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ClassicsOnline Home » QUILTER: Where the Rainbow Ends / Country Pieces
Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
Roger Cuthbert Quilter was born into a wealthy, land-owning household at the maternal family home, 4 Brunswick Square in the Sussex seaside town of Brighton on November 1, 1877, the third of seven children. Both his parents, Sir Cuthbert Quilter, Bart. - a leading businessman who, amongst other things, founded the National Telephone Company in 1881, and who was Member of Parliament for Sudbury in Suffolk for twenty years - and Lady Quilter, were artistically cultured and, from an early age, the future composer received a thorough grounding in all aspects of the arts, especially from his mother, a lady whose charm and elegance were to emerge in her talented son (although some psychologically-minded observers have suggested that, in certain respects, the impressionable young man may actually have been unhealthily affected by her powerful, dominating personality!). Much of his childhood was spent at the family's country home, Bawdsey Manor, near Felixstowe in Suffolk, where he enjoyed the comfortable life of the landed gentry, with a houseful of servants and several employees to look after the extensive grounds and estate. In a curious way, he grew up rather embarrassed about this privileged background and it goes some way towards explaining his extraordinary generosity in later life when he deployed his riches freely in the service and support of others. It also seems to have been behind a crisis of confidence which he revealed in a letter written in early 1911: "I've given up hoping ever to be an artist myself - I have the English rich upper-middle-class blood in my veins too much, I'm not strong enough to fight if'. And, as he was to remark to an interviewer in 1945:"If I had sprung from nothing out of the gutter, there might have been something more interesting for you to write about".
The family fortunes enabled the young Quilter to become a pupil, first at a private preparatory school in Farnborough, where he sang in the choir, and then at that most august educational establishment, Eton College, where it soon became apparent that music was going to be predominant amongst his many artistic skills. He enjoyed nothing more than visiting St. George's Chapel in nearby Windsor Castle to hear the choir sing under its then distinguished director, Sir Walter Parratt. But it was by no means clear at first that he would become a professional musician. He was financially self-sufficient and there was no reason for him to apply his abilities on anything other than a casual or informal basis. However, the inspirational urge was stronger than most people imagined and thus it was that, in 1893, Quilter set off for a course of study in Germany, spending some four and a half years at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt-am-Main, working under the celebrated teacher Iwan Knorr, with Ernst Engesser as his piano tutor.
It is, perhaps, significant, that one of Knorr's passions was French song and it may well have been his enthusiasm for this art form that inspired his pupil to take a similar interest. Quilter, incidentally, found himself in distinguished company, with his classmates including such illustrious names as Cyril Scott, Henry Balfour Gardiner, Percy Grainger and Norman O'Neill. In spite of his inherent shyness and natural reserve, his apparent skill at mimicry made him a most popular companion. And Cyril Scott, in his autobiography, My Years of Indiscretion, provided a tiny but delightful anecdote offering another brief glimpse into the otherwise rather private and secret life of his friend: "Like St. Francis of Assisi [Quilter] had great compassion for the little birds, and every morning would put a lavish supply of crumbs for them out on his window-sill. But unfortunately, having eaten their fill, they would leave their 'visiting cards' on the slab, which so incensed his house-proud landlady, that one day she stormed into his room and told him she would stand it no longer. 'Most unrefined" she exclaimed."
On his return to England in 1898, it didn't take long for Quilter to become established in musical circles. His Four Songs of the Sea, Op. 1, settings of his own texts and dedicated to his beloved mother, were first performed in 1900 by Denham Price at London's Crystal Palace. They were received with notable enthusiasm but the composer was slow to produce anything else. Throughout his life, he tended to work quite slowly, rarely finding composition an easy task. Three years later, only about another five songs had appeared, but they were of sufficiently high quality to attract eager attention, including that of the great tenor Gervase Elwes, who gave the first performance of the Herrick settings, To Julia, Op. 8 in October 1905. It was Elwes, to whom Quilter dedicated To Julia, who managed to persuade Boosey & Co. to take an interest in the young composer and publish his music. (Smaller firms had already issued some songs, including two very early settings which appeared in 1897 under the name of Ronald Quinton). Thereafter, some of the leading singers of the day, such as John Coates, Muriel Foster, Ada Crossley, Harry Plunket Green and even Nellie Melba, Clara Butt and Maggie Teyte featured Quilter songs in their recitals. And later on, the composer himself was often to be seen and heard in public accompanying his close friend Mark Raphael.
