Tag Archives: Lalla Rookh

Recordings of rarely-heard Thomas Moore part 1

Project ERIN has published forty-one podcasts of individual pieces of music, music either set to words by Thomas Moore or inspired by his work in some way. Today we will introduce the first set within these podcasts, which were taken from a student-based project for the Queen’s University Belfast BMUS module ‘A Night at the Opera’ in spring 2017. Since this was the bicentenary of Moore’s Lalla Rookh, it was decided to recreate this tale through a mixture of narration (written and delivered by the students themselves) and a selection of music, ranging from domestic songs dating from as early as 1818 to the 1893 version of a grand opera. The students provided their own arrangements to these works, sometimes adding an obbligato instrument to a song originally conceived for voice and piano only, sometimes working as a small chamber group to perform a piece originally conceived for orchestra.

Feramorz singing to Lalla Rookh, as drawn by John Tenniel

Our programme opened with the “Slow March” from Frederic Clay’s cantata Lalla Rookh – originally written for the Brighton Festival of 1877. We used our arrangement of this as an atmospheric piece that recurred to suggest ‘travel’ from one section of Moore’s work to the next. We then followed the structure of Moore’s tale, drawing on Clay again for the song “Princess thy royal father”, sung by Lalla Rookh’s officious chaperone Fadladeen as he supervises that princess’s reluctant wedding journey to meet a groom she has never met. Said groom has disguised himself as the poet Feramorz so he can join Lalla Rookh’s train and court his bride; we recorded the runaway hit of Clay’s cantata, “I’ll sing thee songs of Araby” as the poet’s first – and successful – attempt to intrigue his betrothed. Prior to this, we hear Lalla’s expression of restlessness and lack of fulfilment in “Sous le feuillage” from Félicien David’s opera comique Lalla Roukh (Paris, 1862).This highly popular work travelled across the theatres of Europe, and did much to circulate Moore’s tale to new audiences (for further see project ERIN’s OMEKA exhibit, ‘The tales and travels of Lalla Rookh, at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/exhibits/show/tales-travels-lalla-rookh/.)

Zelica sings ‘Bendermeer’s Stream’ to Azim, as drawn by John Tenniel

‘The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan’ is the first poetic tale that Feramorz sings to Lalla Rookh in Moore’s original. This dark story of a cult built around a false prophet does not seem to have inspired any domestic songs or cantatas for amateur choral societies to enjoy, but it did stimulate the Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford to write a grand opera derived from Moore’s work. Within this tale we find ‘Bendemeer’s Stream’ – a mournful reminiscence sung by the prophet’s concubine Zelica to her former lover Azim – from Stanford’s second adaptation of his own work as Il profeta valeto (London, 1983). We offer a unique arrangement of this song for soprano, piano, and obbligato clarinet.

Peri with dead lovers, lithograph by Owen Jones and Henry Warren

Feramorz’s second tale for Lalla Rookh was ‘Paradise and the Peri’, a lighter but still poignant story of a fallen Persian angel whose desire to enter heaven obliged her to find ‘that perfect gift’. This resulted in the Peri undertaking three quests, from which she brings back: a drop of blood (from a hero), a sigh (from a dying lover), and a tear (from a repentant sinner). We chose music to mark the three recurring actions of this story. Each quest starts with the Peri waiting at the gate of heaven, for which we recorded an arrangement of “Vor Eden’s Thor” from Robert Schumann’s ‘poem in music’ Das Paradies und die Peri (1843). The guardian angel’s repeated refusal to give the Peri entrance is captured by “’Sweet’, said the Angel” from John Francis Barnett’s cantata Paradise and the Peri (Birmingham, 1870). An expression of the Peri’s dashed hopes we also took from Barnett, “But ah! Even Peri’s hopes are vain”. We returned to Schumann for an atmospheric chorus of Arabian maidens, “Schmucket die Stufen”. We concluded our adaptation of this tale with John Clarke Whitfield’s  “Joy, joy forever!”, which the Peri sings as Heaven’s gate is finally opened for her. This was taken from his cantata for soprano,  The Peri Pardoned; this was published by Moore’s regular music publisher James Power in 1818.

