- The Music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks
The most recent book on composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks by Victoria Rogers has appeared from Ashgate in time to examine her works adequately and to set some records straight. Happily, there is enough substance in this composer to warrant more than one study; in fact, there have been several to date (Deborah Hayes, Peggy Glanville-Hicks: A Bio-Bibliography [New York: Greenwood, 1990]; Wendy Beckett, Peggy Glanville-Hicks [Pymble, Australia: Angus & Robertson, 1992]; James Murdoch, Peggy Glanville-Hicks: A Transposed Life [Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon, 2002]). With a title like The Music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks, the first thing to consider is obvious: does the title match the contents, or are we faced with the title making one claim and the contents proving it false? Happily, the content of the book and the title are a match. That being established, does Rogers achieve her primary purpose? What sets this book apart from the other writings overall about Glanville-Hicks is a glorious focus on the actual works themselves. Another favorable feature is how she presents them. Analyses are not protracted theoretical death marches for their own sake, but discussions of analytical points and musical style introduced via the context of the time in which she wrote the works and compared further to either complementary and/or competing musical styles of the twentieth century.
This book is organized chronologically in the most logical fashion to follow the musical trail that culminates in Glanville-Hicks's mature style of the late 1960s and early 1970s. With some necessary introductory matter that is largely biographical, Rogers reacquaints those readers who have read quick entries about Glanville-Hicks with the familiar information: early works were of the "English pastoral style," the middle works are largely neoclassical, and the late works employ the "melody-rhythm" concept. Then, throughout the chapters, she refines this commonly accepted three-stage creative process, unveiling the finer details that show that her evolving style does not totally forsake earlier creative style periods. Pursuing this point further, in the second chapter, Rogers uses short analytical examples from Glanville-Hicks's four early songs (written prior to 1936, and not a set) to show the progressive shift over the course of the four from tonality to modality. She uses these songs as points of reference in later works that display features of these styles. In other words, as early as these songs one sees examples of writing that appear in parts of mature works like The Transposed Heads (1953) and Nausicaa (1960). In Rogers' words, "The four early songs are in many ways a signpost to the later works, and herein lies their significance" (p. 25). She does not stop with these examples, however. For instance, she identifies a pluralistic style present as early as the Choral Suite (1937), one of thirteen works Glanville-Hicks prodigiously composed at the end of her student period (1936–38). Rogers focuses on two of the works (Choral Suite and the Sonatina for Treble Recorder or Flute and Piano) to show the composer's compositional growth and journey to find her stylistic voice. In her selection, Rogers is not being particularly [End Page 338] choosy; of the thirteen works, only three survive. Several pages are spent on the Choral Suite to show the composer's use of both the English pastoral style of the very early works and elements of Stravinskian neoclassicism to fashion a synthesis of the two: a stylistic plurality. Rogers points out that elements of Glanville-Hicks' later style are recognized here by the use of dissonance as musical destination rather than dissonance resolving to consonance as destination. Rogers posits that Glanville-Hicks piles up stylistic ideas as she composes rather than breaking off and attempting a totally different style; in this manner, she creates an evolving musical language.
Another aspect of this book that I liked was Rogers' points of omission. She does not attempt to give full treatment to every extant work. She...