Over the years, he became friendly with many of the top international singers who were drawn towards his inimitable songs. He used to hold musical parties at his house for them and among the distinguished artists who accepted his hospitality were Roland Hayes, Paul Robeson and Marian Anderson.
But he did not confine himself to music for voice and piano. A Serenade was played at the Queen's Hall in London in August 1907, the first of a small body of orchestral works including the popular Children's Overture. Incidental music (most notably that for Where the Rainbow Ends), two ballets and a light opera Julia constituted his contribution to the theatre, and piano music manifested itself in the form of dances and small descriptive pieces. In 1937, his friend Walter Creighton asked for a work for inclusion in a Pageant of Parliament he was producing. The result was the splendid Non Nobis Domine, a setting of words by Rudyard Kipling for chorus, string orchestra and piano.
Turned down for military service during World War Ion health reasons, Quilter moved house to an address in London's Montagu Street from where he organised a series of concerts and recitals in a number of hospitals. These proved very popular and the composer was encouraged to continue this kind of activity with the cessation of hostilities. He formed a chamber-music club in the Lindsey Hall in West London's Notting Hill Gate which served as a useful platform for introducing new up-and-coming artists to the public. He would often perform at the recitals in the role of accompanist but, even when he was not actually present on stage, he was always in attendance to offer encouragement, not to mention his constant financial support.
Although by nature rather shy, the tall, soft-spoken Quilter was not without a sense of fun, as well as possessing an admirable versatility! His delightfully eccentric friend, Percy Grainger, quotes several instances when the aristocratic musician was called upon to demonstrate his musical prowess in somewhat unconventional areas. On one occasion, we are told that Quilter played guitar in a Grainger composition; elsewhere, we are informed that he acquitted himself commendably on the xylophone whilst another account tells how he participated in a whistling chorus! And Quilter himself loved to tell the story of how, after a song recital in which he had accompanied Mark Raphael in a programme of his own music, he was approached by a formidable, jewel-bedecked lady who, obviously unaware of the status of the gentleman she was addressing, asked him: "Are you fond of music?" The good-natured composer, rather amused at the situation, apparently replied to the effect that he was not averse to the art.
Constitutionally frail from birth, much of his life was blighted by poor health and bouts of depression, which blocked creative work for long periods at a time. In 1908, there had been real fears that he would not survive a particularly serious stomach disorder. An operation was singularly unsuccessful and an ulcer, which developed not long afterwards, hastened his physical decline. His mental state deteriorated alarmingly in later years, primarily through intense grief at the news of the tragic death of a nephew to whom he was especially closely attached but also, it is thought by some who knew him well, partly as the result of constant pressure caused by the incessant underlying concern regarding his homosexuality. He was fully aware of the consequences should it become public knowledge in a society which, at that time, was less than tolerant of such matters. His own substantial personal means staved off privations but it brought home to him the real threat posed to most musicians by the onset of ill health. He was unceasingly generous in the financial assistance he provided to fellow artists in need, although he never made this public. He was particularly magnanimous towards his old fellow-student Percy Grainger with whom he maintained the warmest of friendships and used to visit regularly for tea every Thursday afternoon. Many of the Australian-born composer's works only found their way into print because all the costs were paid for by Quilter. (In a charming letter which he wrote to Grainger in April 1906, he stated that "I can't think of any better way of spending my money than helping to get your work known in the world"). And with the instigation of the Musicians' Benevolent Fund, formed in 1921 in memory of his great friend and interpreter Gervase Elwes, killed by a train while on tour in America, he became a founder-member and served on its committee for the rest of his life.
