A British summer is liable to a variety of meterological experiences, not least
torrential downfalls. But the gentler side is revealed all too often, and we Brits
much enjoy the pleasures of a sunny day without the extremes imposed on some
climes. There is to us an all-embracing moderation linked to the delights of our weather,
which rarely succumbs to the outbursts of violence that maim people and flatten buildings.
There are those musicians who liken this to the general flow of British life, moderate
to the point of inevitability, undemonstrative to the point of dullness. And that begs the
question as to whether British music follows the same pattern and runs the same risk.
I do not think so. There are some pretty dramatic outbursts in British music, and much
passion deep in its soul. The scene is far from doom and gloom. We musicians in Britain
tend to have an ambivalence towards the native product. Maybe
a generalised view clips away too much of importance. Some of the twentieth century
products, whether from Vaughan Williams or others, are in every way responsible
and representative as significant vehicles of tender and passionate music. If we recall
composers and titles from the past a substantial list steadily grows, defining
a contribution that is then seen as rich and amply varied.
This, from me, is becoming a repetitive exercise and in danger of hinting at anxiety
should my conclusion be attacked as an exaggeration. I don't really mind. I see my
views as support for the fact -- all too often brushed aside -- that British music of the
twentieth century is a significant chapter in a world survey.
Copyright © 19 August 2003 Basil Ramsey,
Withernsea, East Yorkshire, UK