Rarely, if ever, have so many letters of condolence and obituaries been written about a Dutch musician as for the recent death of the grand master of the harpsichord and icon of the early music movement. Gustav Leonhardt, the eminent teacher, and a very special person, is no more. On 16 January last, he died at his home in Amsterdam, at the age of 83. Continue reading “A Long and Beautiful Life”: A tribute to Gustav Leonhardt by Ton Koopman
Mary Potts and her beloved Shudi harpsichord, c. 1950
© Estate of Mary Potts 2012
I didn’t really know that much about Mrs Mary Potts when she was my harpsichord teacher in Cambridge, so I googled her name (in 2005) expecting to find a complete biography. She had, after all, been a student of Arnold Dolmetsch, in Haslemere, back in the 1920s, and had bought this eighteenth-century harpsichord by Burkat Shudi from him in 1929. Continue reading The forgotten harpsichord teacher of Christopher Hogwood & Colin Tilney
Gustav Leonhardt in 1972
It’s so sad that Gustav Leonhardt is no more.
I first heard him, partnered by Frans Brüggen in a concert in St Albans. Since then, I’ve seen him many times and, apart from the extraordinary playing, have often been struck by the fact that he mostly used his own elegant manuscript scores, presumably copied from ancient tomes during his early years in Vienna. Continue reading Gustav Leonhardt (1928–2012), the end of an era
I mentioned in my post on Thurston Dart that I couldn’t find out much about Arnold Goldsbrough, who had been his teacher at the Royal College of Music 1938–9.
Since then I’ve tracked down Arnold’s son, now in his eighties, who has put me onto his dad’s surviving cronies and told me some stories. Through him, one way or another, I now have a great deal of previously unpublished material.
Arnold Wainwright Goldsbrough (1892–1964) – often misspelled Goldsborough – was an organist, harpsichordist, conductor, founder of what became the English Chamber Orchestra, and an early exponent of historical performance practice. Continue reading Arnold Goldsbrough – Yorkshireman, organist, harpsichordist & conductor Part 1
Surprisingly, it was Gustav Holst, the composer of The Planets, who conducted the first modern performance of Purcell’s Fairy Queen in 1911.
His longstanding friend and fellow composer Ralph Vaughan Williams introduced every number, and this lecture-concert was given by amateurs from London’s Morley College [for Working Men and Women], rather than some top-notch orchestra with a professional chorus and soloists.
Such was Purcell’s standing at the time.
I might never have known these startling facts had not a friend of a friend sung in Morley College’s centenary concert celebrating this event, which was given in September.
The Fairy Queen (see this whistle-stop tour) was first performed in 1692 at the Queen’s Theatre, Dorset Gardens, in London. It was a very lavish and costly production, and the Theatre Royal alone had put in £3,000. But, as the 1911 Daily Telegraph reviewer wryly commented, it turned out to be a succès d’estime – a popular success and a financial disaster.
Despite this, the managers of the Theatre Royal wanted to revive the production after Purcell’s death and, finding that the score had somehow been lost, they placed two advertisements in London newspapers in October 1701:
The Score of Musick for the Fairy Queen, set by the late Mr. Henry Purcel [sic] and belonging to the Patentees of the Theatre-Royal in Covent-Garden, London, being lost upon his Death, whosoever shall bring the said Score, or a true Copy thereof, to Mr. Zachary Baggs, Treasurer of the said Theatre, shall have twenty Guinea’s for the same.
There was apparently no response, for the work was never revived as a whole.
Fast forward to around 1900. The Purcell Society, which had started to publish its definitive scores in 1878, decided that The Fairy Queen was to be edited by the music critic J.S. (John South) Shedlock (1843–1919).
In the preface to his 1903 edition, Shedlock explained the work’s chequered past and his own thorough collation of various printed texts, along with the eight published and manuscript musical sources (included one owned by the King), which resulted in a very incomplete score. He wrote:
… the conjectural reconstruction of the score had been prepared and engraved, when, by a singular piece of good luck, there was found [by Shedlock himself] in the Library of the Royal Academy of Music a MS. volume which turned out to be none other than the long-lost score advertised for two hundred years ago.
