Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod is joined by Dr Kate Kennedy to discuss how the poetry of AE Housman invoked vocal and instrumental responses from George Butterworth.

Distant landscapes and evocations of a lost world, in Butterworth's settings of poetry by AE Housman and RL Stevenson.

A close friend of Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth was killed at the age of 31, during the battle of the Somme as dawn broke on the 5th August 1916. A war hero, he was awarded the Military Cross twice. Butterworth's legacy rests on a handful of pieces, notably his much loved English Idylls and folk-song arrangements. He belongs to a generation of composers who showed great promise early on, only to be denied the chance to reach musical maturity. This week's series also features the work of four contemporaries of Butterworth: fellow Englishmen Ernest Farrar and W Denis Browne, the Scottish composer Cecil Coles and the Australian composer Frederick Septimus Kelly. All of them, like Butterworth, died on active service during the Great War. Among the musical gems, there's the first ever recording of Denis Browne's ballet "The Comic Spirit", made for the series by the BBC Philharmonic. Their musical trajectory may be short, but this lost generation of composers nonetheless made an indelible mark on the face of British music.

Today Donald Macleod is joined once again by Dr Kate Kennedy, a specialist on this period of our cultural history. The poetry of AE Housman invokes vocal and instrumental responses from Butterworth.

Frederick Kelly
Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day
Robin Tritschler, tenor
Malcolm Martineau, piano

Ernest Farrar
Vagabond Songs, Op.10
Stephen Varcoe, baritone
Clifford Benson, piano

George Butterworth
Bredon Hill and Other Songs
Benjamin Luxon, baritone
David Willison, piano

Cecil Coles
From the Scottish Highlands
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins, conductor

George Butterworth
Rhapsody: A Shropshire Lad
English String Orchestra
William Boughton, conductor.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Frederick Keel

    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day

    Performer: Malcolm Martineau. Singer: Robin Tritschler.
  • Ernest Bristow Farrar

    3 Vagabond Songs

    Performer: Clifford Benson. Singer: Stephen Varcoe.
    • HYPERION : CDA-66261/2.
    • 13.
  • George Butterworth

    Bredon Hill and other songs [from Housman's 'A Shropshire Lad']

    Performer: David Willison. Singer: Benjamin Luxon.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN 88-31.
    • CHANDOS.
    • 7.
  • Cecil Coles

    From the Scottish Highlands

    Orchestra: BBC Scottish S O. Conductor: Martyn Brabbins.
    • HYPERION : CDA-67293.
    • 8.
  • George Butterworth

    A Shropshire lad - rhapsody

    Performer: English String Orchestra. Conductor: William Boughton.
    • NIMBUS : NI-5068.
    • NIMBUS.
    • 1.


Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.