Jerwood Library seminar Trinity College of Music 27 January 2004
Christopher Wood (1911-1990)
The Jerwood Library hosts regular seminars organised by Rosemary Firman and held in at Trinity College of Music's delightful Peacock Room in Greenwich. Guided by cellist Gordon Dixon (who is cataloguing a hundred or more manuscripts of Wood's compositions recently given to the library) we learnt about this gifted polymath's expertise as a pianist with phenomenal memory who spent his latter years in Newcastle. A generous colleague and warm-hearted musician who favoured the 'grand manner', we heard part of his Handel CD (Baroque Music Club BMC 23) played on a Dolmetsch harpsichord.
Arnold Dolmetsch's pioneering dynasty was represented by his grand-daughter Jeanne, who gave the first performance in modern times of Wood's recorder sonata (it was premiered in the '40s by her father Carl Dolmetsch with Joseph Saxby; I used to go to their concerts as a student). Christopher Wood was a regular participant in the Dolmetsch Festivals at Haslemere and developed a special interest in composing contemporary music for early instruments.
Of more interest was a Chantry Suite for the tiny 5-string pardessus de viole, the smallest treble viol, now coming into its own. Apparently Wood's suite was the only work composed for that instrument in the last century. Fairly conventional early 20 C tonal harmony, with some dissonant spicing in the accompaniment, it looks back also to baroque models. Difficult to negotiate and preserve intonation, we got a good idea of it as a potentially attractive recital item from Jacqui Roberston with Micaela Schmitz, harpsichord.
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© Peter Grahame Woolf