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From the time of his arrival in Morocco in 1947 Paul Bowles wrote regularly to PGH of his discovery and appreciation of Moroccan musics. In 1951, for example, he wrote about an evening of Berber music accompanied by dancing, self-immolation, blood-letting and blood-drinking.
Peter Sculthorpe’s home in Woollahra in Sydney has been offered for sale. The agent’s website includes photos of the studio and courtyard where PGH spent many happy hours, none more so than on the day she was awarded an honorary doctorate at Sydney University thanks to his recommendation. The house for her would have been a sacred site, and the photo only needs a red MG parked out the front to represent it as it was when she first went there in 1975.
This month’s BBC Music Magazine includes an article on Australian composers and recommends the ABC recording of Glanville-Hicks’s Etruscan Concerto by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. On the TSO website Stephanie Eslake describes it as “utterly delightful”.
The Nicholson collection at the University of Sydney’s Chau Chak Wing Museum holds three artefacts donated by PGH in 1984, including this vase dating from around 500 BC. All three sat on the mantlepiece in her home in Athens. This one, at 20cm high, seems very large as well as being extremely fragile for something that was smuggled in her clothing on board the flight from Athens to Sydney in 1975, but that’s what she alleged she did. The Museum claims to hold the largest collection of ancient antiquities in the southern hemisphere: see the other artefacts donated by PGH at https://www.sydney.edu.au/museum/discover-our-collections/nicholson-collection.html
In Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) a photographer looks out from an apartment on West 10th St onto the buildings of West 9th, where a dancer, a composer and a sculptor lead their creative lives. The street had been home to writers, painters, muralists, novelists, screenwriters and decorators for more than 100 years, including Edna St Vincent Millay, Dashiell Hammett and the journalist Ida Tarbell. Christopher Gray writes in the New York Times (15 July 2012), “West Ninth Street, from Fifth to the Avenue of the Americas, has a smorgasbord of picturesque houses, some over a century old, but then many village blocks have that. What other blocks don’t have is the street’s trio- nay, a full quartet – of truly Jack-in-the-Beanstalk-sized wisteria vines growing up the facades of three houses”, which he depicts folding in on itself “like a leathery Laocoon, growing, constantly growing, on this block with one foot in the 19th century and another in the 21st”.
The Australian publisher Wirripang has published a new book on the composer Dulcie Holland, A Musical Missionary: The Life and Music of Dulcie Holland by Rita Crews and Jeanell Carrigan. Holland arrived for studies at the Royal College of Music in London in 1937, and was to become one of a select group of women who won the Blumenthal scholarship: Helen Perkin had won it three times and Elisabeth Maconchy once. PGH on the other hand won the Carlotta Rowe award (the Musical Times spelling her name “Peggy Winsome Stanville Hicks”), also awarded to Ruth Gipps, Patria Morgan and Helen Hunter. The Blumenthal was worth more than the Carlotta Rowe, and so might have been seen as more prestigious, but the war unfortunately prevented Holland from using it.
PGH began considering writing a piano concerto, the work that would eventually be named the Etruscan Concerto, in early 1953. Her short score is is dated 13 July 1954, suggesting that she had completed the first draft a few weeks before she arrived in Italy in August that year. Her destination was Fiesole, on the outskirts of Florence, a town based on the village of Faesulae, one of the main cities of the Etruscan confederacy. She had been to Florence once before, in April 1937 on holiday from studies in Paris. Then she must have visited the Museo archeologico nazionale, housed in a Medici palace, which holds terracottas, furniture, sarcophagi, ossuaries, vases and other Etruscan artefacts. In Fiesole in 1954 she could also have visited the Roman theatre, first-century baths, a Roman temple and tombs as well as an Etruscan museum, and on 29 August, on her way to Paris, she stopped in Ferrara and then Comácchio, which had been occupied by the Etruscans and Gauls. In a lagoon northwest of Comácchio is the remains of the Greco-Etruscan city of Spina where artefacts such as vases were found. The title of the concerto thus honours this visit to Italy as well as the vivid descriptions of Etruscan life in D.H. Lawrence’s Etruscan Places (1932). Unfortunately, even if it was personally a memorable experience, and even if seeing Etruscan remains and sites fuelled her interest in archaeology and the ancient world, she left no description in words. In Apollo magazine, however, Xavier F. Salomon recounts how he travelled to all the sites mentioned by Lawrence, including museums in Rome and Florence, and this gives the flavour of what PGH herself might have discovered only ten years after Lawrence himself had been there.
Getty images has released an image of PGH and Stanley Bate probably taken in Sydney in 1940. The image is published on the Telegraph‘s website alongside Simon Heffer’s profile of Bate as a composer “like Vaughan Williams on speed“. Interestingly, the Telegraph has inexplicably chopped off PGH’s head and by doing so has erased the most interesting element in the image: the portraits of Stravinsky and Bartok tacked on the wall next to the piano. Bate’s admiration for Stravinsky is well known. That he thought the same about Bartok is a revelation, though not a surprising one.
On 24 February 1937, having recently arrived in Paris, PGH noted in her diary that she had written the first movement of a flute concerto. Stanley Bate was also in Paris and this was the year he composed a flute sonata, recorded the following year for the Oiseau-Lyre label by Marcel Moyse (flute) and his son Louis (piano) so perhaps both composers were inspired by the playing of Moyse, then a professor at the Conservatoire and a friend of Nadia Boulanger. Although PGH’s concerto must have been completed—in 1943 she offered the score to the ABC in Australia—it has since been lost. Louise Dyer (of Editions de l’Oiseau-Lyre) was prepared to offer Bate a recording contract for whatever he wrote but found him difficult to work with. The flute sonata was reviewed in Music & Letters by E.R. (Edmund Rubbra?), who described it as “well-oiled music that, once it gets started, is able to go on its own momentum ad infinitum”. He also made the usual complaint about Bate’s immaturity, adding, “We shall know the stature of this young composer only when he has ceeased to gather hints on note-manipulation from a certain widely-influential Parisian school”. The flute sonata has recently been recorded by James Dutton with Oliver Davies for Willowhayne Records. It is a delightful work, typically French in its lightheartedness and typically a product of the Boulangerie in its whimsical meanderings with spicy modernist inflections.