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FOUR BOWDON PORTRAITS - Martin Ellerby
To those within...
Consisting only of slow movements, this reflective suite pays tribute to four famous musical characters who were residents, at some time or other, of the leafy village of Bowdon in Cheshire.
1. Inglewood - The English composer John Ireland was born at Inglewood on St. Margaret's Road in the summer of 1879. There is a plaque acknowledging his birthplace on one of the gateposts – the house is now a residential home. He died at Rock Mill, in Sussex in 1962 – the epitaph on his gravestone reads “Many waters cannot quench love” and “One of God's noblest works lies here”. His lasting work endures in his numerous songs and piano music where a rich mix of pastoralism and subtle chromaticism make for an unpredictable, essentially gentle, sound world. In my tribute, much is made of modulation to unrelated keys, giving a sense of restlessness to events.
2. Lesser Thorns - This was the Bowdon home of Thomas Pitfield (1903-1999) a polymath, equally at home drawing and painting as he was composing and writing, amongst other diverse pursuits. Sadly Lesser Thorns is no more, the site having been demolished after Pitfield's death to accommodate a more modern construction. It is the sadness of this loss that I have tried to capture here.
3. Laurel Mount - The violinist Adolf Brodsky (1851-1929) was born in Russia coming to England via Europe and America to teach at the Manchester College of Music (becoming Principal in 1896) and direct the Hallé Orchestra. The modern day RNCM boasts its very own Brodsky restaurant! In 1881 he premiered Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto under the baton of Richter. His Bowdon residence, Laurel Mount, stands to this day, along with blue plaque, and it was an easy decision that this movement should feature a solo violin – there was no other possibility!
4. The Firs - Hans Richter (1843-1916), the Hungarian born conductor, directed the Hallé Orchestra between 1899 and 1911. His house in Bowdon stands on The Firs and (like Brodsky's) has a blue plaque to commemorate the fact. His image suggests a 'rather stolid and static personality' and there is a sense of grim determination and single-mindedness about this closing movement.
© 2017 Martin Ellerby
“Into my heart an air that kills from yon far country blows: what are those blue remembered hills, what spires, what farms are those? That is the land of lost content, I see it shining plain, the happy highways where I went and cannot come again.”
- A. E. Housman
C. 17 minutes