Shedlock, of course, incorporated the rediscovered material (the ninth source) into his edition, which must have necessitated many new plates and repagination.
Inside the cover of the rediscovered score two names were written: “Savage” and “R.J.S. Stevens, Charterhouse, 1817″.
Shedlock deduced that the first name belonged to William Savage (c.1700–1789), a bass singer who had studied with J.C. Pepusch, a composer connected with the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, at the beginning of the eighteenth century and an enthusiastic collector of musical manuscripts. Savage probably obtained the score from Pepusch and then it passed on to Stevens, who had been educated in the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral, when Savage was Master of the Choristers there, from 1748 to 1773. It was Stevens (1757–1837), organist of the Temple Church and Professor of Music at Gresham College, who bequeathed the score to the Academy.
This is the second time that Stevens appears in this blog. The Amati violin owned by Edmund Fellowes previously belonged to him, and he had scratched his name on the back, from which we can gather that he was quite keen on labelling his possessions.
Shedlock organized a concert in which, according to the musical editor of Modern Society, he directed
a performance of selections from the work, given at St. George’s Hall on Saturday [15 July 1901]. Explanatory comments were aptly delivered by Mr. E. F. Jacques, and the “discoverer,” together with Mrs. Elodie Dolmetsch [second wife of Arnold Dolmetsch], presided at the harpsichord. (I must confess to being glad to live in the day of pianos.)
Lucy Broadwood (folk-song collector and great-granddaughter of John Broadwood, founder of the piano manufacturers), who was also present, wrote in her diary that “Evangi Florence and Mr O’Sullivan sang well … The Purcell Operatic Society was monstrously bad and the tenor also”.
But The Fairy Queen, which was re-published in 1903 in full score, remained unperformed, as a complete work, until Holst began his project, first announced in the Morley College Magazine in September 1910.
As there was no performing material, “a little army” of volunteer student copyists was enlisted. This mammoth task took several months and was complicated by the fact that many of the vocal parts had to be transposed, given the lack of countertenors and the untrained voices of the choir. The end result was 1,500 pages of manuscript; the names of all the scribes were mentioned in the programme.
The Old Vic
Sixteen weeks of rehearsals followed, and the first modern performance was given at the Old Vic on 10 June 1911, “before a highly musical but far from full house – [as] it is always easier to find performers than audiences at Morley …” (according to Denis Richards in Offspring of the Vic, 1958).
The critics were universally enthusiastic about both the quality of the performance and Purcell’s music, which was compared – rather oddly, I think – with works by contemporary composers:
… the instrumental music … shows Purcell’s wonderful originality of thought and boldness of harmonic progressions that has hardly been exceeded in the present day. (The Times)
Not even the most modern of our composers have achieved finer atmospheric effects than did Purcell in the wonderful song of Night, which occurs at the end of the second act … (The Daily Telegraph)
Despite the lack of male altos, one song, “One charming night” (Secrecy’s Air in Act II), was sung at the original pitch, according to The Times, “by Mr. Ernest Raggett, a high tenor with remarkable easy production”.
This expedition into early music wasn’t a one-off for Holst, who was Music Director of Morley College from 1907 to 1924 and gave his services for free. Holst insisted in providing a rigorous diet of “proper” classical music and “firmly declined to pander to the then existing taste”, according to an interview given in 1921.
During his time there, he programmed Bach’s Magnificat, Handel’s Acis and Galatea, some Haydn and Mozart symphonies (unusual at the time), Dido and Aeneas and the Incidental Music to Purcell’s Dioclesian, which was another first modern performance.
Together with Vaughan Williams, with whom he’d been friends since their time as students at the Royal College of Music, he successfully staged performances at Morley College of extracts from Purcell’s King Arthur, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.
They both shared a keen interest in Purcell (RVW even edited a volume of Welcome Odes), madrigals and the Tudor composers, no doubt helped along by Edmund Fellowes’ enthusiasm and active promotion of his own work. Holst and Fellowes did meet at least once.
