Title graphic: Composers and Music
Composers and Music: 1

Elgar's assessment of A Vision of Life (1907) by Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918) as "fine stuff" is indirect evidence of his own debt to the nobility and grandeur of Parry's music, qualities the latter continued to explore during the Indian summer of his career in his Fifth Symphony (1912), the symphonic poem, From Death to Life (1914), and the Songs of Farewell (1918) for unaccompanied chorus. In contrast, Elgar's view of the music of Sir Charles Stanford (1852-1924) as "neither fish, flesh, fowl nor good red-herring!" ignores the restrained ardour of Stanford's Clarinet Concerto (1902), the manly vigour of the Songs of the Sea (1904) for baritone, male chorus and orchestra, and the fiery passion that erupts intermittently in the Fifth Irish Rhapsody (1917).

However, despite the achievements of Parry and Stanford, neither composer could match Elgar; nor, indeed, could Sir Granville Bantock (1868-1946), although the novelty of the voluptuous harmonies and Straussian exuberance in his three-part cantata, Omar Khayyam (1906-9), and in Sappho (1906) for contralto and orchestra, led some contemporaries to think so. Bantock, close friend of Elgar and for a time of Frederick Delius, also supported Josef Holbrooke (1878-1958), like himself a pupil of Frederick Corder at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and the self-taught Havergal Brian (1876-1972). Each composer's large output is still being reassessed, but with Brian it is doubtful whether the centrality of his thirty-two symphonies, beginning with the immense Gothic (1919-27), will be displaced, or in the case of Holbrooke his Wagnerian operatic trilogy, The Cauldron of Annwyn (1912, 1914, 1929). The greatest operatic success of this period was, in fact, the 216 consecutive performances of The Immortal Hour (1913) by Rutland Boughton (1878-1960), whose dissatisfaction with the London operatic scene prompted him to create at Glastonbury a centre for opera performance supported by a commune of artists (1914-27).