Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Edvard Grieg in Knightsbridge

Bruce Phillips, editor-at-large for the Boydell Press, writes:

On 20th September I was a guest of the Grieg Society of Great Britain at a reception given at the official residence of the Norwegian Ambassador to London and the World War II meeting place of the Norwegian government in exile under King Haakon. The Chairman of the Grieg Society, Boydell author Beryl Foster, addressed a gathering in one of the official rooms of this imposing building, One purpose of the occasion was to present a special medal to the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra for its superb recordings of Grieg’s complete orchestral works on the BIS label. Another was to hear a terrific performance by the outstanding young pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi of Grieg’s intensely moving Ballade for piano. Not overlooked however was the fact that Beryl’s book, The Songs of Edvard Grieg, was being published that day, and that two copies had been presented by Boydell as raffle prizes.

After the concert we were all invited by the Ambassador’s wife, Mrs Lindstrom, to partake of some very delicious Norwegian-style food. I spotted another Boydell author, Lionel Carley (Edvard Grieg in England), and was glad I had remembered to take a sample copy of his book and some flyers for it and for Daniel Grimley’s Grieg: Music, Landscape and Norwegian Identity (Boydell, 2006).

I also met again after a long interval Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen, star musical philatelist and author of a history of her family firm, C F Peters, publishers of Grieg among many other composers. Having been unsuccessful in persuading my former employers at a leading university press to publish it, I was not surprised to find that she had given publishers up as a bad job and produced the book herself. She happened to have a copy of it with her. Would I like to buy it at a modest discount? Reaching for my wallet I meekly assented, but Irene said I ought just to wait until the raffle tickets were drawn in case I won the copy she had contributed. Not having won anything in my life I thought this unlikely, but the money for the book stayed in my wallet.

The tension grew as the tickets were drawn. I was pleased to see that one copy of Beryl’s book was won by the general manager of the Bergen Philharmonic, Lorentz Reitan. But the acme of the evening’s enjoyment for me was attained when one of my tickets was called. I am now the proud possessor of Irene’s splendid volume which traces the history of Peters from its beginnings in Leipzig to the appalling problems faced by the firm in the Nazi era, and then its subsequent post war revival in Frankfurt, London and New York. And her inscription makes no mention of my earlier non-association with the book or the loss of her sale!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Imogen Holst Day in Aldeburgh

While the rest of East Anglia was enjoying Apple Day on October 20th, Aldeburgh was celebrating the life and work of Imogen Holst. The day began with a concert in Aldeburgh Parish Church where the Navarra Quartet, augmented by Alasdair Tait, performed her Fall of the Leaf and String Quintet as part of a varied and thoroughly engaging programme.

Next the audience moved on to the wonderful local cinema, where Aldeburgh Music had organized a panel discussion with Chris Grogan (editor of the recent Boydell title, Imogen Holst: A Life in Music), Rosamund Strode and Colin Matthews (both contributors to the book). This was a unique opportunity to hear the reminiscences of two people who knew her extremely well, their contributions augmented by some well-chosen audio clips of “Imo” herself from the Britten-Pears Library archive. The 250 or so members of the audience - a large proportion of whom seemed to have known her personally - were entranced, and would have happily carried on listening to the speakers long after The Bourne Ultimatum was due to start.

There followed a signing session by all three, plus Christopher Tinker who analysed and catalogued Imogen Holst’s music in the book, at the nearby Aldeburgh Bookshop. Mary James handled the logistics of four signers extremely well, while John James handed out glasses of wine to those waiting to meet them. For those not already committed to watching England lose to South Africa in the rugby final, there was a second concert to round off the day in considerable style.

The only absence from the celebrations was Simon and Thomas Hewitt Jones’ eagerly anticipated CD of music by Imogen Holst performed by the Court Lane Strings. Unfortunately the criminal fraternity of South London have caused an unscheduled delay in its release (more on Simon’s blog) but it can be pre-ordered online and the group’s tour will go ahead regardless.

I think Imo would have admired their commitment.

Friday, 19 October 2007

A Book & its Cover

Our colleague Ralph Locke writes:

As Senior Editor of the Eastman Studies in Music series (University of Rochester Press), I am often involved not just in selecting and shaping the innards of a book but its outer design as well. I was delighted and challenged when one of our recent authors, Jeremy Day-O’Connell, came up with a design for his book’s jacket himself. It was unconventional, in that it used several strikingly different images, from various times and places, creating what I feared would be a visual jumble.

The result, once it was tweaked by the designer hired by URP, was delightful and intriguing, as numerous people have commented. It means more and more, the further one reads into the book, yet it also is so striking that it makes one want to pick the book up in the first place.

I recently asked the author to set down, for this blog, his thoughts about the resonances of the jacket. I should explain briefly that the book deals with the many meanings of the pentatonic scale, more or less equivalent to the black notes on the piano. But enough from me. Here’s the author’s view of that amazing blue jacket:

“The rather dense intermixing of visual elements on the jacket is meant to reflect the rich, untidy history that is the subject of the book…Focused though it is on the musical examples, the book also explores the sources and meanings of this music, the most important of which are encapsulated as the "exotic" pentatonic (represented here by the Chinese characters, paraphrased from an 18th-century French treatise), the "religious" pentatonic (represented by the stained-glass window), and the "pastoral" pentatonic (represented by the peasants of Millet's famous "L'Angelus," which itself also contains an explicitly religious dimension).”

URP often invites authors to submit images that might be used by a designer. Should we invite authors to draft the jacket itself, in the future? Maybe Jeremy Day-O’Connell is an exception.

In any case, it’s a fabulous book and one that readers should judge by its cover!