These influences certainly affected Vaughan Williams’ composing style more obviously than Holst’s, perhaps as a result of his work on The English Hymnal. In any event, John Alexander Fuller Maitland music critic and co-editor of the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book observed that in Vaughan Williams “one is never quite sure whether one is listening to something very old or very new”.
Thanks are due to Elaine Andrews and Edward Breen at Morley College and to the library staff of the Royal Academy of Music.
by Guest Blogger: Mandy Macdonald
I was a schoolgirl in Sydney when I first heard a recording of The Play of Daniel. I’d never heard anything like it. I was completely blown away. I learned passages off by heart and chanted them to myself on walks in the bush. I bored my friends to death with Daniel. I can’t remember who, if anyone, introduced me to it; I probably just picked it up in a record shop out of curiosity.
I certainly didn’t know then that I was listening to an historic recording, the 1958 LP that put the New York Pro Musica Antiqua and its director, Noah Greenberg, on the map and triggered in many people a lifelong fascination with early music.
Half a century on, listening to the recording on remastered CD, I’m still impressed with its vitality and joyful force. Bloodless and academic this is not.
So what was this extraordinary work? The Play of Daniel (in Latin, Ludus Danielis) has been called a medieval opera – and it certainly has plot, character, spectacle and emotional power. It is also described as a liturgical drama, but it contains some secular elements that differentiate it from other church music dramas of the time.
It was devised in the late twelfth or early thirteenth century, possibly under a single overall director, by students and junior clerics of the cathedral school in the French town of Beauvais, and comes down to us in a manuscript of c. 1230 now in the British Library (Egerton MS 2615).
Evidence from the manuscript connects the play with the liturgy for the Feast of the Circumcision on 1 January, and it could have been presented as either a complement or a corrective to the secular celebrations of the Feast of Fools on the same day, for it dramatizes the Church’s message that the mighty will be toppled and pagans defeated.
The play retells the Old Testament story of the prophet Daniel, in two ‘acts’: first, Daniel interprets the mysterious writing on the wall foretelling the collapse of Belshazzar’s kingdom; this is followed by the episode of the lions’ den, rounded off with Daniel’s prophecy of the birth of Christ.
There’s a big cast of characters: a narrator, Daniel, the two kings, a queen, wise men, envious counsellors, the prophet Habakkuk, and sundry advisors, satraps, courtiers and angels – even two lions. The manuscript contains only the text, in Latin and medieval French, some stage directions, and a single line of music – a spare but suggestive melodic core around which a great variety of elaborations have been woven, sometimes controversially, into modern performance.
An unlikely smash hit is born
The man responsible for bringing this forgotten work to vibrant life in the twentieth century was Noah Greenberg (1919–1966), a working-class Jewish socialist from the Bronx, largely self-taught in music, and the most audacious and charismatic of the American early music pioneers. In 1953 he happened upon the Play of Daniel in an article by William Smoldon, an expert on liturgical drama who had transcribed the British Library manuscript in the 1940s. Greenberg had already successfully launched the largely semi-professional New York Pro Musica Antiqua (brief history and a full discography here) in 1952, and he resolved to stage Daniel for the first time for modern audiences.
Five years of planning, discussion, editing, locating “authentic” instruments, stage and costume design, and fundraising later, the first modern performance of Greenberg’s performing score, based on a new transcription by Rembert Weakland and with English narrative interpolations by the poet W.H. Auden, was given at the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in January 1958.
I haven’t found any online video or audio clips of that first performance, but here are two excerpts from a 50th-anniversary production filmed in 2008 at the Cloisters, which updated various features such as pronunciation but stayed close to the spirit of ’58:
Daniel reads the writing on the wall
Greenberg’s instrumental scoring was largely speculative and was eventually criticized even by his collaborators; but, of course, it was the exotic, thrilling sounds of the straight trumpet, rebec, psaltery, harp, drums and portative organ that captivated audiences. And captivated they were: every performance sold out and rave reviews bristled with superlatives.
Garbed in glowing colors
The production, with its cast “garbed in glowing colors, as if they had stepped out of the illuminated pages of a medieval manuscript” (Edward Downes, New York Times, 3 January 1958), was a media sensation as well as a public triumph. The voices of the high tenor Russell Oberlin and the tenor Charles Bressler, who portrayed Daniel, were particularly praised.