Lalla Rookh by Kenny Meadows

Recordings of all the pieces mentioned above can be found at: http://www.erin.qub.ac.uk/podcasts/. Copies of all the images, with full metadata, can be found at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/collections/show/15.

Music credits: Oscar Aiken (arranger); Megan Boyd (piano); Courtney Burns (soprano); Ellen Campbell (soprano); Matthew Campbell (tenor); Sarah Coulter (mezzo); Galina Crothers (piano); Jenny Garrett (piano); Ciara Jackson (flute); Jason Jackson (recording engineer); Linzi Jones (violin); Alison Montgomery (piano); Gerard Mullaly (clarinet); Daniel Steele (baritone); Poppy Wheeler (arranger, bassoon, flute).

Part 2 of this blog series will cover the pieces this ensemble recorded from Moore’s ‘The Fire-worshippers’, ‘The Light of the Harem’, and also from the conclusion of Lalla Rookh’s wedding journey.

Thomas Moore’s most popular songs: Bendemeer’s stream

There’s a bower of roses by Bendemeer’s stream,

And the nightingale sings round it all day long;

In the time of my childhood ’twas like a sweet dream,

To sit in the roses and hear the bird’s song.

That bower and its music I never forget,

But oft when alone in the bloom of the year,

I think–is the nightingale singing there yet?

Are the roses still bright by the calm Bendemeer?

No, the roses soon wither’d that hung o’er the wave,

But some blossoms were gather’d while freshly they shone,

And a dew was distill’d from their flowers, that gave

All the fragrance of summer, when summer was gone.

Thus memory draws from delight, ere it dies,

An essence that breathes of it many a year;

Thus bright to my soul, as ’twas then to my eyes,

Is that bower on the banks of the calm Bendemeer.

Zelica sings to Azim, drawn by John Tenniel

‘Bendemeer’s Stream’, from ‘The Veiled Prophet’ in Lalla Rookh (1817), is a nostalgic lyric sung by the concubine Zelica to fulfil the prophet’s demands that she seduce her former lover Azim. This individual lyric was set by more composers than any other from Lalla Rookh, with James Power of London publishing settings by Lord Burghersh, William Hawes, and Lady Flint shortly after Moore’s poem came out. A later setting, by Edward Bunnett, was published in 1865. American settings (as ‘Bower of roses’) include J. Wilson (New York, 1817), as well as R.W. Wyatt and S. Wetherbee (Boston, 1820). The song also appears in Charles Villiers Stanford’s opera, The Veiled Prophet (Hannover, 1881; London, 1893 as Il profeta valeto). Project ERIN has recorded a special arrangement of the Stanford (with piano and obbligato clarinet), which will be made available on the project website early in 2019.

Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Queen’s University Belfast

Lady Flint and Lalla Rookh

Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh inspired dozens of songs by composers in Europe and America, dating from 1817 into the later Victorian period. James Power (d. 1836), who held the copyright over Thomas Moore’s music, seems to have encouraged or accepted material suitable for the domestic music market from a number of professional and amateur musicians, the most intriguing of who is one Lady Flint. Her Five Songs and a Duet, issued by Power on or around 1818, sets six song lyrics from within Moore’s ‘Oriental Romance’, including:

  • ‘Bendemeer’s Stream’ (Zelica’s song to her beloved Azim in ‘The Veiled Prophet’);
  • a duet for soprano and tenor, ‘Oh fair as the Sea-flower’  (“Farewell to thee, Araby’s daughter”), which is the Peri’s farewell to the drowned Arabian princess Hinda of ‘The Fire-Worshippers’;
  • ‘Namouna’s song’ (“I know where the winged visions dwell”), sung by the benevolent sorceress in ‘The Light of the Harem’ as she casts a spell to bring sleep to the love-lorn Nourmahal;
  • (“From Cindara’s warbling fount I come”- rendered by one of Namouna’s charmed spirits to the sleeping Nourmahal – promises the odalisque that her lover will return to dote  at her feet;
  • “There’s a bliss beyond all that the Minstrel has told” and “Fly to the Desert, fly to me” are subsequently sung by a hidden Nourmahal to her estranged lover Selim, who is so utterly enchanted that the two are thoroughly reconciled.

