« Previous | Main | Next »

One-work composers.

Post categories:

Roger Wright Roger Wright | 09:17 UK Time, Saturday, 11 July 2009

It was interesting to hear Rob Cowan on Radio 3 Breakfast yesterday morning talking about composers who are primarily known for only one (or a handful) of works. He played the dance from Carmina Burana by Orff and then encouraged his listeners to reflect on other composers like Orff famous for a tiny part of their output.

Some mentioned Dukas (Sorcerer's Apprentice), Rob mentioned D'Indy (Symphony on a French Mountain Air) and I was reminded of how Grainger used to dislike only being known for  "Country Gardens" and Elgar for "Pomp and Circumstance no.1".  I suppose the same is true for composers like Holst and Grieg whose Planets and Peer Gynt (and Piano Concerto) respectively are so popular by comparison to the rest of their output. They are not one work composers by any means but certainly composers the rest of whose work deserves to be more popular.

As I look forward to the start of the BBC Proms the First Choral Symphony by Holst is one of the works that I am eagerly awaiting in the festival and keen to hear live for the first time.  The list also includes other British works - Delius Song of the High Hills, Finzi Grand Fantasia and Toccata and Moeran Symphony in G minor.  I do have a particular interest in British 20th century music and whilst I do not make claims for it over and above other music it does seem to me to be an important part of our  work at Radio 3 and the Proms to allow our audiences to hear this music first hand and make their own assessment rather than hearing second-hand opinions and dismissing works unheard.

I will no doubt begin to receive suggestions for future seasons Proms but a word of warning -  most of the 2010 main evening Proms are already planned - but ideas are always welcome  - not least about one work composers.


  • Comment number 1.

    With a highlight from the Proms Brass Day 2007 last night(15/07/09), it would be great to have another Brass day, perhaps even a weekend. Perhaps to include some workshops in neibouring RAM, and other top flight bands to appear as well, and also Wind Bands too.

  • Comment number 2.

    Although I do recall some of the wind orchestra gigs featuring Messiaen's works last year and a couple of Mozart Wind Serenades the previous (I think), I'm with brassbandmaestro on this .. wind band/orchestra (depending on how you like to refer to them) would be rather fab Mr Wright, sir.

  • Comment number 3.

    What about including William Mathias in next years Proms? My father had several Proms performances during his lifetime his 1984 Organ Concerto was a Proms commission and his orchestral Requiescat was performed in 1993 to commemorate his untimely death in 1992. But it has now been some 16 years since his music has been heard at the Proms, a gap which is rather too long for a composer of his calibre. I do feel that it is important not to lose sight of the huge contribution he made to British music, and that his music deserves the opportunity of being heard first hand by a new generation of Prom audiences.

    I dont think that he could be dismissed as a one-work composer. But most people would probably associate him with the royal wedding anthem, Let the People Praise Thee O God, a piece which was first heard in 1981 by an estimated audience of around 750 million, and which remains popular. Although his choral music continues to have an enduring appeal for audiences, there are fascinating but less well-lit areas of his output which deserve to be more widely known orchestral works such as Vistas (1975) and Threnos (1990), his three symphonies, several concertos, and his large-scale choral / orchestral works This Worldes Joie (1974), Lux Aeterna (1982) and Worlds Fire (1989).

    He would have been 75 on 1st November of this year, and I do feel that many people would welcome the opportunity of hearing his music next year at the Proms during his anniversary year.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.