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“This terrible thing of fashion, in assessing composers, especially in Great Britain, is something that worries me terribly”.
So remarked the great conductor Vernon Handley. He was right. We have fashion, surely, at least partly to thank for the surfeit of Mahler and Bruckner at the Proms each season; for the current vogue for Handel’s rather hastily dashed off operas; and for a spate of Magic Flutes around the UK last year.
Then there are the fashion victims: fine composers such as Honegger, Scriabin, and Zemlinsky, Janacek for several decades. And there are individual works that never see the light of day, and really ought to, such as Puccini’s most sophisticated and perhaps best opera La Fanciulla Del West , Richard Strauss’s own favourite (of his 12) Die Frau Ohne Schatten, nor Vaughan Williams’ fine Sir John in Love, and so on.
But surely the king of the unfashionable composers is Arnold Bax (1883 – 1953), whose sad ostracism seems to be endless, and endlessly unjust.