Far from being a flash-in-the-pan revival, Daniel became central to the New York Pro Musica’s repertoire, and toured the USA and Europe. It was recorded soon after the first performance, and that recording has recently been enshrined in the US National Recording Registry as a hallmark of early music performance. A televised version was shown in the USA every Christmas from 1958 for the next decade.
Although many others have since performed and recorded this work, Greenberg’s Play of Daniel is so significant because it was the first modern performance of a complete medieval liturgical drama, and because it marked such a radical departure from the drily academic treatment that was then the norm for the performance of medieval music.
Greenberg’s interpretation wowed thousands who had never experienced medieval music – or possibly even classical music – before.
But its success also depended on the surge in music-recording technology, and in particular the development of the LP, in the 1940s and 50s. Daniel was a landmark not only in the study and interpretation of medieval music but also in cultural packaging: the performances, the recording (including a booklet with scholarly notes, not at all common in the 1950s), and the performing edition made up an integrated project that doubtless saturated the music media for a while.
Yet, though the New York Pro Musica became increasingly professionalized after Daniel, they arguably never quite captured the public imagination again as they had done in 1958. Their later projects seem, to me at least, like sequels.
© Mandy Macdonald 2011
Do you agree? And does anyone have any photos or that TV film? [Please comment]
For me, two stories from Fellowes’ 1946 autobiography, Memoirs of an Amateur Musician, stand out:
Byrd’s Great Service
According to Fellowes, “the greatest thrill in the course of the whole of [his] researches” was finding Byrd’s Great Service, which he stumbled upon while visiting Durham to complete some Gibbons anthems. As soon as he started transcribing the folio part-books he recognized that he had found “a major work whose existence was till that moment unsuspected”. It has subsequently been described as “the most elaborate and the lengthiest setting of these standard liturgical texts ever written for the Anglican Church”.
But, after making the find, “a keen disappointment followed” as he discovered that he only had eight of the ten necessary parts. Further investigations revealed another, smaller part-book and, as he went to get it, he wrote:
My feelings may be imagined, for it depended on this whether or not it was going to be possible to produce a satisfactory score … My luck was in!
He later found some fragments of the tenth part in the British Museum and reconstructed the rest for the published score.
Here’s a recording of part of the Great Service made by Fellowes and the St George’s Singers in January 1923, followed by one from the Tallis Scholars from a much more recent date.
Yes, I know the pieces don’t match …
William Byrd – Nunc Dimittis: Gloria from the Great Service ed. E.H. Fellowes, with the English Singers
William Byrd – Te Deum from the Great Service, with the Tallis Scholars
Dolmetsch and Galpin
Fellowes was so irritated by Arnold Dolmetsch’s demand for a twenty-guinea fee for playing an obbligato lute part of only 18 bars in a planned performance of Bach’s St John Passion, in 1913, that he “let the matter drop”, borrowed a lute from fellow clergyman F.W. Galpin, taught himself how to play it, and performed in the concert – for free. He later ended up owning that instrument, when Galpin (after whom the Galpin Society is named) sold his collection a few years later.
Galpin’s collection, which consisted of almost 600 items and had taken him a lifetime to find, was bought by a benefactor for the Boston Museum in the United States.
I wonder whether such a sale would be allowed today, or if someone would step in and insist that it was bought for the nation, as it contained a goodly part of our (British) heritage. Given “dumbing down” and what’s happened with the musical instrument collection at the V & A (see also this Facebook group), perhaps no one would even bat an eyelid.
To end with, a madrigal double bill, sung by the St George’s Singers conducted by Rev. Dr E.H. Fellowes, as part of The Columbia History of Music by Ear and Eye.
Orlando Gibbons – The Silver Swan; John Farmer – Fair Phyllis
Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find any recordings of Fellowes’ solo violin playing or of him lecturing or singing a lute song to his own accompaniment, all of which would be quite important historical documents!
I also don’t know what happened to his priceless old Italian violin or that lute.