COPAC records but one other published composition by Lady Flint: ‘C’est mon ami : rendez-le moi’, a ‘Romance’ that begins:”Ah! s’il est dans notre village” and was written by Jean Pierre Claris de Florian (1755-94). Indeed, as a figure she would remain utterly shadowy to us if it were not for the  raconteur Captain Rees Howell Gronow (1794-1865), an officer in the Welsh Grenadiers and man about town whose Reminiscences and and Recollections [about]  the camp, clubs, court and society, 1810-1860 tells us

Among those of the fashionable world in London who patronised music … no one was more conspicuous than Lady Flint; whose charming concerts, given generally on Sunday at her house in Birdcage Walk, delighted all who had musical tastes and enjoyed the honour of an invitation. (London: John Nimmo, 1900, vol. 2, p. 267)

Gronow continues with an anecdote about the disruptive effect of noisy tea-drinkers on the musicians at one such event, establishing that the repertory performed included  violin concerto by Beethoven. Lady Flint counted among those who would perform at her concerts some of the leading London musicians of the day- including the acclaimed pianist-composers Jan Ladislav Dussek and Johann Baptiste Cramer, the “celebrated” violinist Giovanni Battista Viotti, and the double-bassist Domenico Dragonetti. From this one small anecdote we catch a glimpse of a woman of taste and discernment whose exposure to the best music and musicians of her day surely inspired her own imaginative responses to Moore’s lyrics.

Project ERIN is pleased to make available a recording from Lady Flint’s Five Songs, including a performance by BMUS students (graduating class of 2017) of the duet, “Farewell to thee Araby’s Daughter”

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The performers are: Courtney Burns, soprano; Matthew Campbell, tenor; Poppy Wheeler, flute; Linzi Jones, violin; Jenny Garrett, piano.

 

Tune in to the Lyric Feature

 

The ERIN radio documentary “An oriental romance: Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh” will be broadcast on the Lyric Feature on Sunday 10 September at 6pm on RTÉ Lyric fm. The documentary outlines the story of Moore’s Lalla Rookh and focuses on the variety of musical works it inspired. The documentary, which was produced in collaboration with Dublin-based Rockfinch Ltd., has been in preparation since June 2016. Contributors to the programme include the following:

Spoken Contributors: Dr Daniel Roberts (QUB), Dr Sarah McCleave (QUB), Dr Tríona O’Hanlon (QUB), Siobhán Fitzpatrick (RIA Library), Gerry Long (National Library of Ireland), Aoife O’Sullivan (DIT), Martha O’Brien (DIT), Sinéad Campbell-Wallace (DIT), Helen Aiken (QUB), Anja Bunzel (NUIM)

Artistic Contributors: Dr Sarah McCleave (QUB), Dr Tríona O’Hanlon (QUB), Sinéad Campbell-Wallace (DIT)

Performers: Aoife O’ Sullivan (DIT), Martha O’Brien (DIT), Helen Aiken (QUB)

Technician & Technical Assistant: Dr David Bird (QUB), Oisín Hughes (QUB)

Producer & Narrator: Claire Cunningham (Rockfinch Ltd.)

Image courtesy of pixabay.com.

 

A taster of ERIN’s collection of sound files

Lalla Rookh with Feramorz in the Vale of Cashmere

Lalla Rookh and Feramorz in the Vale of Cashmere

Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, Queen’s University Belfast

A collection of no fewer than forty-one sound files from three performance events, promoted by and supported by project ERIN, will be made available soon through our project website. The first was a Lalla Rookh bi-cententary concert performed (and also recorded) by year 3 students in the BMus of Queen’s University Belfast, which took place in the Harty Room on 11 May 2017. We re-told the story of Lalla Rookh through a selection of songs and pieces taken from larger works inspired by, or based on, Moore’s oriental romance. The selected recording is an arrangement of the ‘Slow March’ from Frederic Clay’s 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh, performed here by flautists Ciara Jackson and Poppy Wheeler, violinist Linzi Jones, and clarinettist Gerard Mullay. The recording engineer is Jason Jackson.

