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Roger Quilter (1877-1953)


Roger Quilter was born in Hove in 1877 into comfortablefamily circumstances. His father was Sir Cuthbert Quilter, who in 1881 foundedthe National Telephone Company and was for twenty years Liberal-Unionist Memberof Parliament for the Suffolk constituency of Sudbury. His early years werespent largely at the family's country house, Bawdsey Manor, near the Suffolktown of Felixstowe. Quilter, who later seemed slightly embarrassed by hisbackground, had his education at a private school in Farnborough and then atEton. In 1893, having decided to become a musician, he began a period of fourand a half years at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, where he was a pupil ofIwan Knorr and the piano teacher Ernst Engesser. It was perhaps the latter,with his interest in French song, who influenced the future direction ofQuilter's talents as a composer. His contemporaries in Frankfurt included CyrilScott, Percy Grainger, Balfour Gardiner and Norman O'Neill, and the FrankfurtFive formed a group of friends both there and in later life, although Graingerhad reservations about O'Neill, a musician who made his later career chiefly inthe theatre, for which he provided a quantity of incidental music.

Returning to England in 1898, Quilter quickly became knownto the London public for his songs. His Four Songs of the Sea, settings of hisown verses, were heard at the Crystal Palace in 1900, sung by Denham Price. Hewas to owe much to Gervase Elwes, who sang To Julia in 1905, and persuadedBoosey & Co. to publish the cycle. Other singers were to follow the exampleof Elwes, and Quilter's songs were performed by singers such as John Coates,Muriel Foster, Ada Crossley, and Harry Plunket Green. His work was even takenup by Melba, Clara Butt and Maggie Teyte, while Quilter himself appeared asaccompanist to his friend Mark Raphael. The many songs Quilter wrote during thecourse of some forty years form an important element in English song repertoireof the first half of the twentieth century, characteristic both of their periodand of romantic English song. He also wrote instrumental music, for orchestraor for smaller ensembles, and his A Children's Overture, with its well-knownand skilfully deployed melodic material, remains in occasional orchestralrepertoire.

 Quilter'shealth gave frequent cause for anxiety over the years. He suffered from boutsof depression and found his homosexuality, necessarily concealed as far aspossible, a continuing burden. He was generous in his support of fellowmusicians, not least to Percy Grainger, many of whose compositions he hadpublished at his own expense, and after the tragic death of Gervase Elwesduring an American tour, supported the foundation in 1921 of the Musicians'Benevolent Fund. His final years were clouded by mental illness and he died in1953.

The present collection of Quilter's songs starts with It wasa lover and his lass [1], from Shakespeare's As You Like It, one of a set offive Shakespeare settings published in 1921. Originally conceived as a duet, asin the original play, it is more widely known as a solo song. From the samegroup comes Take, O take those lips away [2], taken from Measure for Measure.An earlier group of three Shakespeare songs was published in 1905 and includesO Mistress mine [3] from Twelfth Night, while the moving How should I your truelove know [4] is a setting of Ophelia's song from Hamlet. It was published asone of a set of four Shakespeare songs in 1933. Orpheus with his lute [5] fromHenry VIII, attributed to Fletcher in that collaborative play, appeared in1939. This is here followed by Hark! Hark, the lark [6], a setting from 1946 ofwords from Shakespeare's Cymbeline.

Ca' the yowes [7] and Ye banks and braes [9] arearrangements of traditional songs, published in 1947 in The Arnold Book of OldSongs, which also includes Charlie is my darling [8], with its nod to Scottishmusical activities.

Quilter shared with other English composers a wide knowledgeof the literature of his country, a source of continuing inspiration. HisShelley setting I arise from dreams of thee [10] was originally conceived fortenor and orchestra and so performed in 1929 by Mark Raphael at the HarrogateFestival. Other Shelley settings include Love's Philosophy [12] from 1905 andMusic when soft voices die [11], written in 1927.

