Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ruth Gipps: anniversaries

Today, 20th February, is the ninety-seventh anniversary of the birth of the composer Ruth Gipps; Friday (23rd) will mark the nineteenth of her death.  Meanwhile, with some important exceptions, most of her music languishes in silence, unrecorded and unperformed, which was probably not the composer's intention.

I have written already about Ruth Gipps and the strange neglect in Britain of her colourful, lyrical music during her lifetime and since. But there's good news on the horizon — or at least somewhere beyond it!  In just over a month's time, on the 31st March 2018, the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra under Adam Stern will give the United States première of Gipps' Symphony No. 2.

Over in America they are showing us up rather, so we have no excuse not to follow suit.  Ruth Gipps' centenary is swiftly approaching; 2021 lies far enough ahead that we can organise some recordings and concerts.  Of her life's work these are the only recordings that I know of, very few of them commercially available.  Only the second of her five symphonies has been recorded; the fifth has never even been broadcast.  There is a piano concerto which would go down well at the BBC Proms, other concerti for violin, oboe and clarinet, a set of Evening Canticles, tone poems and suites for strings... and much more unchartered territory.

To strengthen interest in Ruth Gipps would simultaneously put right the injustice of her obscurity and awaken musical and cultural life, in Britain and elsewhere, to the serious and determined pursuit of beauty that is made in her musical craft.

As an example, here are the closing passages of the otherworldly, moonlit second movement of her fourth symphony; the whole movement can be heard here.

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