Further audio files from this concert feature the music of Félicien David, Robert Schumann, Thomas Attwood, Charles Villiers Stanford, and Sir John Stevenson, among others.

The second sound file is taken from the second concert to mark the bi-centenary of Lalla Rookh, at the Sonic Lab in SARC, Queen’s University Belfast, on 17 June 2017. Performers Helen Aiken (mezzo), Martha O’Brien (mezzo), and Aoife O’Sullivan (piano) performed music by Schumann, Stanford, John Francis Barnett and George Kiallmark, among others. Fiddle player Conor Caldwell provided a medley of his own arrangements and those of Tommy Potts to tunes associated with Thomas Moore. In the sample provided here, Helen Aiken and Aoife O’Sullivan (as recorded by David Bird) perform Danish composer George Gerson’s  “Tell me not of joys above”. The lyrics are derived from an episode near the end of  Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh: the princess and her beloved poet are estranged; he sings this touching song to her whilst hidden in a tree.

Over thirty additional tracks — many of music that is rarely heard — will be available on the project website soon. We will also offer some recordings of favorite Irish Melodies in distinct settings or editions.

The response of illustrators and engravers to Thomas Moore

 

All of Thomas Moore’s works featured in project ERIN – the Irish Melodies, the National Airs, and Lalla Rookh – were conceived to feature contributions from illustrators and engravers at an early stage. With regards to the two song series, each number thereof would sport one or two plates designed by illustrators such as as Thomas Stothard RA (“Row gently here” from the National Airs; “Lesbia hath a beaming eye” from the Irish Melodies), or William Henry Brooke (“As vanquish’d Erin”, and “Oh, ye dead!,” both from the Irish Melodies). The title pages, too each had their own illustration. These designs were executed as engravings (“a printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the printed image” –tate.org.uk) by such as Charles Heath (1785-1848) or Henry Melville (1792-1870). While the images featured in the Irish Melodies or National Airs – whether produced by James Power in London or William Power in Dublin – were ostensibly the same (i.e. drawn by the same illustrator), the fact that the brothers employed distinct engravers is evident when copies of their works are compared. One of the most famous illustrated volume associated with Thomas Moore is the 1846 edition of the Irish Melodies as illustrated by his fellow Irishman Daniel Maclise RA (1806-1870); Maclise’s work is distinct from earlier illustrated editions in presenting one or two illustrations (or at the very least a decorative border) to each of the Melodies. The popularity of this edition (which was reissued by Longmans as late as 1876) brought Moore’s work to a new generation towards the end of his life and beyond.

Lalla Rookh has a particularly strong association with illustrators. Queen Victoria’s drawing master Richard Westall RA (1765-1836) seems to have been commissioned by the Longman firm to design Illustrations of Lalla Rookh an oriental romance—since this volume came out in the same year as Moore’s ‘oriental romance’. Charles Heath (1785-1848), also associated with illustrations for the Irish Melodies, was the engraver. More famous perhaps was the edition of Lalla Rookh with sixty-nine illustrations designed by John Tenniel (1820-1914), issued several times by Longmans between 1861 and 1880. This  edition already had a rival issued by George Routledge in 1860 that featured the illustrations of numerous artists, including George Housman Thomas (1824-1868), Kenny Meadows (1790-1874), and Edward Henry Corbould (1815-1905). Routledge promoted an illustrated edition of Moore’s Lalla Rookh until at least 1891. Some of these artists, as well as the engraver Charles Heath, were previously involved in an illustrated version of Lalla Rookh brought out by Longmans in 1838.

