HOMERTON COLLEGE MUSICAL SOCIETY [This Sorry Scheme of Things, February 13], Radcliffe, 21st February 1953
The most notable feature of this concert was the first performance of Peter Tranchell’s new Cantata, “This Sorry Scheme of Things.” The title is misleading, as it suggests a picture of unrelieved gloom and bitterness; this, however, is certainly not the impression left by the work itself. A powerful setting of “Insanae et vanae curae” is followed by Emily Bronte’s “Last lines.” The poems set include things as dissimilar as Lowell’s “Once to every man and nation,” Hood’s “Our Village” and the lines from “Macbeth” beginning “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.” Finally the Cantata is rounded off by some lines of “Omar Khayyam” that quote musically from an earlier section. “Our village” is a brilliant and wholly delightful scherzo; there is some delicate and imaginative colouring in the setting of Henley’s “The shadow of dawn,” and a sombre dignity in the lines from “Macbeth.” But the outstanding quality of the work is an unashamed delight in broad melodic phrases and rich harmonic colour that is as refreshing as it is unfashionable. The texture of the music is sometimes over-thick, but the main melody of “No coward soul is mine” has an Elgarian warmth and richness without seeming anachronistic. The soloist, Norman Platt, and the Homerton Choir and Madrigal Society, conducted by Allen Percival, sang admirably; the orchestral accompaniment, which had been arranged for the surprising combination of piano and harpsichord, was played by the composer and Thurston Dart, and was remarkably effective.
P. F. Radcliffe