Guest Blog on Robert Still
By Edward Clark, President of the Sibelius Society
Sometimes when you get a feeling in your head about something or someone you have to do something at some time!
I first heard the music of Robert Still in the late 1960’s when the Third Symphony was released on the SAGA LP label. It was conducted by Sir Eugene Goossens, who had premiered it at the Royal Festival Hall and was then asked to record it by the composer (who funded the recording). Goossens sadly died three days after the recording.
I felt an affinity with this music, the slow movement has an understated beauty, very English. You can buy this recording coupled with the more assertive Fourth Symphony on the Lyrita label. Well worth a tenner.
Many years elapsed before I could help spread the message about Still’s music. I gradually entered the world of classical music as an amateur producer of concerts (whilst pursuing a business career now over thank god). This extended my contacts no end and I met members of the Villiers Quartet four years ago. A more willing group of delightful musicians is hard to imagine.
Meanwhile I had discovered the Still archive was at Trinity Laban library in London. My friend, Graham Musto, had tipped me off. He knows more about Still than anyone. Much of the music was/is in manuscript but, being a violinist manqué, I first looked at the unperformed Violin Concerto. A long story later this was premiered by Efi Christodoulou with John Gibbons conducting, in London in 2013.
The four string quartets were all in manuscript and needed a lot of attention. I consulted with James Dickenson, leader of VQ and he volunteered to edit the scores and arrange publication.
VQ gave the premiere of the Third String Quartet at St John’s, Smith Square, three years ago; then the First Quartet at the Barnes Music Festival in 2014. By this time I had joined the British Music Society committee and persuaded my fellow members to record the cycle of quartets with VQ.
The result is the splendid CD now issued on Naxos and sponsored by the BMS.