Much of the illustrative activity associated with Moore’s work took place in the Anglo-Irish orbit, and involved some fairly high profile artists. Project ERIN is able to document a few continental works with engraved illustrations, including Lalla Rookh : ein morganländisches Gedicht, translated by Johann Ludwig Witthaus and published by Schumann of Zwickau in 1822. This work, presumably intended for those with a modest book budget, has but two illustrations, both engraved by one J. Thaeter. We only have the surnames for the two illustrators – Rensch designed a frontispiece of Lalla Rookh, while Baumann designed an image depicting Aliris holding a faint Lalla Rookh after his identity as her beloved Feramorz is revealed. Even more obscure are the identities of the designer and engraver of the frontispiece to volume one of The Works of Thomas Moore, as issued in Paris by Arthus Bertrand in 1820. Depicting the prophet Mokanna unveiing himself to Zelica, this is designed by “Ch” and engraved by “Dx” (see below).

Mokanna unveils himself to Zelica.Paris,Arthus Bertrand, 1820d

Although lithography — “a printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them” (tate.org.uk) – was discovered in 1798 (britannica.com), the first known example of this technique being used to illustrate Moore is the 1860 illustrated edition of Paradise and the Peri issued by the London-based firm Day & Son. lllustrator Owen Jones (1809-1874) and illuminator Henry Warren (1794-1879) offer a luxuriously colourful response to this particular tale of Moore’s, a sample of which is produced below.

Peri with dead lovers.Jones and Warren

Images courtesy of Special Collections, Queen’s University Belfast

We conclude this blog by announcing that two electronic collections that will be available through project ERIN’s dedicated website by the end of this month are here given a ‘soft launch’ through their home site in omeka.qub.ac.uk.
Collection number 17, ‘Moore’s Irish Melodies” Texts and Illustrations”, includes numerous still images that document the efforts of the artists mentioned above, as well as others active in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in the Victorian era. See also ‘Lalla Rookh in 19th-century Europe’ (collection 15) for 71 images associated with that work. (A third collection, related to the National Airs, is still under development.) All of these collections will be interpreted through OMEKA exhibitions that will become available through the project ERIN website by the end of August 2017.

Performing the role of Feramorz

Guest contributor Matthew Campbell

Editor’s note: in May 2017, as part of the lunch series in Music at Queen’s University Belfast, Matthew performed a song as Feramorz from the 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh (W.G. Wills, text, and Frederic Clay, music).*

Perhaps a 19th-century Irish poet’s interpretation of the Kashmir Valley may seem far-fetched to students today, particularly as research indicates that Moore had never actually travelled to India in his lifetime. However, his telling of the fictional story ‘Lalla Rookh’ depicts a love story so exotic and beautiful that it really isn’t overly surprising that so many composers chose to realise it through music.

In our snapshot interpretation, I am performing the role of Feramorz and have the pleasure of performing a song from Frederic Clay’s interpretation entitled “I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby”. This is a love song which allows me to explore Feramorz character not only as a heroic King in disguise, but also an innocent young man in love.

 

LR.L1.1880a.Feramorz, LR, Fadladeen.Tenniel

Feramorz sings to Lalla Rookh, as depicted by John Tenniel.

Image courtesy of Special Collections, Queen’s University Belfast.

In Moore’s poem, Feramorz is actually the young King of Bucharia, Aliris, in disguise. He undertakes this disguise in an attempt to woo Lalla Rookh (his intended bride through an arranged marriage) with his poetry and music. Fran Pritchett expands on Moore’s interpretation of the character of Feramorz by writing, “He was a youth about Lalla Rookh’s own age, and graceful as that idol of women, Crishna, such as he appears to their young imaginations, heroic, beautiful, breathing music from his very eyes”.[1] I agree with this depiction as this is somewhat how I myself imagined the character, I would however add that I feel that Aliris’s choice of disguise was more than a cunning plan to woo Lalla Rookh, but rather a genuine act of love suggesting that royalty and riches could not make him happy if he was without the one he truly loved, and his willingness to demote himself of these privileges in an attempt to capture her heart suggest to me that he was more interested in love than materialist wealth and status. When performing as Feramorz I combined these descriptions along with my interpretation of the song to depict a character by implementing simple yet effective methods of characterisation.

