Works described in this part:
- A Puritanism for flute and piano
- A Phase for violin, horn and piano
- What deaths men have died
- Nativitates: two movements for organ
- Cousin Cissie’s Baby Book of Swans for high voice and piano
- Seven Pieces almost in alphabetical order
- Salonika Nights: a concert waltz
- The Prodigal Son: a setting of Matins and Evensong
- Seven Poems of Po Chu-I
- Two Poems of T’ao Ch’ien
- Little Sonata for organ
- Carol Voluntary for organ
- Sonatina for piano
- Two Introits for mixed choir
- Psalm 144
- City of God
- Organ Sonata (1950)
Only one of Peter Tranchell’s compositions has survived from his schooldays in Oxford, a Suite for piano that occupies a page in The Draconian of August 1935, though we know from a CV written in the late 1940s that he started composing at the age of 11. Listed among these juvenilia are a cantata and a symphony. Arriving at King’s College, Cambridge, to study Classics in the Autumn of 1941 he was clearly inspired to take composing more seriously and over the next nine years, there are a number of completed apprentice works, some that were performed while others languished unperformed, and a large number of unfinished works and sketches. I propose to write about only the completed works or those that could be edited into a performable version.
In only his second term, at a King’s College Music Society concert in February 1942, he took part in the first performance of his earliest surviving student work, A Puritanism for flute and piano, with the flautist, Stephen Toulmin, who went on to become a distinguished philosopher. Three months later, at a University Music Club concert, they repeated the work. In many respects, it’s a very immature piece, a jeu d’esprit, with the composer revelling in his apparent modernism. As with his other pre-War Service pieces, Peter warns the musicians that “Accidentals only apply to the note against which they are written; except in the case of tied notes.” Is the opening intended to remind us of the final movement of Respighi’s Pini di Roma with the pounding left hand of the piano part, along with the instruction “Gran Cassa tacet” and the tempo marking Tempo alla Roma (unsatisfied)? Among the other Italian markings that litter the manuscript are: con disillusione (for the flute), cappriccioso (sic), Pausa di bravura (over a silent bar!), declamando e grandioso, vomitemente and nauseando (the last two for the pianist). The penultimate bar is marked “Fine con conversione. Con bravura”, whilst the final note in the left hand is given the instruction “facile e giusto”. The flute part is not overly difficult but the piano part is full and demanding with lots of the fast arpeggios and wide-ranging Alberti basses that are commonly found in Peter’s early piano music.
Another work surviving from the first year at King’s College is A Phase for violin, horn and piano (later known as the Violin and Horn Sonata) composed at Fritton Hythe, the home of the Kennet family on the Norfolk Broads, between December 1941 and June 1942. There are three movements entitled Legend, Fable and Myth. The first movement, Legend, is in a modified sonata form and has the indication tempo commodo. The horn part is written as it sounds, whereas in the second movement, Fable, it is “transposed for crook”. The tempo marking here is scherzando quasi presto. The third movement, Myth, is marked Barbaro poco a poco piu appassionato and once again the horn part is written at pitch. Although it does not strive after modernism in the same way as the previous work, it is still an immature piece. Despite the virtuosity of the piano writing, there is a naivety about it, while the violin part is largely unidiomatic. Peter had clearly sought an understanding of what can be achieved on the horn and there are a number of effective passages employing glissandi and cuivre effects. A handwritten note found among Peter’s papers suggests that some of the melodic ideas were derived from Indian tunes he had heard as a boy. There was evidently a performance of this work since Peter’s father writes in a letter dated 12th March 1942 that he is pleased that Peter “collected some bouquets………for your violin, horn and piano trio.”
