Thursday, 6 December 2012

More Recordings Please - Peggy Glanville-Hicks

One of the first composers I learnt was Australian was Glanville-Hicks, a name I knew because one of her pieces was on the first of the Swoon CDs the ABC put out in the 90s and I played a lot. But it was only really this year that I found out anything about her, even the fact that her first name was Peggy. The fact that this is her centenary year is a nice bit of serendipity I guess.

For an Australian composer however, Peggy only just counts. She was born here and she died here, and she left a wonderful legacy for Australian composition with a Trust, but most of her training and career took place overseas. Sadly that's probably to be expected for the time.

Unfortunately too, it's not that easy to lay your hands on her music. Bits an pieces yes but compared to even some of the more obscure French composers I looked at earlier she is a veritable needle in a haystack. For instance, one of her most famous works - and the one represented on Swoon - is the Sinfonia da Pacifica, and it is on YouTube but only performed by the Community Women's Orchestra performing in a church hall in Oakland California. They do a good job but there's no mistaking they are a community orchestra. Where are the bigger recordings? The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra has made some but a quick search on the ABC Shop online shows they're not readily available - in that they don't even come up under a search.

Christopher Lawrence had Glanville-Hicks as his composer on the pedestal for the last week of Australian Music month. Several of the recordings were private. One of them was the celebrated inaugural recording of her opera Sappho which only happened this year and another was of another opera The Transposed Heads.

Classics Online has a few recordings of her in the NAXOS Archives section, one of which is unavailable in Australia, one is The Transposed Heads and the other has her Three Gymnopedies between two other works by composers I don't know at all. From the samples these are beautiful orchestral snippets. I think the TSO has done them too and I would love to find a copy.

Interestingly, the other YouTube video I have for her is of a Sonatina for Recorder - a delightful exploration of the instrument - performed by a German. This is interesting because the only other album I've found so far with a piece of her music on it is on a German label. So aside from what the TSO has done, it seems she has more of a name in Germany and the States than in her own country. This despite her generous legacy which supports middle career composers. Come on people.

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