Spring is at the door [13] is one of three settings of lessdistinguished verses by Nora Hopper and dates from 1914. It is succeeded hereby a setting of Ernest Dowson's nostalgic Passing Dreams [14], one of a 1908set of Dowson settings, Four Songs of Sorrow. Settings of Arthur Maquarie'sAutumn Evening [15] and W.E.Henley's A last year's rose [21] come from a set offour songs dating from 1910. The 1924 I sing of a maiden [16], returns to thefifteenth century carol familiar in Peter Warlock's setting and in BenjaminBritten's A Ceremony of Carols.

Quilter's Three Pastoral Songs set verses by a contemporaryIrish poet, Joseph Campbell. It dates from 1921 and was designed originally forlow voice and piano trio. I will go with my father a-ploughing [17], also setby Ivor Gurney, is followed by Cherry Valley [18] and I wish and I wish [19].

Go, lovely rose [20], a fine setting of a poem by theroyalist seventeenth-century poet Edmund Waller, was written in 1923. WithAmaryllis at the fountain [22], written in 1914, comes a setting of ananonymous sixteenth-century pastoral poem, while the 1926 I dare not ask a kiss[23] is taken from Five Jacobean Lyrics, a setting of words by his continuingsource of inspiration, Robert Herrick. The 1904 setting of Tennyson's Nowsleeps the crimson petal ?ó takes verses from a song in the poet's The Princess.

The cycle of songs To Julia sets poems taken from Herrick'sHesperides. The poet and his beloved Julia are heard in motifs in the Prelude[24], leading to the lively The Bracelet [25], and tender love-songs, TheMaiden Blush [26] and the very well-known To Daisies [27]. The Night Piece [28]returns to a livelier mood, contrasted with the gentler mood of Julia's Hair[29]. There is a brief Interlude ⁄, after which the cycle ends withCherry Ripe [30]. Dating from 1906, the songs were later arranged forinstrumental accompaniment, the version here recorded. The work is Quilter'sonly song cycle, unified in conception and by its related use of recurringmotifs.

The last song included here is a setting of Love callsthrough the summer night [31] by the writer Rodney Bennett, father of thecomposer Richard Rodney Bennett, a writer whose name was once often heard, notleast in his writing for children. Bennett collaborated with Quilter inassembling texts for The Arnold Book of Old Songs and in the 1936 light opera,first staged at Covent Garden as Julia, for which he provided the lyrics. Thework was revised, appearing under various titles, including, in 1940, that ofRosme, from which this song is taken, a light-hearted conclusion to the presentrecording.

Keith Anderson

Item number 8557116
Barcode 747313211623
Release date 06/01/2003
Category 20th Century
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Rolfe-Johnson, Anthony
Johnson, Graham
McCready, Ivan
Milne, Lisa
Fuller, Louisa
Rolfe-Johnson, Anthony
Johnson, Graham
McCready, Ivan
Milne, Lisa
Fuller, Louisa
Composers Quilter, Roger
Quilter, Roger
Orchestras Duke Quartet
Duke Quartet
Producers Brown, Mark
Brown, Mark
Disc: 1
Love calls through the summer night
1 It was a lover and his lass
2 Take, O take those lips away
3 O mistress mine
4 How should I your true love know
5 Orpheus with his lute
6 Hark! Hark! the lark
7 Ca' the yowes to the knowes
8 Charlie is my darling
9 Ye banks and braes
10 I arise from dreams of thee
11 Music when soft voices die
12 Love's philosophy
13 Spring is at the door
14 Passing dreams
15 Autumn evening
16 An old carol
17 i - I will go with my father a-ploughing
18 ii - Cherry valley
19 iii - I wish and I wish
20 Go, lovely rose
21 A last year's rose
22 Amaryllis at the fountain
23 I dare not ask a kiss
24 Now sleeps the crimson petal
25 Prelude
26 i - The bracelet
27 ii - The maiden blush
28 iii - To daisies
29 iv - The night piece
30 v - Julia's hair
31 Interlude
32 vi - Cherry ripe
33 Love calls through the summer night
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