is profiled at AfriClassical.com, which
features a comprehensive Works List and a
Bibliography by Dr. Dominique- René de Lerma,
Charles Kaufmann writes:
You might let people know that for a limited time I am making my two-hour film "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900–1912" available for free public viewing via Vimeo:
Comments by email:
1) Thanks, Bill. As you know, there are a number of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor pieces in this film that have never before been recorded, not to mention filmed. [Charles Kaufmann, Longfellow Chorus]
After seeing the previews on You Tube, I was intrigued by what may be within the 2 hour film. This is a truly superb production with some very moving dialogue and some incredibly musical performances. The film portrayed a major difference in racial attitudes between those found in America and England during late Victorian and Edwardian times. It was quite stark and I believe, very well researched. The major point made that Coleridge-Taylor died at the point when he was musically approaching maturity. Both Elgar and Vaughan Williams (cited in the film) did not produce their best works until after the age of 40.
The point made about the decline in the popularity of Coleridge-Taylor’s music is unclear and I have never been quite convinced that this was due to racism. Sir Malcolm Sargent’s efforts in the first part of the century to keep ‘Hiawatha’ alive and kicking led to the work being performed widely by amateur groups. This probably led to some pretty poor performances and this may have helped to lead others to ‘undervalue’ the work. Novello ripped off Coleridge Taylor when he had to sell the rights to ‘Hiawatha’ for a flat fee of £25 15s, that is about £2,800 in present terms after inflation. This must have been another factor and was symptomatic of the attitude of publishers. I the first part of the 20th century, there was a great popularity of his ‘lighter’ works. These were basically 3-minute pieces that fitted nicely on the side of a 10 inch 78rpm record. Unfortunately, the popularity of these works emerged after the composer’s death. In the face of the big works by the likes of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and others of the period, this led to some people dismissing, the musical value of Coleridge Taylor’s they heard as simply ‘popular music’. I myself recall the ‘palm court’ style broadcasts of some of Coleridge Taylor’s music by the BBC ‘Light Programme’ in the 1950’s, long before I had any perception of the composer’s racial origins. In other words, the media and uninformed musical attitudes led to the decline. The fact that Coleridge-Taylor’s music became largely ignored for the next 40 years or so is not surprising. Commendably, the film did not focus on this aspect.
The last chapters of the film were really enlightening. The performance of ‘Keep Me from Sinking Down’ on the film drew me to tears in the same way that Coleridge Taylor’s working of the theme in the central movement of his violin concerto. I was so glad that the film emphasised the point that Coleridge Taylor had an amazing understanding of the violin and that Maud Powell did much to gain recognition of the fact. The 1911 recording of Maud Powell and the superimposition of Rachel Barton-Pine’s performance was an amazing technical achievement that highlighted this so vividly. I await a recording of the concerto by Rachel as I know that she could produce a definitive version. As an aside, looking at English music in general, there are in fact very few violin concertos that match the stature of the one by Coleridge Taylor. I can only think of the one written by Elgar a couple of years earlier and premiered by Fritz Kreisler that reaches this. In my view, the concertos by Delius and Vaughan Williams fall well below this stature.
These are my ramblings following my deep appreciation of the truly great documentary film "Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and His Music in America, 1900–1912". I look forward to a sequel to show the composers work in England. Kind regards, Mike [Michael S. Wright]
3) Thanks, Mike, for your thoughtful ramblings. It's always encouraging to get positive feedback on the film. I had a couple of well-placed contacts in London working on getting a screening at RCM, but this apparently fell through. What you saw is not the final version. I have several additional interview snippets to edit in at some point in the future. Responses like yours are helpful as I contemplate making the final cut of the documentary. Charles Kaufmann