Can anyone help with any of this?
Or, as ever, does anyone have reminiscences or anything else to add? [Please comment]
Edmund aged 7
Fellowes’ life and legacy
Aided in the churchy sphere by Professor Sir Percy Buck, who was one of his oldest friends (and a teacher of Mary Potts at the RCM), Edmund Fellowes brought about a revolution, albeit a gentle one: he both changed the way in which choral and other early music was understood and raised the quality of performance exponentially within his own lifetime. Fellowes was a scholar–performer before we knew the word.
Despite the fact that his name often appears in footnotes, and there is an entry for him in Grove, his contribution to the revival of old English music and performance practice hasn’t been much appreciated since Sylvia Townsend Warner wrote about his tenacious detective-work, describing him as “inexhaustible and obstinately conscientious”, in an article that was printed alongside his obituary.
Sixty years after his death, pretty much all we know about him comes from his autobiography published in 1946.
A charmed childhood
In his book, modestly called Memoirs of an Amateur Musician, Fellowes gives an amazingly detailed account of his very well-to-do and cultured background, which involved staging French plays at home and going to concerts given by people like Rubenstein, Liszt and Clara Schumann.
His mother was one of the best amateur players of the time. She had been taught piano by Julius Benedict and singing by Manuel García, founder of the famous García School of Singing, and sometime teacher of his famous sisters: Pauline Viardot-García and Maria Malibran (who was recently celebrated by Cecilia Bartoli).
Fellowes had piano lessons, with his mother, from the age of five, and began the violin at six, getting three lessons a week; so he made good progress before going to school, which didn’t happen, apparently, till he was nine. By his own reckoning, he was not yet seven and a half when he met and played for the famous violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim, who offered to take the young Edmund as a private student in Berlin. This great opportunity was declined “so that I might not leave the conventional lines of a English boy’s education”.
Here’s Joachim playing Bach’s Adagio in G minor, in 1904.
The Amati violin
Around the same time, the 1679 “Stevens” Amati violin (which had belonged to R.J.S. Stevens, glee-writer and organist of Charterhouse) was bought for him by the husband of a cousin, for £100, “so that he would have a really good violin to play on when he grows up”. And he certainly put it to good use, playing chamber music throughout his life in public with professionals, starting at the age of 13.
Sadly, I’ve been unable to find any solo recordings of Fellowes playing the violin. But here he is in a string sextet, consisting of 2 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos – which was the best approximation that they could make for a chest of viols – in 1923, Byrd’s tercentenary year. This is another sound file from CHARM.
William Byrd – Fantazia for String Sextet or small String Orchestra [from Psalms, Songs and Sonnets, no. 11, part 1], edited by E. H. Fellowes
Predictably, he went to Oxford, was ordained as a priest in 1894, and received his MA and B.Mus. degrees in 1896. After a stint as Precentor at Bristol Cathedral, he spent the rest of his life, from 1900 to his death in 1951, as a minor canon of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, “which allowed him the necessary leisure to pursue his interests in music, cricket [he published A History of Winchester Cricket in 1930] and genealogy”. See details of his spartan living conditions here.
He married Lilian Louisa Vesey Hamilton, the daughter of an admiral, in 1899.
To end with, here’s a lively madrigal recorded around 1930. Fellowes is conducting the St George’s Singers, about whom I know absolutely nothing.
Thomas Morley – Sing we and chant it
Next week: Fellowes’ greatest discovery and how irritation caused by Arnold Dolmetsch forced him to learn the lute.
Any comments so far? And does anyone have reminiscences or anything else to add? [Please comment]
Fellowes’ interpretation of Tudor music
As a church musician himself, Fellowes recognized that what little Cathedral repertoire there was in his day was usually poorly performed. “The interpretation of Tudor music began to force itself on my attention,” he wrote. “It became increasingly clear that rhythmic irregularity, as an essential feature of this music, was being generally unrecognized and ignored.” Apart from that, old music was sung much too slowly, and often, in church music, at the wrong pitch. Everything, even sprightly madrigals like Morley’s “Now is the month of maying”, sounded like a dirge.