My first entrance singing Clay’s song allows me to portray a young man in love as he gazes upon the beauty of Lalla Rookh. By standing up straight with my chest inched forward and my chin raised to allow my head to point upwards towards Lalla Rookh, I can use this body language to suggest a man who is confident and assured, both characteristics of a heroic character. I also interpret this through my gait, which as I move closer to Lalla Rookh is controlled and calm suggesting that I am unafraid of approaching the one I adore. Characterising a young lover is slightly more challenging and in an attempt to achieve this I have opted for subtlety rather than a form of melodrama. Simple extended arm gestures towards Lalla Rookh accompanied by the occasional gaze upon her face should be effective in establishing a form of attraction between the characters.

I also believe that nothing more than subtlety is necessary given the beautiful floating melody of the song, which in itself easily suggests romance. When I sing this song I tend to move a little more rubato than other performances I have heard and this is a personal choice as I believe it allows me to place emphasis on the emotive elements of the song and give it a hint more tenderness and feeling which will also help depict the innocent plea of a young lover. Winton Dean makes an interesting remark in his paper on recitative performance in late baroque opera noting that when singing “not only should there be no regular pulse; there should be no singing in the sense that arias are sung. Recitative was defined as a form of musical speech and should be delivered parlando, not with the full voice”.[2] Whilst I do not feel there are any elements of the song in which it would be appropriate to sing parlando, I do think there is merit in suggesting that the idea is adaptable and therefore also applies to the concept of singing rubato. Young love should not be rigid and restricted and for that reason I would see no benefit in observing every bar line, beat and rest with precise execution. Instead, I would respect the musical integrity of the piece but also give it an element of realism by feeling the mood of the song and adapting my performance appropriately whether that be through change in tempo or dynamics mostly or simply the overall pace of the piece.

When I rehearse Feramorz’s song a natural beauty occurs as I never seem to sing it exactly the same way twice.  For this to happen so freely and unplanned is an example within itself of how the song and the character can become one by simply allowing oneself to feel the song.


[1] Pritchett, F (2013) Lalla Rookh (1817), Available at: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/lallarookh/index.html#index

(Accessed: 23rd April 2017).

 

[2] Winton, D (1977) ‘The Performance of Recitative in Late Baroque Opera’, Music & Letters, 58(4), pp. 389 – 402.

 

The networks for Moore’s music

For Moore, socializing usually had an element of networking to it. His journal records various social encounters with Lord Burghersh (John Fane, 11th Earlof Westmorland), including an instance of dining with the latter in Florence on 23 October 1819. Burghersh was a keen composer, and his settings of many of Moore’s lyrics were published by Moore’s regular music publisher James Power. This working relationship surely strengthened Moore’s ties to an elite class whose support and regard were of considerable practical importance to him. Indeed, at this particular dinner Moore learned that Burghersh’s setting of the song ‘Bendemeer’s Stream’ from Lallla Rookh had inspired a translation of the song into Italian. Moore’s profile in Italy was likely enhanced by his association with Burghersh, as the latter held various diplomatic posts there between 1814 and 1831 and so would have been a man with contacts and influence.

 

 Bendemeer's Stream Burghersh Title page

Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library

Moore sometimes picked up gratifying news about how his works were faring while dining with his well-connected acquaintances. During his dinner at the Palais Royal (27 Feb. 1821) he learned a “rather flattering piece of news”— a month previous, the Court of Berlin had “represented in character” the story of Lalla Rookh, with Britain’s Duke of Cumberland assuming a small role as the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb (the music, by Gasparo Spontini, is not mentioned in Moore’s account). The event was reported by Chateaubriand “as the most splendid & tasteful thing he had ever seen”.  A “Lady of Honour” at the Paris dinner even offered to translate the German programme for Moore’s benefit. Much later, in June 1847, Moore mentioned another production,  “founded upon ‘Lalla Rookh,’ [which] was brought out this year at the Queen’s Theatre; and the example was followed promptly by many of the minor theatres … “. Moore goes on to report performances of various settings of his songs from Lalla Rookh that had recently taken place at the Welsh singer-pianist John Parry’s May 1847 concert in the prestigious venue of London’s Hanover Square.

