University of Surrey

Test tubes in the lab Research in the ATI Dance Research

Constant Lambert: A Critic for Today? A Commentary on Music Ho!

Mark, Christopher (2018) Constant Lambert: A Critic for Today? A Commentary on Music Ho! In: British Music Criticism and Intellectual Thought, 1850-1950. Music in Britain, 1600-2000 . Boydell Press, pp. 278-303. ISBN 9781783272877

[img] Text
Constant Lambert - A Critic for Today.docx - Accepted version Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (64kB)


"Lambert was a Roman candle: he flared up brilliantly, then was gone." Stephen Walsh’s assessment epitomizes the generally received view of Constant Lambert (1905–51). The book he was reviewing when he made this remark, Stephen Lloyd’s Constant Lambert: Beyond the Rio Grande (2014), rounds out Lambert’s key musical activities as composer, conductor, and writer in great detail (at times, as Walsh points out, risking overload) in an attempt to encourage interest beyond the work in the title. But it seems likely that, without a parallel champion in the realm of performance, Rio Grande (1927) will indeed continue to be the item from his output by which he is best known, even if its brand of jazz-tinted exoticism induces little of its original effect on an audience of today much more familiar with the idiom. Walsh asserts the case for ‘a handful of works belong[ing] in the repertoire’, including Eight Poems of Li-Po (1926–9) in the ensemble version, Music for Orchestra (1927), and the Concerto for Piano and Nine Players (1930–31). To this might be added his setting of words from Thomas Nashe’s Pleasant Comedy in Summer’s Last Will and Testament (1932–5), despite its failing to transcend the sum of its most striking moments, the latter stages of the purely orchestral sixth movement, Rondo burlesca (King Pest) and the climax and aftermath of the final Saraband. But for all his technical skill and inventiveness, Lambert’s compositional voice lacks sufficient distinctiveness of personality to secure more than an occasional airing. His two other principal activities, conducting and journalism, are ephemeral in the literal sense, though some of the performances he recorded – catalogued by Lloyd over eighteen pages of appendix – are still commercially available and of historical interest. They include the first recording of Walton’s Façade (1922–9, rev. 1942, 1951, 1977), with Edith Sitwell reciting, in 1929 (the Waltons and the Sitwells were his neighbours in Chelsea); the first recording of Warlock’s The Curlew (1920–22) in 1931, a performance that is rather unsteady in rhythm and intonation at times, and marred by traffic noises during the opening bars; a 1946 recording of Delius’s Piano Concerto (in the original 1897 version) with Benno Moiseiwitsch; and selections of ballet music with the Sadler’s Wells and Philharmonia Orchestras.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > Department of Music and Media
Authors :
Editors :
Dibble, Jeremy
Horton, Julian
Date : June 2018
Copyright Disclaimer : Copyright © 2018 Boydell & Brewer Limited.
Additional Information : British music between the mid-nineteenth and the mid-twentieth century reflected changes and developments in society, education, philosophy, aesthetics, politics and the upheaval of wars, often signifying a distinctively British national history. All of these changes informed the published work of contemporary music critics. This collection provides an in-depth look at musical criticism during this period. It focusses on major figures such as Grove, Parry, Shaw, Dent, Newman, Heseltine, Vaughan Williams, Dyson, Lambert and Keller, yet does not neglect less influential but nevertheless significant critics. Sometimes a seminal work forms the subject of investigation; in other chapters, a writer's particular stance is highlighted. Further contributions closely analyse the now famous polemics by Shaw, Heseltine and Lambert. The book covers a range of themes from the historical, scientific and philosophical to matters of repertoire, taste, interdisciplinary influence, musical democratisation and analysis. It will be of interest to scholars and students of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century British music and music in Britain as well as to music enthusiasts attracted to standard works of popular music criticism.
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 21 Mar 2018 10:17
Last Modified : 05 Mar 2019 10:13

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

Information about this web site

© The University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, United Kingdom.
+44 (0)1483 300800