As a composer, the style he formulated in his early years remained with him throughout his working life, with little obvious sign of development, a feature which has attracted a not inconsiderable degree of critical opprobrium from some quarters. It can perhaps also be said that his expressive range was a little restricted but, to his great credit, Quilter was fully aware of his potential limitations and wisely tended to remain well within "safe" parameters. In fact, his creative muse more or less fell silent in his final years, but for most people, he remained a much-respected figure, albeit a little unfashionable. His seventy-fifth birthday was marked by a special BBC concert in Broadcasting House devoted entirely to his music. The composer, although weak - and impaired mentally as well as physically - attended but it was to prove one of his last public appearances. He died less than a year later, on September 21, 1953 and was buried in the family vault at St. Mary's Church in the village of Bawdsey.
He was, as has already been mentioned, an immensely cultivated man and several friends paid tribute to his deep knowledge and appreciation of the arts. His musical tastes ranged far and wide; as he put it, "I am glad to say I can appreciate any kind of music which is sincere and vital - from Bach to a good ragtime. I enjoy immensely the music of Patience, and can also keenly relish Stravinsky's Petrushka." His love of English poetry was second to none - he once said that his passion for it was "greater even than music" - and it explains the extraordinary sensitivity with which he set a bewildering variety of texts in his almost 120 songs. Although, as he said, "I have no gift for writing it", he produced a substantial amount of verse himself, one poem appearing under the extraordinary pseudonym of Romney Marsh! He could talk knowledgeably about painting and architecture and yet he wore his learning lightly. For an almost exclusively city dweller - he lived most of his life in London, first, as already mentioned, in Montagu Street near Marble Arch and then in Acacia Road, St. John's Wood - he had a profound affection for the countryside, and felt very much at home with rural folk, understanding and respecting their ways and traditions. Indeed, one of his very last creative ventures was the arrangement in 1947 of sixteen folksongs for The Arnold Book of Old Songs.
Perhaps the final word can, in a way, be left to Quilter himself for it is surely significant that, to all intents and purposes, his composing career ended with the setting of Christina Rossetti's A Song at Parting (When I am Dead) with its lines:
When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady Cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet:
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
 A Children's Overture, Op. 17
This work was originally intended as a Prelude to the 1911 children's Fairy Play, Where The Rainbow Ends, for which Quilter provided the incidental music, but it got no further than the rough draft stage before the composer abandoned it and replaced it with another introductory piece. Not until 1919 did Quilter once again turn his attention to the score when he fashioned it into a full-length concert overture. It received its first performance on September 18 of that year at a Henry Wood Promenade concert at London's Queen's Hall, conducted by Sir Henry Wood himself.
It is, in fact, a skilfully-wrought Fantasy on well-known British nursery tunes, Quilter having taken the themes from Baby's Opera, an illustrated anthology compiled by the one-time Principal of the Royal College of Art, Walter Crane. The composer parades before the listener about a dozen melodies in all, dressing each one up in simple but effective orchestral colours and avoiding all hint of pretentiousness by not trying to overwork the unassuming little tunes.
The first nursery rhyme - albeit just a brief excerpt - is Baa! Baa! Black Sheep, announced right at the outset by muted horn and muted trumpet, accompanied by avian imitations from the flute. A bridge passage gradually speeds up the tempo, preparing the way for Boys and Girls, Come Out to Play, while the eventual arrival of Upon Paul's Steeple Stands a Tree will be immediately recognised by its introductory bell-ringing sequence of 'Rounds' and 'Queen's'. Then come two Christmas-inspired pieces - Dame, Get Up and Bake Your Pies, identifiable by its minor mode tune in 6/8 rhythm, and I Saw Three Ships, led at first by a solo viola. Woodwinds and pizzicato strings usher in Sing a Song of Sixpence, after which comes the relatively unfamiliar but extremely beautiful There Was a Lady Loved a Swine, Quilter marking this section of the score to be played "Andante con moto ed amoroso".