Peter’s first attempt at writing for orchestra comes at this time. It’s an ambitious large-scale setting for tenor and full orchestra of a poem from “Lamplight Meditation” by J.C.Squire. What deaths men have died, with its horrific description of war, was perhaps a strange choice of text for someone who had yet to experience military service, unlike Squire himself who had served in the First War. One has the feeling that it is merely an excuse to write for a large orchestra and indulge in a number of rather naïve attempts at word-painting. Certainly, there is a lot of busy writing for the upper strings, with rushing downward scales and harp glissandi. The orchestra – scored for 2 flutes and piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and contrabassoon, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani, 2 clashed cymbals and a slung cymbal, a side-drum (with soft and hard sticks), 2 harps, and strings (specifically 188.8.131.52.6) – is fully deployed throughout and, from the score, it would seem that the tenor – even Wilfred Brown (at that time, a fellow-student) whom Peter mentions on a wish-list of people he would like to perform his music - would have had a Herculean task in making himself heard.
Composed in the Spring of 1943, whilst having treatment on his eyes in Banstead, Nativitates was, according to the title-page, intended as an Organ Sonata. The later CV describes it as a Symphony for organ. Only two movements were completed, however. Again, the music is headed by the instruction that “all accidentals apply to that note only, before which they go”. Peter was clearly pleased with the piece since he sent it to Dr Douglas Fox, his old music-master at Clifton, as soon as it was completed. During that Summer, he was also being asked for a copy by Jane Scott (the novelist, Elizabeth Jane Howard) so that she could show it to Geraint Jones, then a well-known young organist. Peter’s keen interest in the organ at this time is shown by the clear and detailed registration he gives before each movement. The first, Gregale, is quite short, is headed Sempre soporifico and is in 6/4. The registration is precise: All manuals - delicate and frigid tones. The music starts quietly with a trill on the C two octaves above middle C. The left hand enters un poco cantabile and the music gradually builds to a forte and an allargando from which it subsides. The pianissimo music returns in the opening tempo. After a pedal trill comes the marking penseroso and the music gets even quieter toward the final chord of C sharp minor. The second movement, Inalt, has detailed registration for four different tonal colours and is marked Grandioso. The music opens with a loud chordal passage before an a piacere pedal solo leads into a section marked Presto commodo. There are echoes of Hindemith and the writing is virtuosic with lots of rapid triplet passage-work. Another long pedal solo brings back the music of the opening. At the climax, the tuba enters in the left hand with accompanying demi-semiquaver arpeggios in the right hand. Although there is an immaturity in the calligraphy and the musical grammar, this work shows more assurance in the handling of dissonance and a greater mastery of large-scale form.
An intriguing work from the War years is a set of thirteen songs (or burlesques, as Peter later described them) written in a manuscript book that was obtained in Valletta whilst Peter was on active service there in 1944-45. The full title is Cousin Cissie’s Baby Book of Swans (sequel to Aunt Nina’s Big Book of Ducks) (all unbroken, dears!). The poems are attributed to Helen Dray, though their whimsical language and imagery and the Wodehousian tone suggest that Peter himself may have been the author. Certainly, he sent a copy of the texts to Jane Scott (Elizabeth Jane Howard) on 27th October 1944 with an accompanying letter that suggests he is the author. Curiously, though, poems 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 12 and 13 are not in Peter’s handwriting, while the others are. On the title page of the musical settings is a list of the supposed musical sources for each song – or as Peter puts it “Music adapted with apologies from….”. They would all seem to be spurious.
- Penes te, rex regium (Sportex Lativian Paeanography)
- Nocturne from Mrs Vera-Baste’s “Brumana”
- Troxy Polka from Jean Cazuillet’s “Amour propre”
- Bunnies Children’s Piece by Hermann
- Valse theme song from Raubhor’s “The Love Pirate”
- Novelette 1927 for Wurlitzer by Kim MacColley
- The Ballet “Les Autruches” by Gustav Tussaud
- Woodman’s Daughter Ballad by Kalinsky
- Marche des esclaves egyptiens from Mercer’s “Osiris”
- The Bellboy’s Boogie Alfie Stern and Mac Thornmill
- Recit & Arietta “O Fuoco” from Renoli’s “Caligula”
- Father Silvester’s “Quicunque vult” The Chorangelus Collection
- Overture macabre Jeanmichel Periquon
Although a note on the only extant score states that the songs were finished in 1946, there is reason to believe that they were started long before then, since the previously mentioned CV lists them as being composed when he was 21. The letter to Jane Scott suggests that some of them were already set to music. Despite the complex language and imagery of the texts, most of the songs have the feel of cabaret or the drawing-room about them. The first, All by an elf in the moonlight, has a demandingly high tessitura for either soprano or tenor. The fourth song, Pyjama Ridge, is interesting rhythmically since, from time to time, 7/8 bars are thrown in. Aunt Detaining, the fifth song, is a delightful example of a waltz-song. Noel Coward might have been pleased with the seventh song, Me at the foot of the banisters. Above all, though, the songs are bound together by Peter’s piano writing which is already idiomatic even though it lacks the fluency of his more mature works.