Fellowes was also an educator who believed in leading by example. He wrote in 1946:
… some representative compositions of Byrd were produced in connection with the William Byrd [c. 1540–1623] tercentenary in 1923. The record of Byrd’s ‘Short’ Magnificat was a revelation in its beauty when rightly performed; it exerted a widespread influence in church-music circles.
And here is that very record, courtesy of the CHARM project, which has digitalised almost 5000 historic recordings from 78 rpm discs and made them available for free download.
William Byrd – Magnificat (Short Service), ed. E.H. Fellowes, with the English Singers (Flora Mann, Winifred Whelen, Lillian Berger, Steuart Wilson, Clive Carey and Cuthbert Kelly) recorded 29 January 1923.
Morley’s four volumes of madrigals had, in fact, been Fellowes’ first editing project, which he completed in the summer of 1912. His edition included irregular barring – then a radical novelty. Unable to find a publisher willing to take the risk, Fellowes made an appeal for subscribers and, within a year, almost 400 people from Washington DC to Vienna had signed up. On the list were such illustrious names as Sir Edward Elgar, Lord Gladstone (the former prime minister), Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Sir Henry Wood, Alfred Einstein (the German-American expert on the Italian madrigal), Bohemian-Austrian musicology pioneer Guido Adler, O.G. Sonneck of the Library of Congress (who bought a clavichord from Arnold Dolmetsch) and Alfred Wotquenne (cataloguer of Gluck and C.P.E Bach).
Recordings, concerts and lectures
As well as transcribing manuscripts and early editions for publication, Fellowes made it his business to actively promote the music he edited by conducting and giving lecture-recitals, often using his own gramophone records for the illustrations or demonstrating on the lute.
Another quote from his autobiography:
It was in the autumn of 1921 that I entered into negotiations with the Gramophone Company (His Master’s Voice) to make some records of madrigals. It was obviously a good way of demonstrating in a wide field the proper method of interpreting this music …
The Company preferred that their ‘stock singers’ should do the work as being familiar with recording requirements. In the end it was agreed that I should employ the English Singers with the proviso that they should receive no fee unless the Company was satisfied with the result. These records, made in the factory at Hayes in extremely primitive conditions under my direction, were remarkably good. They were followed by many more …
The English Singers
Fellowes’ editions were further popularized by live performances of the English Singers, a one-to-a-part group trained by him.
He describes the first appearance of the English Singers, at the Aeolian Hall in February 1920, as
the first occasion upon which in modern times madrigals were properly interpreted on a concert platform … The audience was entranced. Here was something quite new to an English audience, and they rose to it.
When, in 1922, the English Singers gave a concert in Berlin, the German critics naturally assumed that their lively style of interpreting English madrigals was “the fruit of centuries of carefully preserved tradition”. Writing as critic of the Nation and the Athenaeum, the musicologist E.J. Dent put right this misconception:
Their style is the fruit not of tradition, but of scholarship, of historical erudition, by Dr Fellowes, and the common sense supplied by themselves.
One of the singers in this group was Clive Carey, who taught Joan Sutherland (yes, really, La Stupenda), and his correspondence with Professor Dent, resulted in a book that will figure in later posts.
Here’s a recording, made in the same year (almost 90 years ago!), of Thomas Bateson’s “Cupid in a bed of roses” edited by Fellowes, who may or may not have been directing the group. Apparently, they went on to achieve “phenomenal success”, particularly in the USA.
Finally, a rather quirky recording, complete with spoken announcements, which I just found online. It combines (from both sides of a very small 78 rpm disc) a folk-song arrangement, “Just as the tide was flowing”, by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with the madrigal “In going to my naked bed”, by Richard Edwards. The madrigal text is spoken from 2.18 and music starts at 3.20.
Next week: Fellowes’ extraordinary background, an Amati violin and a meeting (aged just 7 years old) with the Hungarian virtuoso, Joseph Joachim
Any comments so far? And does anyone have reminiscences or anything else to add? [Please comment]
Reproduced by kind permission of the Dean and Canons of Windsor
Edmund (E.H.) Fellowes (1870–1951) – pictured here with his wife – was made a Companion of Honour in 1944. Always a meticulous man, he compiled an annotated alphabetical list of all the 220 letters of congratulations he received. It includes almost every well-known contemporary British musician and composer, along with many famous names from other fields, which demonstrates his reputation at the time.