The flute quickens the tempo with Over the Hills and Far Away which is developed into a sort of English country dance. A bit of a gear change is then required to effect the introduction of the next piece, The Crow and the Frog, which eventually gets under way courtesy of the oboe. After that comes the most ambitious episode of the whole work - a brisk fugato, in the minor mode, of A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go, sounding at times remarkably like the Fuge à la Giga, attributed to Bach! The tune eventually appears in its customary major tonality before Baa! Baa! Black Sheep gets a chance to be heard in its entirety. This leads into Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush, with piccolo leading the way, before the trumpets enter upon the scene with Oranges and Lemons. There is then the briefest of development passages in which memories of Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play, Upon Paul's Steeple Stands a Tree and Baa! Baa! Black Sheep are fleetingly recalled. Finally, Oranges and Lemons comes chiming in again with renewed splendour and the Overture ends in a mood of jubilation.
Suite: "Where The Rainbow Ends"
 No. 1a Rainbow land
 No. 1b Will o'the Wisp
 No. 2 Rosamund
 No. 3 Fairy Frolic
 No. 4 Goblin Forest
The Fairy Tale for children Where the Rainbow Ends was written by Clifford Mills and John Ramsey (the latter better known as the actor Reginald Owen, and who appeared in the show as St. George of England). It was first performed on December 21, 1911 at London's Savoy Theatre (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame) with a cast largely made up of children from the Italia Conti Stage School, and including the twelve year old Noel Coward in the part of William - who apparently told the composer, with admirable directness, "I like your music, Mr. Quilter". This seasonal entertainment proved a great success and was to grace the stage each Christmas for many years, usually conducted by Quilter's one-time secretary, Leslie Woodgate. The latter recalled in a Musical Times article many years later how Quilter himself would take the rostrum for a couple of performances and he also described how it became "an annual ritual to have a 'Rainbow' party at his [Quilter's] house where, after tea, musical chairs and other frolics of a similar nature took place, with Quilter at the piano".
It was Charles Hawtrey who commissioned the composer to write the incidental music for the production. Quilter duly extracted five movements from the score to make up a concert suite, the first being the warmly romantic Rainbow Land, a rhapsodic andantino that casts more than an occasional nod in the direction of Delius. It sets the scene for the tale of Rosamund who, with the help of St. George, sets off on a magic carpet with her brother and two friends in search of her lost mother and father in the land where the rainbow ends. This is followed by Will o'the Wisp which, in the words of the splendid Rosa Newmarch, "is a dainty, freakish little sprite who helps to bring the children and parents together, and incidentally lures the wicked uncle and aunt, who are in pursuit, into a very unpleasant bog". If Quilter's music is to be believed, the Will o'the Wisp is a fairly civilised individual, given to moments of reflection!
Rosamund is a little gem, representing Quilter at his most appealing. A simple, song-like melody, played at first by a clarinet before being taken over by the violins, is accompanied by the most tasteful harmonies and scored with the utmost refinement. Fairy Frolics is one of those good-natured, intrinsically 'polite' dance movements that the English have made quintessentially their own since the time of Sir Arthur Sullivan and Sir Edward German. Moon-fairies have assembled at the behest of Will o'the Wisp. We are told by Rosa Newmarch that they have "advanced tripping over the lake ... (and have emerged) from trees and rushes, some in the form of dragon-flies, others like bats". With Will o'the Wisp "superintending from the bank", they all perform a Fairy Frolic. "The dance finished, they vanish once more into the shadows, and all is quiet as before".
In Goblin Forest, "the children have to pass through a dark forest belonging to the Dragon King, inhabited by many wicked little elves, goblins and wild beasts. The elves are heard laughing and playing in the depths of the forest. Suddenly there is a silence, as a fearsome black leopard walks stealthily across a moonlit patch of ground. He is no sooner gone than a lot of elves, some pretty and dainty, but all freakish and untrustworthy, emerge from their hiding-places; these are joined by other elves and then by gigantic toads, and a wild dance ensues".
