Hubert Klyne HEADLEY
California Suite, Piano Concertos #1&2, Symphony #1
Apparently during the 1940s, California Suite was a great concert favourite that has not been much performed in recent years. I think it is quite easy to see why. It is very much a period piece ranking alongside the likes of 'The Warsaw Concerto' and 'The Dream of Olwyn' in style. I guess there is only so much room in the concert repertoire for works of this ilk. Nonetheless, I think this release is well worthwhile as it has some spectacular moments and gives plenty of food for thought. We are told in the notes that Headley (1906-95) claimed that he always wrote music describing how he felt inside. This is apparent in the first two parts of California Suite where we are given impressive illustrations of the Golden Gate and Yosemite - the music soars in celebration of the grandeur of these magnificent scenes and yet there is a returning and deep seated melancholy underlying the excitement of the sights. One can empathise with these emotions so easily and wonder at the mysteries and dichotomies life presents us with. The composer somehow moves out of this mode for the third part entitled 'Fiesta' whose eponymous title falls neatly into a slot between existing between similarly energetic works written by Gershwin and Copeland. Once again - not entirely original in style or effect - so possibly cast aside for performance in favour of 'Hoe Down' and 'An American in Paris'.
In the same way, the Piano Concertos and the Symphony, parallel similar works of their age but are powerful enough to stand repeated listening without presenting any particularly new musical vistas. So it would be largely down to what you want or expect from previously unknown works whether you should consider acquiring them. For devotees of the period and filmic style (very black and white, high drama, quite thoughtful, even dark) there is plenty here to whet your appetite for the genre.