Monday, November 21, 2011

Sheffield Telegraph: “Raiding the work of the gifted ‘Hiawatha’ man”

[Dante Quartet & Samuel Coleridge-Taylor]

Published on Sunday 20 November 2011
“Hiawatha was far from being Coleridge-Taylor’s only opus number in his short life of 37 years. He has a further 80-plus to his name and a piano quintet by him, designated Op 1, is performed at Firth Hall on Tuesday at a Dante Quartet concert with pianist Alissa Firsova as part of a Sheffield University contribution to the Black History Icons series of events. Deep River, the tenth of Coleridge-Taylor’s 24 Negro Melodies Op 59 for piano, also gets an outing with Beethoven’s ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, Dvorák’s ‘American’ Quartet and Stravinsky Three Pieces for string quartet making up the programme.

“Penned five years before the first part of A Song of Hiawatha, the one-time ubiquitous Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the piano quintet wasn’t published in Coleridge-Taylor’s lifetime – a number of his works were not, despite having opus numbers. It was discovered, along with other significant pieces, in the library of the Royal College of Music as late as 1999 and since then, a large scale opera known to have been written (1907-09) but thought lost, has surfaced in the British Library with many parts of the manuscript already in typeset form.”

“Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875 to an English mother and a Sierra Leonean father, a doctor who returned to Africa before he was born because his race was a barrier to employment. He studied composition at the RCM under Stanford and in 1896, Elgar, impressed by what he heard, recommended him to the Three Choirs Festival. Elgar’s publisher called him 'a genius!'

“He was a mellifluously melodic, prodigiously gifted composer! After Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast in 1898 he was consistently in demand in London and America where he made three tours and was extremely popular among African Americans.” Coleridge-Taylor said Dvorák was his favourite composer and his influence, and Schubert’s, are in evidence in his piano quintet, a work described as 'astonishing' by one critic at its premiere in 1893.” “Beethoven’s best-known violin sonata is there because it was originally written for and dedicated to the black violinist George Bridgetower...” [Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and are featured at Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma,, researched and wrote the biographical essay on George Bridgetower.]

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