A Blog about the Wardour Castle Summer Schools 1964, 1965

Comments by Bayan Northcott on the 1964 WCSS

Speaking with Bayan Northcott uncovered a wealth of information about the WCSSs and the period in which they occurred. This post draws together some clips from the interview. The interview progressed with Northcott going through his diary.

He began with some contextual remarks about the scene, and the position of Maxwell Davies, Birtwistle and Goehr.

First a comment about the number of people in attendence:

(LS100049, 1’53”)

He continues, providing a context for understanding how they were able to draw so many participants:

(LS100049, 3’45”)

On the morning of the first day, the participants made their way to Tisbury:

(LS100049, 8’31”)

Upon arrival, Northcott first met Bill Hopkins and Robin Holloway:

(LS100049, 10’40”)

On Saturday, 15th August there was a dinner and people explored the house.

On Sunday, 16th at 9am:
Composition class with Alexander Goehr, talking about rhythm and articulation

(LS100049, 12’06”)

Then there was a rehearsal of the choir, conducted by John Alldis:

(LA100049, 12’42”)

Lunch; then a composition class with Alexander Goehr:

(LS100049, 15’05”)

Tea, then at 5.0 p.m. a lecture by Alexander Goehr:

Music in Our Time
ALEXANDER GOEHR will lecture on certain aspects of contemporary music with particular reference to works being performed in the evening concert.

(LS100049, 16’25”)

Following the lecture was more choir practice, dinner and a concert by the Melos Ensemble, introduced by Michael Tippett:

(LS100049, 17’56”)

8.30 pm Wardour Castle Assembly Room

Introduced by Michael Tippett
A concert of contemporary English Music.
Three Piano Pieces – Hugh Wood
Monody for Corpus Christi – Harrison Birtwistle
Piano Sonata – Anthony Gilbert
Second Piano Sonata – Michael Tippett
Five Little Pieces (first performance) – Peter Maxwell Davies
Suite Op.11 – Alexander Goehr

(LS100049, 18’54”)

Monday, 17th, 9am:
Composition class with Hugh Wood, analyzing Schoenberg’s op. 19, no. 4:

(LS100049, 21’42”)

Then more choir with Maxwell Davies, lunch and composition class with Alexander Goehr and Michael Tippett:

(LS100049, 22’29”)

5.0 p.m:

Early Organ Music            Recital 5.0 p.m.
Peter Maxwell Davies will introduce and play early music on a newly restored Snitzler organ. Works by: Dunstable, Taverner, Byrd, Tomkins, Gabrielli, Scheidt, Zipoli etc.

(LS100049, 24’30”)

Then a choir rehearsal with John Alldis, and the evening concert:

Chamber Concert 8.30 p.m.
Melos Ensemble
Pianoforte Trio in F sharp minor Haydn
Six Little Piano Pieces, op. 19 Schoenberg
Seven Sketches, op. 9 Bartok
Première Rhapsodie for clarinet and piano Debussy
Four Pieces for clarinet and piano, op.5 Berg
Fantasia in C minor, K475 Mozart
Trio for Piano, Violin and Horn, op.40 Brahms

(LS100049, 26’20”)

Tuesday, 18th

Composition class at 9am:

(LS100049, 27’27”)

then choir:

(LS100049, 27’38”)

and composition class with Maxwell Davies, talking canonic and rhythmic aspects of his work, with an aside about Britten’s War Requiem [late in the interview Northcott clarified that this aside was actually made on the Friday, after the rehearsal for the evening concert at the Old Wardour Castle], Stravinsky’s Threni:

(LS100049, 27’45”)

Quartet for the End of Time Lecture 5.0 p.m.
Olivier Messiaen, the Man and His Music
given by Hugh Wood

(LS100049, 29’48”)

Then more choir, in Northcott’s account including Verdi’s Ave Maria and Bruckner’s Gradual: Christus factus est. Neither of these pieces appears in the published programmes:

(LS100049, 32’41”)

The evening concert was as follows:

Clarinet Trio in E flat K498            Mozart
Four Impromptus, op. 142            Schubert
Quatuor pour la fin du temps Olivier Messiaen

The Melos Ensemble performed; Nortcott comments on their presence at the WCSSs:

(LS100049, 33’14”)

Wednesday, 19th:

