Monday, February 20, 2017

Ruth Gipps Again

Today has brought us to the ninety-sixth anniversary of the birth of the composer Ruth Gipps; Thursday will be the eighteenth of her death.  So it is time for my annual lament about how little-known her music seems to be for a musician of her stature.  The list I have compiled here shows how few readily-available recordings there are.  Of her five symphonies, her proudest achievements, only the second has a decent recording.  Spirited performances of the third, fourth and fifth can only be heard through the fuzz of digitised tape recordings of varying quality, though much gratitude is due to those who have dug them out.

Anniversaries tend to spur things on in music, so I am hoping that her centenary, which is fast approaching, will be marked in some way.  I think she would be an ideal candidate for the Proms, for example.  Imagine how a live performance or even a decent recording of this, the climax of her fifth symphony's first movement, would sound:

Ruth Gipps: fifth symphony. 
(The uploader has chosen a photograph of the Ribblehead Viaduct in the Pennines)

I know I am not alone in enjoying Ruth Gipps' music. The second movement of her piano concerto was requested and broadcast on the BBC's excellent Breakfast programme last week, and her neglect has been noted elsewhere on the Internet.  Her personality, which many found rather forthright, and her principles, which included an unashamed rejection of musical or cultural fashion and a readiness to express it, may not have helped her cause during her lifetime — nobody on whose life and works the only scholarly work is sub-titled 'Anti-modernism, Nationalism and Difference'  can expect thunderous acclaim in the present age — but this is precisely what makes her character interesting, not least because, I think, it is  borne out in the spiky liveliness of her compositions (the third movements of  her fifth symphony or her piano concerto), as is a keen appetite and ear for the lyrical and the beautiful.  Ruth Gipps should be far better known!

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