The 2022 AGM was held at the The Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham on Saturday 29 October. All members of he Arthur Bliss Society Committee remained in post with the exception of Daphne Ellis, who stood down as Membership Secretary and Gerald Towell, who stood down after 20 years of service to the Arthur Bliss Society, first as founder-chairman and then as a committee member. The Chairman David Salter thanked the Committee for their work and support. After last year’s AGM was held via Zoom, the chairman welcomed this opportunity to ‘meet each other in pleasant circumstances’ after the strictures of the pandemic and remarked that the one fortunate outcome was the need to hold all committee meetings via Zoom, enabling the appointment of representatives in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, the Far East and the USA, ‘to extend our outreach to an international audience’.
Philip Wilby’s account of the event was published in the 2022 Winter Journal and, with his permission, extracts are freely adapted here.
The AGM Concert, for which we were joined by members of the British Music Society, was preceded by an introduction by Paul Spicer to his soon-to-be-published biography ‘Sir Arthur Bliss: Standing out from the Crowd’. Our speaker declared that ‘his starting point was that of a musical agnostic, acting as someone who remained to be convinced of the music’s standing and who would let the scores do their persuasive talking. Morning Heroes featured prominently in the initial discussion, reflecting the lifelong effect on Bliss’s personality and music of the death of his brother Kennard in the First World War’. Eventually, the author found that Bliss’s later music spoke to him most eloquently ‘when he [Bliss] ceased to be so emphatically energetic’ and singled out Meditations on a Theme by John Blow for special praise. We look forward to the publication of this major volume.
The afternoon’s performance, by Chu-Yu Yang (violin) and Eric McElroy (piano), consisted of ‘five finely curated works, cogently introduced and beautifully played’. The programme was chosen and ordered with ‘both symmetry and narrative’ in mind, with three shorter pieces underpinned by two sonatas.
Cheryl Frances-Hoad: Bloom
Gerald Finzi: Elegy
Ian Venables: Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 23 (First UK performance)
Ivor Gurney: The Apple Orchard
Arthur Bliss: Violin Sonata
The recital began with Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Bloom, ‘with lyrical lines in a songlike style which opened up as effortlessly as the blossoms that inspired it. Its mirror image was Ivor Gurney’s The Apple Orchard, performed fourth in the programme, which ‘proved itself to be both an earlier colleague and a perfect companion’.
Gerald Finzi’s Elegy was ‘designed to be part of an unfinished sonata’ and lasts ‘an aching but muscular nine minutes, sustains a passionate central climax and ends in solemn procession… a jewel’.
Ian Venables, President of the Society, was in the audience for this UK première of his Sonata for Violin and Piano Op 23. The sonata is a transcription of his Sonata for Flute and Piano and ‘uses a two-part structure, contrasting a richly melodic opening with the lighter dancing movement which follows’. The performance was ‘excellently delivered and warmly received’.
Arthur Bliss’s Violin Sonata remained unpublished in his lifetime, abandoned after his own injuries and the death of his brother Kennard in the battle of the Somme in 1916. ‘The published edition by Rupert Marshall-Luck was commissioned by the Bliss Trust and first performed in 2010. ‘In a single mighty movement’ which ‘reveals the structural integrity and dedicated passion of this early music… the players took fire in the opening paragraph and showed us clearly why we cherish Bliss’s music. The quiet closing pages remain special in the memory and found particularly sympathetic advocacy from our two performers.
To send us out into the autumn sunshine, Malcolm Arnold’s Moto Perpetuo from his Five Pieces made a tasty encore’.
In August 2022 the Taiwanese première of the Bliss Violin Sonata was performed by Chu-Yu Yang (violin) and Min Duh (piano) at recitals in Taipei and Kaohsiung. The work was also included in concerts in early October given by Chu-Yu Yang (violin) and Eric McElroy (piano), with a programme similar to that of this afternoon’s performance, one in Germany for the Kammermusikfreunde in Tübingen and a second in Austria at the British Embassy in Vienna. The ABS Chairman and Secretary, David Salter and his wife Anne, attended the concert at the British Embassy.