Instead of composition class, in the morning was the first workshop by members of the Melos Ensemble of works especially composed for the WCSS. All of those who had nominated themselves as composers were invited to write a work for this occasion. The pieces rehearsed were by Edward Cowie, Philip Pilkington. (LS100049, 33’57”)

Northcott didn’t attend the 5.0 p.m. recital of Bach, Rameau and Couperin, but did return for the evening discussion about opera:

Opera Today 8.0 p.m.
Alexander Goehr, Peter Maxwell Davies, Michael Tippett
Chairman: Harrison Birtwistle

(LS100049, 35’58”)

Thursday, 20th:

The 9am composition class was devoted to listening to a recording Messiaen’s Turangalîla:

(LS100049, 41’24”)

Northcott confirmed the McGaw recital as following the printed programme, with Mendelssohn, C.P.E. Bach and Satie. Northcott missed the Pruslin (then aged 24) lecture, Characterization in Mozart Opera.

Following the lecture was a concert including music by Cage and Feldman, put on by Roger Smalley and David Bedford, which doesn’t appear in any programmes:

(LS100049, 44’19”)

Friday, 21st:

Owing to the ‘glorious weather’ Northcott took leave of the official routine and spent time talking to Patrick Carnegie.

After the break was a composition class, with Northcott’s piece being workshopped. The following is included for those interested in Northcott’s early composition:

(LS100049, 46’17”, 50’39”)

After lunch, Northcott, with Edward Cowie and Maxwell Davies walked to the Old Wardour Castle, discussing conducting along the way. The evening concert took place there and there was a rehearsal.

(LS100049, 53’10”)
By way of a portrait of Maxwell Davies, the following description is fascinating:

(LS100049, 53’32”)

8.30 pm Old Wardour Castle
A concert in the open air of English and Italian echo-music from the 16th and 17th centuries for brass and voices
Given by: Gabrieli Ensemble and Choir conducted by Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr.
Music by Maschera, Isaac, A and G. Gabrielli

Wood’s files included a document which gives the details of this concert:

Canzon Cornetto a 4 Scheidt
Quam Pulchra Es Dunstable
Courant Dolorosa a 4 Scheidt
Paduan a 4 Scheidt
Cor Mio, mentre vi miro Monteverdi
Air, Corante, Allemande, Corante, Saraband Cocke
Sonata, Hora decima No. 6 Johannes Pezel
Sonata, Hora decima No. 39 Pezel
Adieu, Adieu, my heart’s lust Cornish
Fair Phyllis I saw Farmer
Draw on, sweet night Wilbye
April is in my mistress’s face Morley
Canzon Primi Toni a 8 Morley
Canzon Septimi Toni a 8 G. Gabrielli

Northcott comments on the concert, some of the problems in performance and confirms the contents of the concert.

(LS100049, 54’38”)

Saturday, 22nd:

Most of the day was spent rehearsing for the evening participants’ concert.

The programme is as follows:

Concert 8.30 p.m.
Participants Concert
A concert given by the participants of the summer school
Conductors: John Carewe, Michael Tippett
Morgengesang C. P. E. Bach
Sequentia Sanctia Evangeli Secundam Lucan [sic, Sequentia Sancti Evangelii Secundum Lucam], in illo Tempore XXII 14-20 Peter Maxwell Davies
Ave Maria Verdi
Gradual: Christus factus est Bruckner
Music for a film scene Schoenberg
Canzona II David Ellis
Movement Neville Gambier
Castle Music Anthony Gilbert
Serenade Op.11 Brahms [three movements only]

Northcott’s comments here are especially enlightening, with asides about compositional priorities at the time (‘relevance’, ‘unity’) and the notion of basing works on early music. He neglects to mention Tippett’s Little Music for Strings, although he does mention Tippett as being there conducting the rehearsal for this.

(LS100049, 58’50”)

The day ended with a late-night party.

Sunday, 23rd:

Bill Hopkins drove Northcott, Robin Holloway and Anne Carr-Boyd back to London.

Filed under: Commentary from Interviews, General details of the Summer Schools, What music was performed?, What was analyzed/discussed?, Who was there?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. Ann Carr-Boyd says:

    Dear Michael

    How fascinating that you are researching the two Wardour Castle summer schools.
    I was present at both and have lots of memories.
    They were an important event in my life in England – and I was, of course, a student of Alexander Goehr at the time.
    If you would like me to contribute anything to your research I would be happy to do it.
    Best wishes
    Ann C-B

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