A work that did show considerable maturity was his Seven Pieces almost in alphabetical order for piano. The first pencil sketch was probably started whilst Peter was in Malta since, stuck on to the inside front cover, is a sheet containing “Some Nice Thoughts on Peter’s Pieces” written by Mrs Helen Dray in her precious style and florid hand. By the time of the second pencil sketch, which is dated July 1947, Peter has typed these Nice Thoughts out and stuck them before each piece. He also notes on the front that the work has had three first performances in as many months! The final copy is in ink and Peter has now eschewed the descriptive and fanciful notes. Instead, he limits himself on the title page to a brief introduction: The notes of the Hindu scale are called after various birds or animals. The music attempts to illustrate the animals and suggest the appropriate key.
D Rainy Season Bird
None of the pieces has a key-signature, though each uses its designated note as a tonal centre.
Peacock: Lento crochet = 40
A languid melody in octaves in the right hand is accompanied by highly chromatic harmony. At the centre of the movement comes a Quasi Cadenza of repeated chords and arpeggios, which Mrs Dray likens to the peacock opening its tail. After this, the opening returns with a more ornate accompaniment.
Rainy Season Bird: Allegro brillante crochet = 138
The chattering opening section is marked “birds”, while the arpeggios of the Quasi cadenza are marked “rain”. Again the music of the opening returns. The slower four-bar Coda begins with a dissonant chord in the left hand marked con tutta forza and is intended to suggest a gong before the piece relaxes to a close on a D minor chord with an added leading note and supertonic.
Goat: Allegretto crochet = 104
The introductory two note dissonances are marked un poco staccato e senza espressione. The main section is marked Quasi improvisando and has an arching left hand melody marked delicate ed un poco cantabile contrasting with the opening staccato motif.
Crane: Moderato dotted crochet = 54
Again, there are two contrasting ideas: a rhythmic motif and a “nobilmente” figure.
Cuckoo: Allegro misterioso
There are no signs of the cuckoo’s usual song here. Instead, Peter has slowish cantabile chords over an almost monotonous (dotted crochet quaver quaver quaver) accompaniment in the left hand. The music starts pianissimo and crescendos to forte before it dies away and ends a niente.
Frog: Andante crochet = 126
The music is almost bi-tonal with the two hands in very close proximity. This brief movement ends with “the frogs taking refuge in the pool leaving only a ripple.”
Elephant: Pomposo minim = 92
Mrs Dray likens this movement to a procession of elephants. It certainly makes for a spectacularly bravura and virtuoso finale to this fine suite.
Perhaps for the first time, Peter shows a real understanding of piano writing and his use of chromatic and dissonant harmonies is now a part of his idiom rather than being imposed upon it. These Seven Pieces would certainly be worth hearing in performance.
Peter’s piano-playing ability had been a useful attribute throughout his wartime service. He often “officiated” at dances and led the small band. One of the pieces he wrote for such an occasion has survived: a concert-waltz for piano entitled Salonika Nights. Although undated, it was probably composed in 1945-46. It’s a delightful salon-piece consisting of an eight bar introduction followed by two waltzes, the first in E flat and the second in A flat, after which the first is repeated.