Thus is set the scene of the final movement of the Suite but anyone expecting graphic pictorialism in the music is likely to be disappointed. The wild beasts are about as terrifying as those to be found in Pets' Corner, while the elves come across as nothing more than mildly mischievous. But we must not forget that this was Edwardian children's entertainment and, as such, Quilter performs his task admirably. It would be nice to think that Where the Rainbow Ends could resume its place each year as part of the Christmas festivities, but it is hard to imagine modern-day audiences, brought up on harsher fare, accepting such light and charming diversion.
Suite: "As You Like It", Op. 21
 No. 1 Shepherd's Holiday
 No. 2 Evening In The Forest
 No. 3 Merry Pranks
 No. 4 Country Dance
Quilter's literary taste, as has been mentioned earlier, was, to say the least, wide-ranging. His songs cover the work of about forty poets but it is not hard to discern a favourite amongst them - William Shakespeare, nineteen of whose texts receive a setting. So, an invitation to provide incidental music for a production of the Bard's As You Like It at London's Old Vic came as a pleasant challenge to the composer. The commission seems to have gone to him at the express wish of that grande dame of the Old Vic, Lilian Baylis - it certainly wasn't at the behest of her Musical Director Charles Corri who, according to Leslie Woodgate, on meeting Quilter at a rehearsal of the incidental music, coolly remarked, "I only know one song of yours, O Mistress Mine, and I don't think much of it".
Precisely when he was asked to provide a score to accompany the play is not clear for, although the first night of the production did not take place until October 17, 1921, most of the score seems to have been in place in 1920 and a piano selection of the music appeared that year. The suite recorded here, laid out for small orchestra, was published by Boosey & Go. in 1921. What we do know for certain, however, is that the composer himself was in the pit for all the Old Vic performances, watching Wilfrid Walter as the Duke, Alan Watts as Orlando, Andrew Leigh as Touchstone and Florence Buckton as Rosalind. It would seem that his music was received quite favourably.
The Suite consists of four movements, beginning with Shepherd's Holiday, set in a lightly syncopated 6/8 with a somewhat sturdier constitution than most English dances in this rhythm. Evening In The Forest provides a pleasant lyrical interlude while Merry Pranks is characterised by its contrasting moods. It starts in quasi-folksong fashion but quickly adopts a much more sophisticated demeanour, with Quilter employing some quite cunning phrasing. To finish, there is the Country Dance, an absolute gem with the catchiest of melodies which could be described as Edward German meets Percy Grainger. Those who sometimes feel that Quilter can be a little staid and unexciting will certainly be given cause to rethink their views.
Country Pieces, Op. 27
 No. 1 Shepherd Song
 No. 2 Goblins
 No. 3 Forest Lullaby
 No. 4 Pipe and Tabor
Although a fine pianist, Quilter left comparatively little solo music for the instrument, using it, in the main, as accompaniment for the solo voice. All we have are two sets of Three Studies, Three Pieces which appeared in 1916, Two Impressions which, like the second set of Studies, appeared in 1920, a few delightful arrangements of traditional songs, including Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes, and Country Pieces, which were published in 1923. The latter, bearing a dedication to a Mrs. Fabian Brackenberry, represent Quilter's gentle pianistic style to perfection, yet they have taken to the orchestra extremely well in this arrangement by Ernest Tomlinson, which he made in 1991 especially for the present recording. Tomlinson, who had known and loved the work for many years, has said of his adaptation, "When I arrange anything I always try to think into the composer's mind. I don't want people to notice my arrangement, but just to enjoy another delightful Quilter piece. It's lightly scored - e.g. no trombones".
Shepherd Song sets a gentle pastoral scene, the music infused with a delicate touch of wistfulness. In some respects, it is almost like a Quilterian 'Song Without Words'. The Goblins, on the other hand, have a slight touch of the Orient about them, thanks to a liberal use of open fourths and some vaguely exotic chromaticisms. Ernest Tomlinson subtly underlines this element with a few discreetly-judged applications of appropriate instrumental colour, especially the distinctive sonority of the xylophone.