Moore’s journal and correspondence also record countless occasions where he networked by performing — particularly his Irish Melodies — at the London clubs (for which publisher James Power paid his membership fees) and private parties of the influential bon ton. This kind of socialising was a very profitable form of advertisement for Moore’s work, as he often acknowledged in his letters to Power.  Given his sociable nature, we can assume he did not find ‘singing for his supper’ a difficult chore.

 

Granville Bantock’s The Fire Worshippers

By Guest Contributor Josh Liu

The Fire Worshippers (published 1892), a dramatic cantata for solo voices chorus and orchestra, is written ambitiously by the hand of then student-composer Granville Bantock. As a piece that is derived from Thomas Moore’s oriental romance Lalla Rookh (1817), Bantock modernises the musical response to the story and establishes a great force into the music.

Bantock is a prolific composer who constantly changes his musical language in an unrecognisable manner. However, the Wagnerian compositional style remains as the main influence in Bantock which can be identified in  The Fire Worshippers. Compared with songs based on Lalla Rookh that came out within a few years of Moore’s 1817 poem (for example, “‘Twas his own voice” by Sir John Stevenson), Bantock’s work shares little or no similarities. The piece is more elaborate and is written in a concert style. It is not difficult to observe the gestures from all voices; Bantock clearly drew on the strength of each character in the vocal parts. Like most late romantic pieces, The Fire Worshippers is richly orchestrated and involves notably wide-ranging melodic lines.

Liu figure 1

It is interesting to see how the musical response to Lalla Rookh develops. Composers are working with  the same story-line, but it encourages different interpretations  as the nineteenth century progresses. What used to be a soothing type of storytelling now becomes dramatic. Having a huge orchestra boosts every dramatic moment more effectively. To name an example, in Scene Five, when Hinda (an Arab princess in war-torn Persia, depicted by a soprano) cries ‘No rest for me, while danger’s nigh,’ the music suddenly becomes very loud with a more urgent tempo marking ‘Molto Andante’ (from the preceding ‘Largo’). The percussion offers a forceful sound on top of the thick texture achieved by strings, woodwinds and brass.

Liu figure 2

The demand in this piece is very high — as a multi-movement cantata for chorus, vocal soloists and orchestra, it is quite lengthy and substantial as compared  with the short songs written for piano and voice that Moore’s poem inspired in the 1810s and ’20s. The first review of the Overture to The Fire Worshippers as performed at the Royal Academy of Music, London, simply praised Bantock’s modern interpretation of the story for being “bold, and the orchestration picturesque” The Fire Worshippers by Bantock displays vivid images through his compositional technique and orchestration. He offers a good representation of Moore’s story, entering into its ambience and variety, perhaps in a more convincing manner than Moore’s immediate contemporaries managed to do.

 

References

Bantock, Granville, The Fire Worshippers, Novello’s original octavo edition, London: Novello & Company Limited, 1892 (Score accessed 10th April 2017).

“Royal Academy of Music.” The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular 32.575 (1 January 1891): 23.

Performing as Fadladeen

By Guest Contributor Daniel Steele

Editor’s note: in May 2017, as part of the lunch series in Music at Queen’s University Belfast, Daniel performed a recitative as Fadladeen from the 1877 cantata Lalla Rookh (W.G. Wills, text, and Frederic Clay, music).

LR.L3.WEST.Feramors, Lalla Rookh, Fadladeen.West Lalla Rookh, Fadladeen, and Feramors as depicted by Richard Westall and Charles Heath (Longmans, 1817). Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.

 

Performing a character is always a very subjective affair. The same character may be interpreted and portrayed variously by different people based upon how they perceive the character’s intentions, actions and overall importance to the plot. The presence of effective characterisation, like many things, often goes unnoticed until it isn’t there at all. With the ability to completely alter the way in which an audience perceives and experiences a story-line, effective characterisation is one of the most important aspects of performance in theatre, musical theatre and opera.

The character of Fadladeen is a very complex one. Portraying the ‘Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram’ may at first appear simple as you need only be pompous and commanding in character, but if a fully rounded and three-dimensional character is desired then this simply cannot be the case.

