contain a great variety of melodic interest and emotional content, and they embrace many different styles. They are beautifully constructed miniatures, and use the most economic means to produce the greatest effect.
Here are a selection of pieces, originally published, mostly during the 1920s and 30s, in albums of around 5-6 pieces, each loosely based around the title theme. The name of each album is indicated with each piece – in some cases these may still be available on request from music publishers.
Most of these pieces are aimed at beginners and those of moderate ability. Each has a serial number – of which the last digit indicates the level of skill expected of the player. 1 is the easiest, and 5 the most challenging. Each pdf consists of two printed pages of music, except where more are indicated. Each pdf consists of a cover, back cover and pages of music. The purchaser can therefore assemble the printed copies into a useful paper version if required. If you would prefer to purchase a printed copy of any of these pieces, please contact me via this website, to discuss price including postage.
Thank you for your interest in these works – please recommend them to others!
Phoenix Piano Trio played 1900 piano trio
Wigmore Hall, Sunday 13th May: The Phoenix Piano Trio (Sholto Kynoch, piano; Marie Macleod, cello; Jonathan Stone, violin) played Thomas Dunhill’s Trio in C major – Allegro moderato, of 1900, as the first piece of a programme of music including John Ireland (Trio no 3, 1938), and Beethoven (Trio in E flat major, 1808). www.phoenixpianotrio.com
The concert programme reads: “The single-movement trio heard this evening lay forgotten for many years in the library of the Royal College of music, and the Phoenix Piano Trio perform from copies of the manuscript of this unpublished work. The score, in Dunhill’s extremely neat and clear handwriting, is dated 27th September 1900, placing it shortly after he completed his studies at the RCM and took up a teaching post at Eton. The first known performance of the work was not until 2001! *
The number 1 is clearly marked at the top of the score, strongly implying that this was intended as the first movement of a larger-scale work. However, although Dunhill kept diaries he makes no mention of this trio and if the other movement were ever composed, they are now lost. Evidence that he intended this as part of a larger work is found in the close adherence to a traditional sonata form. The lyrical opening melody is followed in due course by a jauntier second subject in G, the dominant; a repeat of the exposition is marked, followed by a more elaborate development and then a clear-cut recapitulation. If there is a surprise in the score it is the coda, which slips quite unexpectedly into a ‘tranquillo’ A-flat harmonic area and brings the movement to a magical end.
This is not a work that endeavours to break barriers or seek new ground, but it is impeccably crafted and shows considerable flair. Written just three years after the death of Brahms but on the verge of seismic changes across the world, it is perhaps not hard to see why this somewhat traditional music fell out of fashion, but it is certainly of a quality that merits a return to the repertoire.”
* A recording English Romantic Trios included this piece, performed by the Sumerhayes Piano Trio in 20o1. Meridien records. http://www.allmusic.com/album/english-romantic-trios-mw0001841952
Influence on Beatles music?
This might make an interesting line of enquiry . . . suppose Paul McCartney had an aunt (or other friend/relative) who played the piano, and who had a collection of contemporary music . . . might his acquaintance with Dunhill music account for a subsequent influence on certain Beatles music and song-titles?
For instance a piano piece (c1940) entitled Dance of the Sheperdesses contains a sequence of 7 notes that resemble the melody of the last line of Yesterday (on the Beatles’ Help! album). Dunhill also published a selection of piano pieces under the title Here, There and Everywhere (the name of a song on Revolver).
Dunhill wrote another entitled A Northern Song (George Harrison wrote Only a Northern Song, which appears on the Yellow Submarine album), and wrote an arrangement of the traditional English tune Golden Slumbers (on Abbey Road).
On the other hand, any similarities may be entirely coincidental!
Gold medal rediscovered (2014)
Thomas Dunhill was awarded the first Tagore Gold Medal around 1898, an award given to ‘the most generally promising’ student’ of the Royal College of Music, and presented personally by The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII).
Kept by the Dunhill family, it had been lent to the Royal College of Music some years ago for an exhibition, and the RCM is still holding it within its historic collections, the College confirmed recently.
1908 bound manuscript discovered (2013)
Recently the RCM Library received a letter from a gentleman who had found in his attic a bound manuscript, embossed MES, of a Sonata for Violin and Piano, dated 1908.
MES are the initials of his mother, Margaret Sale, whom Dunhill met in Australia in 1906 and made a very favourable impression on him, during his tour as examiner for the ABRSM that year. She was a talented violin student, and came to London (with her parents) in 1908 to study at the College, where Dunhill was also a teacher.
Dunhill was charmed by Margaret Sale, who seems to have been an artistic muse, rather than lover – and the relationship continued into 1909. The violin sonata was composed certainly with her in mind and she helped him to develop it by playing it with him at the piano.
This, his first Sonata for Violin & Piano still awaits a professional recording.