He’d already had been given an MVO in 1930, as well as honorary doctorates from Oxford, Cambridge and Trinity College, Dublin. He had conducted a “fantastically successful” nine-week concert tour of Canada, with a choir made up of “the Gentlemen of His Majesty’s Free Chapel of St. George in Windsor Castle and the Choristers of Westminster Abbey” and had returned to make five further three-month-long North American lecture-recital tours (the first at the invitation of President Coolidge’s wife) which ended, in 1936, with his final lute song performance (at the age of 66) being broadcast on the radio from New York. He also toured Holland and Belgium with his lute, and was a very popular public speaker, who had been filling halls throughout the UK since 1904.
Although once rather unkindly described as “a stiff-necked Anglican clergyman,” he was also quite a celebrity. A more sympathetic musical portrait of him comes from his younger contemporary Herbert Howells (1892–1983), who characterized him in the second movement – entitled “Fellowes’s Delight” – of his set of piano miniatures Lambert’s Clavichord, published in 1928.
Through his researches in libraries, largely at the British Museum and the Bodleian in Oxford, Fellowes rediscovered the lute song, disinterring John Dowland and a host of forgotten English composers in the process, and single-handedly edited the whole repertoire of 450 songs, thereby saving it from oblivion.
Here are two jewels that may have not made it, had it not been for Fellowes.
Alfred Deller with Desmond Dupré, Philip Rosseter – ‘What then is love but mourning’
Andreas Scholl with Andreas Martin, John Dowland – ‘Flow my tears’
‘Flow my tears’ is now probably the most famous lute song ever. And Fellowes’ editions must have made these songs easily available to composer Benjamin Britten, who used ‘Come, heavy sleep’ and ‘If my complaints’ respectively as bases for sets of variations for guitar (Nocturnal, 1963) and viola and piano (Lachrymae, 1950). Stephen Goss (in this pdf) says that Britten drew his text of ‘Come, heavy sleep’ for Nocturnal from Fellowes’ 1920 edition of Dowland’s First Booke of Songs or Ayres.
Fellowes also edited 36 volumes of madrigals, published as The English Madrigal School (later revised by Thurston Dart) and twenty volumes of music by William Byrd. He was one of the four editors (with Alexander Ramsbotham, musicologist-turned-author Sylvia Townsend Warner and her former teacher and married lover, Sir Percy Buck) of the Carnegie Trust’s 10-volume series: Tudor Church Music, which contained works by 24 composers including Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbons, Robert White and Hugh Aston.
Among Fellowes’ books are The English Madrigal School, English Madrigal Verse (1588–1632) and biographies of William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons. Although superseded by modern scholarship, these books were ground-breaking at the time. His study of Anglican Church music, English Cathedral Music from Edward VI to Edward VII, is still the standard work, apparently. He also contributed more than 50 articles to the third edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.
Quite a lot, really.
Here’s a quote from Fellowes’ autobiography, followed by a recording of the group he mentions:
Some more good records were made under my conductorship for the Columbia Company by a group called the St George’s (Bloomsbury) Singers [Fellowes’ parentheses are to differentiate this group from his own St George’s Chapel Choir, at Windsor Castle]. This was after electric recording had been introduced… with all the advantages of modern devices…
This note on electrification underlines the fact that this record was made more than eighty years ago.
Sumer is i-cumin in [c. 1930 as part of The Columbia History of Music by Ear and Eye]
I was quite entranced by this piece, when I first heard it as a boy. It was part of a huge stack of 78 rpm records that I found in a cupboard at school. I was given permission to take them home, as 78s had long been obsolete and they were going to be thrown away. See here for more details about this ancient round.
More about Fellowes’ editing and conducting next week, with recordings made in the 1920s.
Any comments so far? And does anyone have reminiscences or anything else to add? [Please comment]