“You must learn to be three people at once: writer, character, and reader.”
(Kress, 2005)

Nancy Kress tells us that in order to become the character, the performer must also become the writer and audience. I believe this means that in the portrayal of a character the performer must consider the writer’s intentions for the character, the character’s own possible intentions based upon the interpreted personality and the audience’s expectations of the character. Doing so allows the performer to tailor their portrayal to be complementary to the writer’s concept, believable to the character (as written) and pleasing to the audience.

A good place to begin dissecting the character of Fadladeen would be to consider Moore’s description of him.

‘Fadladeen was the judge of every thing, – from the penciling of a Circassian’s eyelids to the deepest questions of science and literature; from the mixture of a conserve of rose-leaves to the composition of an epic poem … His political conduct and opinions were founded upon that line of Sadi, -“Should the Prince at noon- day say, it is night, declare that you behold the moon and stars.”’
(Moore, 1817)

This description provided by Moore doesn’t do much to alter the preconceived idea of how Fadladeen should appear or act but rather reinforces the idea of a commanding figure, a man of high stature that commands the stage when he takes to it.  Moore does, however, suggest him to be a fiercely loyal character, an aspect which helps to add more depth and possibly context to him and his thought processes.

If we take Fadladeen’s first solo recitative from the Frederic Clay (music) and W. G.  Wills (text) adaption of Lalla Rookh  as an example, we can see that Moore’s idea of character comes through in the rhythmic structuring of the music:  a lot of emphasis on the strong beats of the music creates a very commanding feel. This style and ‘feel’ commands the audience’s attention. A frequent use of dotted rhythms in the vocal line helps the performer to understand which syllables should be emphasised as this kind of rhythm  naturally creates a more accentuated down beat as seen in fig 1.

Frederic Clay's recitative for Fadladeen, with dotted rhythms creating a strong musical character

Frederic Clay’s recitative for Fadladeen, with dotted rhythms creating a strong musical character

The second task to portraying Fadladeen is to consider how he as a character may think and how this effects and helps shape the decisions he makes throughout. We know from Moore’s description that he is a very commanding and loyal figure, but if we study how he speaks and interacts with Lalla Rookh, it isn’t hard to notice that he is also very protective of her–whether this be through fierce loyalty to her father or through compassion towards her, this new dynamic to his character can be vital in the effective realisation of it. Considering his recitative in the Clay adaption once again, when Fadladeen says “Be it my care to wile away thy pain” (to Lalla Rookh), this suggests that he is not simply the commanding figure originally outlined by Moore.

The final task is to consider the expectation of the audience with a figure such as Fadladeen. While Fadladeen has been recognised as a rare English portrayal of a figure who faithfully reflects Persian society (Trench, 1934), it has also been pointed out that he  adds a touch of humour to the story (Rao, unknown). It can be found that characters such as Fadladeen usually require even a small bit of humour to keep them from becoming too monotonous. This humour I believe is best found in the small musical ironies within his part in the Clay adaption. As seen in fig 2. Fadladeen sings the word ‘elevate’ as the vocal line drops an octave, an irony that would not go unnoticed by a character, with a capacity to pay such immense attention to detail, such as Fadladeen.

Clay's use of musical irony in Fadladeen's recitative

Clay’s use of musical irony in Fadladeen’s recitative

 

With all these factors considered it is then up to the performer to absorb the information and work out what these different traits mean to them and how that will effect their physical and musical portrayal of the Great Nazir or Chamberlain of the Haram, Fadladeen.

Source List

Kress, N. (2005). Characters, emotion & viewpoint. 1st ed. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books.

Moore, Thomas (1817). Lalla Rookh. London: Longmans.

Trench, W. (1934). “Tom Moore: A Lecture by W. F. Trench.” The Irish Monthly, [online] 62(736), pp.662 – 664. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43651635 [Accessed 9 Apr. 2017]. http://

www.nirupamamenonrao.net/uploads/4/2/6/7/42673355/imagined_journeys_as_pdf.pdf

http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00generallinks/lallarookh/part_01.html

Click to access IMSLP286105-PMLP287163-Clay_-_Lalla_Rookh_-_numbers_1-8.pdf