M US I C.
THE NEGLECT OF NATIVE COMPOSERS.
THE programmes of the new series of Symphony Concerts at the Queen's Hall, which open this afternoon, contain many works of great intrinsic interest, but they have one striking feature. They have almost entirely succumbed to the "tempta- tions to belong to other nations." They include thirty-three compositions, of which all save one are by foreigners.
We hear on all sides of the Renaissance of English music, but it would really seem as if the old Crystal Palace Concerts, which existed when that Renaissance was in its infancy, showed a solicitude for the advancement of the younger English school which, now that it has " arrived," is denied to all, young and old alike. The encouragement which Mr. August Manna lent to native art daring his tenure of office as director of the Saturday Concerts cannot be easily over- estimated. He was one of the very first in the early "sixties" to recognise the genius of Sullivan on his return from Leipsio and to give him a hearing. One has only to glance through the list of works performed at Sydenham to realise how consis- tently and continuously he befriended the composers of the
land of his adoption. Mackenzie, Stanford, Parry, arm Cowen, Eiger, Cliffe, MacCunn, G. J. Bennett, William Wallace Herbert Bunning, W. H. Bell,—these are only a few of the composers who have figured in the Crystal Palace programmes. What is more, it was an entirely disinterested encouragement. On one occasion at least, to the present writer's knowledge, the cost of an extra rehearsal deemed necessary to secure an efficient rendering of an elaborate new work by a native composer was defrayed out of Mr. Manna's own pocket. But the Crystal Palace Saturday Orchestral Concerts, so long fostered by the enthusiasm of Sir George Grove, are already a thing of the past, extinguished by the competition of a more centralised and better equipped organisation. Yet in catering for the same clientele the directors of the Queen's Hall Symphony Concerts, as their new prospectus clearly shows, disown the responsibilities imposed upon them by their victorious competition, and refuse to perpetuate the honourable traditions which actuated the policy of Mr. Manna. And that policy was the steady advocacy of the claims of the great masters, coupled with the persistent championship of all who trod the "new paths," irrespective of nationality or style, so long as their work was marked by high aims and adequate workmanship. There was never any " booming " of one particular school or one particular com. poser. The claims of Richard Strauss and Tschaikowsky were fully recognised, but not to the prejudice of Wagner or Brahma or Dvorak, of Sullivan or Elgar, of
Stanford or of Parry, MacCunn or Coleridge Taylor. Those who have the welfare of native music at heart cannot contemplate the reversal of this policy with equanimity or indifference. The situation is anything but encouraging. We have schools of music, munificently en.
dowed with scholarships to educate young musicians, who complete their training only to find that their serious work seldom gets a hearing, save perhaps in a provincial town like Bournemouth (to its credit), and for lack of recognition they either cease to write or cultivate the more lucrative field of parlour pathos.
But to return to the Queen's Hall programmes. When all deductions have been made for the claims of works by com- posers of established repute, among whom foreigners unques. "tionably predominate, the proportion of one in thirty-three, or 3 per cent. for native works, seems on the face of it extra- ordinarily small. That it should be the result of accidental selection is incredible. The only two explanations available are, first, that this disregard of native music is due to the dearth or inferior quality of suitable home-made compositions; second, that the production of new or unfamiliar works by British writers is an unremunerative undertaking. Now taking these arguments in order, we cannot admit for a moment that there is any shortcoming in the supply. The number of works on a large scale composed for orchestra in the last dozen years by native writers would compare favourably in quantity with that of almost any other civilised country. As for quality, can it be contended that these works fall so hopelessly below the standard attained by foreign composers as to warrant their wholesale exclusion from programmes in which contemporary music other than British is so handsomely represented P Nor will the argument that it does not pay to produce British music hold water; for any concert entrepreneur knows that one well-known and popular work or the engagement of a celebrated performer will suffice to attract a public in spite of the programme containing something unknown and untried; and that it is in this way that all concert-givers, since Jullien popularised the symphonies of Beethoven, have encouraged contemporary and unfamiliar compositions.
Let it be clearly understood that we do not for a moment ask our concert managers to boycott foreign composers, though such a reactionary policy was seriously advocated not many yearn ago in one of the leading reviews. The concert-going publo would not stand that, though they seem to acquiesce con- tentedly enough in what virtually amounts to exclusive dealing with Continental markets. When Sir Arthur Sullivan was conductor of the Philharmonic Concerts, he contended that native instrumentalists had a first call for employment, and his institution of an all-British band was intelligible and defensible. But such action invariably leads to reprisals, and one of Sullivan's greatest friends was of opinion that the hostile reception accorded to his Golden Legend when it was
produced in Berlin was largely due to the desire to retaliate on him for his exclusion of the German players from the Philhar- monic band. For our own part, we do not even go so far as to re- commend the adoption of the attitude of the village umpire : What I says is fairation for ever—with a slight leaning to your own side." In the framing of concert programmes about two- thirds of the pieces to be performed will probably be standard works, and of these the large majority are unquestionably of foreign origin. But where new and unfamiliar works are concerned the native composer should not be denied a hearing altogether. It may be retorted that when so much encourage- ment has been undoubtedly extended to native composers in the framing of the programmes of the Promenade Concerts, which are under the same management, it is unfair to charge the directors with undue partiality for foreigners. In reply 'to such an argument, we would point out that the Promenade Concerts, admirable as they now are, occupy in public esteem much the same relation to the Symphony Concerts as the County Council does to the House of Commons, or—to adopt a still more popular parallel—second-class to county cricket. To regard the native composer as eligible for the one but not for the other is to place a slur upon him almost as unwarranted as the refusal of theatre managers to admit to reserved seats the wearers of the King's uniform.
In conclusion, we may note that the programmes of the Queen's Hall Concerts make it clear that the directors intend solely to be generous to those foreign countries which will take care not to return the compli- rient. In every other country in Europe audiences would resent such wholesale disregard of their own countrymen. In France no concert manager would dare to risk it. But apart from its lack of patriotism, and, one may add, perspicacity, it would seem to any thinking man of any profession that a heavy responsibility attaches to the management of the Queen's Hall Symphony Concerts if it continues deliberately to shut its doors to the work of its own country, and so put hack the clock and bar the way to the composers of England. If any one wishes to realise to what an extent English music plays Cinderella to English literature and English painting, let him only consider how public opinion would be moved if the selection of pictures at the Exhibition of the Royal Academy or the New Gallery were governed by similar principles to those adopted at the Queen's HalL C. L. G.