On his return to Cambridge, he set to work on a complete setting of the music for Matins and Evensong, which he called – no doubt, appropriately – The Prodigal Son. It’s written for four-part choir and organ and the score is dated Summer 1947. The title-page lists the twenty-two numbers which make up the work:
- Opening Sentence
- Amens for intoned prayers
- First Responses
- Venite (with chant alternatives)
- Chants for Psalms of the day
- Te Deum (with chant alternatives)
- Benedicite (with chant alternatives)
- Benedictus (with chants alternatives)
- Jubilate Deo (with chant alternatives)
- Apostles’ Creed (Congregational setting)
- Apostles’ Creed (Choral setting)
- Second Responses
- Lord’s Prayer (Congregational setting)
- Lord’s Prayer (Choral setting)
- Third Responses
- Final Prayer
- Magnificat (with chant alternatives)
- Cantate Domino (with chant alternatives)
- Nunc Dimittis (with chant alternatives)
- Deus misereatur (with chant alternatives)
- First Hymn Tune (words of Hymns Ancient and Modern No. 628)
- Second Hymn Tune (words of Hymns Ancient and Modern No.630)
- Composer’s Notes (Please read these first)
For all the work that Peter must have put into composing these settings, the music, as a whole, has the feeling of an exercise. Did he really expect Boris Ord or a Cathedral Organist to take on this highly dissonant music? Most Priests would find the Opening Sentence and the various Versicles and Intonations difficult to pitch while the choirs would find the vocal lines within such chromatic harmonies very difficult to sing. And what would the congregations make of the unmelodic psalm-chants or the strange accompaniments to the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer that Peter had composed for the organ? To his credit, Peter realises that the organ-writing is out of the ordinary and in the Second of his Composer’s Notes writes:
The work is intended for use in a fairly resonant building. It will be found that the half-staccatos, tremolos, repeated triplets and broken chords will be then effective.
He had obviously mentioned to Jane Scott (Elizabeth Jane Howard) that he was hard at work on these settings for she admonishes him in a letter dated 21st July 1947: “You shouldn’t write Church Services. If you do write a Service, I shall come and disapprove in an inquisitive manner.”
From some time in 1948 come two settings of Chinese poems, in translations by Arthur Waley, for voice and ensemble. The Seven Poems of Po Chu-I were composed for baritone, string quartet and piano, while the Two Poems of T’ao Ch’ien were written for baritone, clarinet, trumpet, 2 side drums, cymbal and gong, timpani (with soft sticks) celeste, string quartet and piano. Peter clearly thought well of the songs for he gained Whaley’s approval for their public performance as well as seeking advice from an agent as to how he could protect his rights as a composer. In November 1949, he submitted them to Herbert Murrill at the BBC in the hope that they would be broadcast and must have been disappointed when they were rejected. The Seven Poems are dedicated “To Michael Wilson, Ted Cranshaw and David Isitt in memory of Emil.” The songs must have been performed since there are revisions in the string parts designed to allow the voice to sound and, as always, Peter’s performance markings are very specific. In the seventh song, there are piano chords marked “silver” while the singer is instructed to sing “choking with excitement and sentimentality”. Unfortunately, too much of the string writing is unidiomatic and, on occasions, does not sit easily with the piano writing. In the Two Poems of T’ao Ch’ien, Peter is equally specific about the sidedrums. “These sidedrums should be of different tensions, and one suitably muted, so that while both drums sound more or less similar, they can be distinguished apart.” Sixty years on, one wonders why Peter should have wanted to set these poems to music. The music never seems to catch fire and one is left feeling that they are little more than an exercise.
Although Peter was primarily a pianist, as we have seen, the organ still played a large part in his early life. Whilst in Malta, he frequently complained that he could not find a piano on which to practise and must use an organ in a local church. It’s not surprising, therefore, that he continued to write for that instrument.
The Little Sonata for organ was started in Milan whilst on an Italian holiday with student friends in August 1948. Peter had hoped to gain access to the organ in the Duomo but that was not to be. Clearly, though, the instrument for which Peter visualised this Little Sonata was on a grand scale. There are four movements, the first three of which are written in ink while the fourth is in pencil. In a letter to his parents dated 14th December 1948, he writes: “Sometime I must play on King’s organ the organ sonata which I wrote in Milan – I am a little dissatisfied with the finale. Probably needs complete re-organisation.”
