National Orchestra of Wales
(Cerddorfa Genedlaethol Cymru)
Schubert was still a schoolboy in the gold-laced uniform of an Imperial Chorister when he began this, his first Opera. It was not by any means his first music; he had been composing for years, and indeed his output in those days was limited only by the music-paper on which he was able to lay hands. As fast as he could obtain it, it was covered.
The tale was intended to be a comic one, with ghosts and spooks joining in the plot, and the libretto was by Kotzebue, whose name is still held in honour among the German dramatists. Schubert finished the music when he was seventeen, and then rewrote it, but, like others of his works for the theatre, it never saw the footlights.
The plants of the sea cliffs form a tough and hardy community: several of them are equally at home near the tops of our highest mountains. The Gower and Pembrokeshire coasts afford opportunities for the study of sea cliff plants.
Eric Coates, a thoroughly equipped musician whose hand is no less sure in music of the sternest order, has used his fine gifts oftenest to give us what might well be called 'music of entertainment or recreation.' From the scholar's point of view, his is all thoroughly good music whatever be its subject, even when, as here, he chooses a beloved old tale of nursery days.
Everybody knows the story, and none can have any difficulty in following it in Coates' music. Goldilocks, we remember, rose very early and stole out of the house on a summer morning to explore the forbidden home of the Three Bears. Her curiosity, her wonder at the different sizes of the threefold sets of everything, are all set before us, and none can mistake the voices of the three bears as they come back to find traces of her presence and finally herself.
It is no disparagement at all to Barrie's play to say that it owed a share of its success to Norman O'Neil's effective music. Nor is it the only play which gained a good deal of additional charm from the music which he composed specially for such productions.
Born in London, O'Neill studied there for some time with Dr. Somervell. But the Hoch Conservatorium in Frankfurt claims a large share of the credit for the fine and very thorough musicianship which is the hall-mark of his work. A long and distinguished association with the theatre has marked him out as one pre-eminently well fitted for the task which has so often been entrusted to him, and his music for plays has often outworn the popularity of the dramas themselves. But, though presenting, in the most satisfying way, the atmosphere and the situations which it is illustrating, it is all music of such charm and individuality as to lose but little when divorced from its setting and played on the concert platform.
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