Forest Lullaby is a simple, straightforward movement whose quiet lyrical flow is unstrained and unhurried, with just a hint of urgency towards the end of the central section. Finally, it's difficult to imagine in what village Quilter heard such rhythmically subtle Pipe and Tabor playing, but it's certainly not your conventional English country dance. The piece is set in 3/4 though, for the most part, this is well disguised and Ernest Tomlinson has pointed up the 'tabor' element in order to emphasise the composer's often ingenious cross-rhythms.
Suite: "The Rake"
 No. 1 Dance at the Feast
 No. 2 The Light-Hearted Lady
 No. 3 The Frolicsome Friend
 No. 4 Allurement
 No. 5 Midnight Revels
The Rake was commissioned for inclusion in Charles B. Cochran's revue On With the Dance which opened at the Palace Theatre in Manchester on March 18, 1925 (immediately following an extraordinary 27 hour long dress rehearsal) before transferring to the London Pavilion on May 30, where it ran until the end of the year, notching up 229 performances. At least three-quarters of the entertainment was provided by Noel Coward who wrote the book and lyrics and collaborated with Philip Braham on the music. For Scene 8 of the evening's extravaganza, Roger Quilter teamed up with the great choreographer Leonide Massine to provide what was described as "A Hogarth Impression". Following hard on the heels of a rendition of 3 a.m. by Percy Val which itself had been preceded by the hit of the show, Poor Little Rich Girl, a sketch starring Hermione Baddeley, The Rake was described in the following terms:
"Massine has taken a number of Hogarth's (William Hogarth: English painter, satirist and engraver, 1697-1764) characters - symbolic and realistic. William Nicholson (who designed the costumes and scenery for the production) has given them a characteristic environment for a Hogarthian Orgy.
The Rake lolls drunkenly in a chair while his wanton companions disport around him. The negro Cupid is busy with bow and arrows, plumbing the hearts of his victims; and the worship of women and wine whips itself up into a passionate whirl. And while the revellers seek their pleasure, the sages are wrapt in contemplation of their globe, and a window frames the faces of a curious crowd, who see, and are silent".
With characters such as the Corset Woman, two Fat Women, the Woman with the Bound Hair, the Beau (performed by Massine himself) and the Boot Man, not to mention a group of musicians made up of The Dog, The Bull, The Cat and The Cock, this strange little ballet must have been a most peculiar spectacle!
Quilter rose well to this unusual commission and although his score has some slightly unorthodox features - by the composer's standards, that is - he fundamentally didn't alter his style too drastically. So, in the Dance at the Feast, which opens with a three-note 'call to attention', he employs as his main idea a fairly conventional 6/8 tune but makes it sound a little bit different by the simple device of either bringing forward or delaying the third quaver in each bar by one beat. It's syncopation at a pretty basic level, but quite effective nonetheless, and makes what is, in fact, quite an ordinary theme seem relatively unconventional.
The Light-Heal1ed Lady sees Quilter again resorting to parallel fourths, as he did with Goblins in Country Pieces, a device he seems to have equated with the exotic. This little movement is charmingly scored, with really nothing of the grotesquerie associated with Hogarth. The Frolicsome Friend is represented by a somewhat gauche waltz while Allurement has a rhapsodic feel, even if one occasionally feels that temptation is being resisted with a stiff British upper lip! The ballet ends with Midnight Revels, getting under way with the same 'call to attention' that began proceedings and developing into a nimble-footed but slightly furtive dance. The coda stands as probably the jazziest thing Quilter ever wrote.
Three English Dances, Op. 11
 No. 1 Allegro giocoso
 No. 2 Allegro scherzando
 No. 3 Allegro ma non troppo ma con spirito
In a letter to Roger Quilter, dated January 19, 1911, and penned in a characteristically overblown style, Percy Grainger wrote: 'Why don't you favor the orchestra again? Give us some of your warm roaring seething loving stuff on a nice billowy band. The dances showed how the mass answered to yr [your] helm...".
What the effusive Grainger almost certainly had in mind were his friend's Three English Dances, which had received their première at London's Queen's Hall on June 30, 1910. The instrumentation, for small orchestra, was actually by Percy Fletcher, the Derby-born composer, conductor and orchestrator (1879-1932) and the score was published in 1912.
