A Repertoire: Modern
Gerhard (1896 – 1970) was a Catalan composer who fled to Britain in the 1930s during the Spanish Civil War and settled in Cambridge. Erudite, articulate, with wide-ranging cultural interests, he at one point studied under Schoenberg and had, by the 1950s, developed his own complex version of serialism – which ensured that relatively little of his music was either published or performed in his lifetime. He also experimented with electronic music – introducing it to the English stage with the incidental score for a 1955 RSC production of King Lear.
His output included five symphonies, several concertos, an opera The Duenna… and a cycle of Cancons Popolars Catalanes for voice and piano, written before he left Spain in 1927/8 but with some of the songs later orchestrated. And it was these (for Gerhard) easy-listening songs that Vyvyan – not a noted champion of the serialist avant-garde – sang in a memorable BBC broadcast of 1958, with William Glock (1908-200, soon to become a distinguished if divisive Controller of Music at the BBC) at the piano.
Their performances are not available commercially but are preserved on the British Library soundserver, reference B9861/5, and are remarkable for their arresting, vibrant energy and wistful beauty.