The first movement, Prelude-Fantasia, is in 4/4 and has the single instruction (loud). There is a lot of rapid passage-work for both manuals and pedals with even tremolando passages for the pedals. Peter shows an instinctive knowledge for the tonal variety of the instrument with constant instructions to use “different timbres” and, on one occasion, to “decrease greatly, to thick misty timbre”. The second movement is headed Fugato and is in 3/2. The instruction to the performer is “very smooth, fairly quiet and only with 8 foot stops at present”. The fugue is based on an eight bar theme which is wide-ranging and mildly chromatic though with a tonal centre around G. Towards the end of the movement comes the instruction “disillusioned” as the music disintegrates into a final slow downward arpeggio. The ternary-form Rondo Burlesque which follows is marked “leisurely” and is in 4/4. It is here that Peter’s requirement for a four-manual instrument becomes evident. He instructs that the repeated A flat triads played by the right hand at the start should be played on different manuals, so that, in the opening bar, the twelve triplets are played swell, great, choir; great, swell, great; choir, great, swell; great, choir, great. After this opening, a wide-ranging melody is played by the left-hand on the solo organ. In the middle section, there is once again a lot of rapid passage–work and figuration. The finale has no tempo or dynamic markings and ends on a chord of B with an added 6th and flattened 2nd thus confirming the overall tonality of the Sonata.
There is a lot of interesting music in this Little Sonata and, with some judicious editing, it would be well worth hearing played on an appropriate instrument in a sympathetic acoustic.
Later, in November 1948, Peter composed a Carol Voluntary for organ. He described it in a letter to his parents as “an amusing fantasia on innumerable carols all hot-potted [sic] into a medley – for organ.” It is dedicated to David Isitt, a friend at King’s College and one of the companions with whom he’d visited Italy earlier in the year. The work was substantially revised in November 1964 and is an extended improvisation on a number of melodies appropriate to Christmas. Set in the key of D flat, the opening single line is cleverly made up of elements of two or three different carols, the most obvious of which is “Unto us a Son is born”. In the original version, it is marked Rubato religioso and is in 4/2. However, in the revised version, the music is in 2/2 and the melodic line is divided between the two hands and registrations are suggested. There follows a section in 6/8 based on Christus natus hodie before the opening tempo returns, but slower. The middle section is in E major and is marked Faster and skippy. This is based on “God rest ye merry, gentlemen”. The key of D flat returns with a Pastorale, dolce (slow) based on “While shepherds watched their flocks”. As the music prepares for the climax we hear “Adeste fideles” in the manuals with “Unto us a Son is born” on the pedals. In the final section, marked Presto commodo in the extended revised version, the dominant melodic material comes from “Good King Wenceslas”, though there are plenty of aural reminders of other Christmas melodies. The revised version shows Peter’s greater awareness as a composer. Some of the textures are thinned out, solos are more clearly delineated and the accompaniments given different registrations and counterpoints derived from other Christmas melodies are added. All in all, this is a work that could well be performed as a recital piece or as a Voluntary over the Christmas period. The first performance was given by Tim Harper, the Assistant Organist at Ripon Cathedral, at his Christmas recital in the Cathedral in December 2015. He had discovered Peter’s music through his father, Norman, who had been the Organ Scholar at Gonville and Caius College during the early seventies, and both men had given several performances of the Organ Sonata of 1958.
Another work composed for David Isitt, then learning to play the clarinet, was Triolet for flute, clarinet and piano. All that exists today is a pencil sketch of a three movement work with the outer movements left incomplete, while there is a completed ink version of the slow movement. This is marked “Fairly slow – molto tranquillo” and is in the key of D flat. One gets the impression of lotus-eating with the long languid melodic lines for the flute and clarinet while the piano provides a rather busier accompaniment.
