Though the Festival concerts being given by the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra in Leeds Town Hall are carefully described as concerts of British music, and though that title has been given to some correspondence in “The Yorkshire Post,” it has now been assumed that the words ‘British Music” are synonymous with those other fearsome (though seldom defined) words, “contemporary,” “modern” and “ultra-modern,” whatever that last may mean. The suspicion arises that far from attending the concerts, some people have not even taken the trouble to read the programme brochure.
Mr. Maurice Miles is not inviting Leeds audiences to sit through hours of uncouth noise and dissonance at these seven concerts, as a glance at the programme will show. As a fact, nearly one third of the total listening time is devoted to Elgar alone, to say nothing of music by Purcell and the Elizabethans or such innocuous items as the popular Piano Concerto by John Ireland and the equally well known and tuneful “Shropshire Lad” Rhapsody by George Butterworth.
In giving lectures on this subject I have had the joy of discovering that many earnest-minded people are not at all averse to the idea of hearing British music, but they fear just those qualities which the bogy words “ultra-modern” suggest. And to use those words about Mr. Miles’s current programmes is both wrong and misleading. Undoubtedly the most sustained dissonances in the whole Festival scheme appear in Walton’s Symphony, now thrice performed in Leeds and a work that is nearing its twentieth birthday. And it must go on record that it was this Symphony, played on Saturday night, that gave rise to tumultuous applause. Handclapping and stamping of feet recalled Mr. Miles twice to the platform – a gratifying scene supporting his courage and faith and showing the wisdom of regarding all Y.S.O. activities by the light of a long-term policy.
The Symphony was magnificently played. Mr Colin Horsley was the expert pianist in Ireland’s Concerto. Rawsthornes’ “Street Corner” Overture was given twice and was twice enjoyed; and Holst’s “St Paul’s Suite” was finely played by the strings.