British music and musical life before the Great War have been relatively neglected in discussions of the idea of the 'modern' in the early twentieth century. This collection of almost 300 letters, written by Granville Bantock (1868-1946) to the Scottish composer William Wallace (1860-1940) and the music critic Ernest Newman (1868-1959) places Bantock and his circle at the heart of this debate. The letters highlight Bantock's and Wallace's development of the modern British symphonic poem, their contribution (with Newman) to music criticism and journalism, and their attempts to promote a young generation of British composers - revealing an early frustration with the musical establishment. Confirming the impact of visits to Britain by Richard Strauss and Sibelius, Bantock offers opinions on a range of composers active around the turn of the twentieth century, identifying Elgar and Delius as the future for English music. Along with references to conductors, entertainers and contemporary writers (Maeterlinck, Conrad), there are fascinating details of the musical culture of London, Liverpool and Birmingham - including programming strategies at the Tower, New Brighton, and abortive plans to relaunch the New Quarterly Musical Review. Fully annotated, the letters provide a fascinating window into British music and musical life in the early twentieth century and the 'dawn' of musical modernism.
MICHAEL ALLIS is Professor of Musicology at the School of Music, University of Leeds.