There are a number of piano pieces dating from this time: an incomplete First Sonata, the Sonatina and a Piano Concerto which is frequently mentioned in his letters home and in the CV, yet has disappeared. The Sonatina exists in two different versions, both believed to date from 1949. Peter’s failure to date his early manuscripts causes real problems in identifying the definitive version. However, I am inclined to opt for the five-movement version which bears a dedication to Jane Scott to whom he sent a copy. Consequently, this may be one of the works that she showed to Denis Matthews, then a promising young pianist, who declined to play them on the grounds that his hands were too small to cope with the stretches. There is much in the contrapuntal writing that reminds one of Hindemith whose Second Piano Sonata Peter had played in a King’s College Music Society concert in November 1941. There are also passages of completely unidiomatic piano writing, more reminiscent of an orchestral reduction, which lead one to wonder whether some of this music was perhaps originally intended for the Concerto, although there are no thematic similarities in the sketches of that work. In the earlier version of the Sonatina, each of the movements is preceded by an Introduction. In the presumed definitive version, the Introduction to the first movement is discarded while the Introduction to the second becomes an independent movement. The Introduction to the final movement is lengthened by opening with an extended version of the closing bars, thus creating a fourth movement. The opening movement, Moderato, poco rubato, ma molto liscio, is in sonata form with a very short development section. The second movement begins with a capriccio-like passage marked Allegro, after which comes a three-bar motto figure, marked Lento, a relic of the discarded opening Introduction, as is the Alla marcia that follows. The movement ends with the second bar of the motto figure: three soft chords. Much of the writing in the lyrical third movement, Andante, liscio con moto, ma molto rubato, is in two parts. Formally, the structure is A-B-A-B-Quasi cadenza-A. The principal feature of the melody in B is a dotted figure which is marked each time to be played “con esitazione”. The fourth movement is derived from previously-heard material. After the opening bar of the motto theme comes a twelve bar passage marked “quasi improvisando” which leads into a varied form of the music already heard in the second movement. To end, we have the motto theme extended to four bars. The finale is marked Marcia con brio (un poco burlescamente) and is an extended re-statement of the Alla Marcia heard earlier with a trio section. There is much of interest in this Sonatina, not least its tightly-organised structure, and pianists would, I believe, find plenty to enjoy in it.
Perhaps inspired by the choral tradition of King’s College, there are two short Latin introits dating from the late 1940s, both showing a greater maturity of style than the choral writing in The Prodigal Son. Since they are both written in pencil, it seems unlikely that they were ever performed. Exsurge Domine, is a setting of verses from Psalm 43 and is appropriate to Sexagesima Sunday. It is written for 4-part mixed choir, has the direction Con spirito and some dynamic markings. Although it starts and ends in C, the music is highly chromatic. Fac cum servo tuo is a setting of a verse from Psalm 118 and is also for four-part mixed choir. The music is again highly chromatic and an extended Amen makes up almost a third of the piece.
A large-scale piece composed in 1948 - 49 shows Peter writing for the orchestra once again. His setting of Psalm 144, with its text probably having some appeal for a composer who had served in the War, is scored for tenor and bass soloists, a choir made up of trebles (sic), altos, tenors and basses while the orchestra comprises an oboe, double bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, cymbals and a string ensemble made up of 8 violas, 8 celli and 4 contrabassi.
The work opens with a rhythmic motto on the violas after which the choir enters in unison singing the text of the opening verses to a quasi-plainsong melody. There is some antiphonal writing when the lower voices sing “Lord, what is man that thou has so much respect unto him” and the upper voices respond “or the soul of man that thou so regardest him.” The second section, marked Subito molto piu mosso e tumultuoso, begins with the timpani (fortissimo and molto marcato) beating out the viola rhythm of the opening bar. Immediately, the chorus enters and demands: “Bow down thy heavens, O Lord, and come down: Touch the mountains and they shall smoke”, the last word being reinforced by a cymbal clash. The mood of the opening returns in the third section which is for all the chorus basses (or the bass soloist) accompanied by a solo viola. At the line: “and take me out of the great waters from the hand of strange children”, the oboe takes over from the viola. Against the motto rhythm, the chorus bring that section to a close. The fourth section – Lento e rubato (colla voce) – is for the tenor soloist. Appropriately, his lines of “ singing a new song” and of “singing praises unto thee upon a ten-string lute” is accompanied by the string ensemble richly divided into seven parts. Again, the mood and the tempo of the opening returns and the altos and basses (sotto voce) ask God “to save and deliver me” in a quasi-plainsong. The upper voices, accompanied again by the divisi strings, pray that “our sons” and “our daughters” may grow successfully and prosper. The full choir and soloists ask that “our garners may be full” and that our livestock may multiply while the people live in freedom without complaining. Throughout this section, the music is getting faster and louder and reaches a climax with the words: “ Happy are the people that are in such a case: Yea, blessed are the people who have the Lord for their God.”
