Monday, May 29, 2017

Music in Time of Examination

Alas, the feast of Ascension, Oak Apple Day and G. K. Chesterton's birthday are all probably rather overshadowed in the many minds for which this is a season of examinations.  They are necessary hardships, I suppose,  but I must say it would be easier to believe this if it were possible to have confidence that the exam boards knew their subjects and checked their answers...

Anyway, I thought the least I could do in solidarity would be to compile a list of  music ('Desk Island Discs'?) either to lift or calm the spirits.  In one way they are only suggestions for listening in the throes of study or an interlude of relaxation, but I also mean them to show that, in the list of things that matter in life, exams are really quite low down.  Now it is true that a good exam should offer, in the very challenge it set, some promise of the reward of learning: truth, goodness and beauty, but many exams often fail to do this, to say the least, so here are some examples from the third category that I think really are worth knowing about:

Ernest Tomlinson: a general recommendation
The music of Ernest Tomlinson (1924-2015) more or less saved my finals: I wrote to him afterwards to say so, and he was kind enough to reply!  I have written elsewhere about his valiant efforts in defence of British light music since the 1960s.  Two CDs' worth of his music can he heard here and here, but here are some suggestions for now:

Kielder Water:


Lakeside Idyll:

... the second movements of the Concerto for Five and the Silverthorn Suite, and both Suites of English Folk-Dances.

Then there is Percy Grainger: Zanzibar Boat Song for piano (six hands):

Molly on the Shore:

Along with Mock Morris, Spoon River and the Lincolnshire Posy (about which more here).

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Symphony no. 5, movement III (Romanza)

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Tuba concerto, movement II (also entitled Romanza)

Handel, of course; also jazz; and for those who like both Handel and jazz:

Gerald Finzi: Eclogue for piano and strings.

Herbert Howells' Three Dances for violin and orchestra, written in 1915 when he was still a student at the Royal College of Music:

Germaine Tailleferre: Suite bergmanesque.

Any Bach keyboard concerto:

Maurice Duruflé: Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens. For example:

I hope these will help anyone who comes across them, and that they are enough...  I'm probably not meant to put this many videos on a single web-page!  All the same, if anybody has  any other suggestions, I'd be glad to hear them.

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