With the greatest of respect to Grainger, "roaring" and "seething" are the last epithets to come to mind when listening to this utterly charming, if occasionally rather impersonal, music. All three dances follow a conventional ABA format with only the central section of No. 3 offering anything in the way of a marked contrast to what takes place around it. All three movements exude good-naturedness and amiability and are possessed of an unmistakable 'Englishness', with more than a passing reminder of the spirit of both Delius and Grainger.
 Concert Waltz from "Rosmé"
Throughout his life, Quilter harboured a deep fascination for the theatre. He was able to contribute to it through the incidental music he wrote for As You Like It and Where the Rainbow Ends as well as the two ballets, The Rake and Titania. But by far and away his most substantial contribution to the stage world was his light opera Julia. First performed at Covent Garden on December 3, 1936 by the so-called British Music Drama Opera Company, with the London Symphony Orchestra in the pit, it was conducted by Albert Coates, produced by Henry Cass and starred Margaret Bannerman, Henry Wendon and Ralph Roberts in the leading roles.
The libretto was the handiwork of Stanley Grey and Caswell Garth, with lyrics by Rodney Bennett. The plot was based on a real-life episode, namely the wooing in 1786 by the somewhat dissolute painter George Morland (1763-1804) of Anne Ward, sister of his close friend, the engraver and animal painter James Ward (1769-1859). According to the original synopsis, the story told of Julia, Countess of Clovelly who, "married at an early age to a husband much older than herself, finds, in his death, that she is still held captive by the terms of his will. This will provides, should she wish to marry again, that unless she chooses one of two suitors named by her late husband she will lose his entire fortune. Ruled over by her tyrannical sister-in-law she finds the luxury of her London home a gilded prison from which she longs, yet fears, to escape.
She is influenced by her maid, Lucy, and by Kate and Jane, two strolling singers whose careers her music master persuades her to further, to run away for one night to the freer atmosphere of the Blue Boar Inn at Barnet. At the inn that night Mr. Montague Broscius, manager of a "fit-up" company, arrives with his strolling players to perform in the barn theatre attached to the Blue Boar.
Here Julia, arriving incognito, meets David Wycombe, a young composer, and is persuaded by Broscius to sing in his Company. This she agrees to do provided the opera to be performed is a new work by David Wycombe. Helping the young composer in his career, Julia is at the same time instrumental through Kate and Jane in fooling her two suitors who have followed her to the inn.
Through Julia's influence David's opera is performed, not in the barn, but in her own private theatre. On the opening night, however, David discovers Julia was merely masquerading at the inn, and, thinking she has only been amusing herself by encouraging him in his career and that her affection for him is worthless, turns from her to Nancy, Brocius' daughter, who has always loved him.
Julia, heartbroken, realises she has not escaped what she feels to be her destiny, merely by running away from it, and accepts Lord Baldoyle, the younger of her two suitors. But at the Blue Boar the two lovers meet again and realise, swayed by the music that brought them together, that stronger than "titles, position, birth - is love".
But all this was quite out of place in the august surroundings of the Royal Opera House, being too light to appeal to serious music enthusiasts and too serious to interest light music devotees, and it failed dismally, disappearing after just seven performances. The publishers were not prepared to issue the complete work but what did appear in later years were various extracts, issued under a bewildering mix of titles, including Love at the Inn, At the Blue Boar, Love and the Countess and Rosmé.
The latter selection included a splendid Waltz which, in the opera's action, was used, to quote The Times review, to "follow the lovers about" as well as to underline the work's happy ending. Quite simply, it represents one of Quilter's finest orchestral achievements. It is a sturdy creation which doesn't stand in any obvious English waltz tradition - e.g. Charles Ancliffe or Eric Coates - but, rather, brings to mind the examples of Emile Waldteufel. A fairly substantial slow introduction is not without dramatic effect and prepares the scene most effectively for the eventual arrival of the main theme. It's often been said that by the 1930s, Quilter's inspiration had faded; this fine Waltz proves the folly of such sweeping generalisations.
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QUILTER: Where the Rainbow Ends / Country Pieces