The Gloria opens with three shouted “Glorys”, while the trumpets, marked brillante, are let off the leash. The work is nicely rounded off with the mood, tempo and rhythm of the opening accompanying the final Amen. This is perhaps the most spontaneous of all Peter’s early works. It doesn’t strive for effect and it seems to be written from the heart. The voice parts are singable, the instrumental parts are idiomatic and the work has a sense of purpose and of unity. It would be well worth resurrecting by a small choral society who wanted to perform something a little out of the ordinary.
Another work for chorus appeared in 1950, seemingly composed for the forces at his disposal at Eastbourne College, although they have no record of a performance. City of God is described on the title-page as an Extravaganza for Drum and Bugle Band, Orchestra, Treble solo, Two Pianos, Choir and Congregation. The orchestra is scored for flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, 2 trombones, timpani and strings. From a list of the instrumentalists involved among his papers, Peter clearly intended to play the first piano part because it is very demanding. The list also shows that he expected the Band to comprise 5 or 6 bugles, a Bass Drum, a Tenor Drum and six Side Drums. The work is essentially an extended arrangement of Samuel Johnson’s hymn, “City of God, how broad and far outspread thy walls sublime” using the well-known tune Richmond by Samuel Webbe. After a brief introduction, marked Allegro commodo in 6/8, the first verse is sung by the tenors and basses in the key of D flat. A short transition leads into the second verse also sung by the full choir and congregation, now in the key of G flat. The third verse is a decorated version of the melody sung by the treble solo lightly accompanied by the flute, 1st piano and strings in the key of A flat. The fourth verse is sung by the male voices in the key of D major. This is followed by an orchestral interlude in ¾ marked Allegro barbaro after which comes the final verse, once again in G flat major. This is marked Pomposo and is sung by the choir and congregation with a descant, though whether this is sung by the treble soloist or by all the trebles is not made clear. At the end, there is an accelerando into the shouted Amens and a triumphant ending.
As if to show off his new-found confidence, Peter wrote two more pieces before clearing the decks for his work on The Mayor of Casterbridge. Dodecafonia for solo piano can best be described as an exercise in using serial technique to emulate Berg’s warm romantic sound. Although it’s written in ink, there are no tempo or metronome markings so it is unlikely to have been performed. Among the sketches are four tone rows, each consisting of 2 groups of six notes which are played simultaneously in the first three bars of the work:
1. G A flat B flat B C D / E flat F F sharp A C sharp E
2. G F sharp E E flat D C / B A G sharp F D flat B flat
3. E C sharp A F sharp F E flat / D C B B flat A flat G
4. B flat D flat F G sharp A B / C D E flat E F sharp G
The music is in four sections. The brief opening section is probably slow, is in 4/4 and ends around the tonality of G. This leads into a 12/8 section in which duplets and quadruplets soon begin to take over before again ending around G. The third section, again in 4/4, has a good feel for pianistic style before ending on E flat. The final section is march-like and ends on a D flat.
Also in 1950, came an Organ Sonata, perhaps for the first time composed for the sort of instrument that might be found in a Parish Church and is, for that reason, probably worth a hearing. It’s a well-written piece, copied out in ink, though with some amendments that look as though they may have been made in the light of a performance. There are four movements: the first, Prelude, is marked Allegro; then comes a Scherzo marked Presto and Staccato; the third is a Threnody (en petite passacaille) marked Andantino affetuoso (e rubato); and the Finale is a Fugue marked Allegretto. As one has come to expect from Peter, the registration is detailed and there is a keen appreciation of what can be achieved on an organ. Above all, the music is approachable, a trait that would become more marked in the coming years.