Volume IV

Elizabeth Poston: Letters to William and Sheila Busch

1942 to 1945[1]


Elizabeth Poston was a prolific correspondent, whose claim, on more than one occasion, to be writing as many as 30 letters a day, is supported by the large number she preserved over the period 1933 to 1978 and stored in more than 80 box files. Letters published to date comprise: all those readily available in the year 2006, written to seven of her friends[2]; all those to her friend, Madeau Stewart together with extracts from several others, including a few to William and Sheila Busch (in 2007); and more extracts, mainly from letters to Jean Coulthard (in 2008)[3].

Quotation from those to the Busch family published in 2007 were restricted to the first three letters written to William by Elizabeth in 1942 and 1943 and the last one to William’s wife, Sheila in 1945, the year he died tragically, just as his music was beginning to be known and appreciated[4].

The present collection, comprising 49 letters and two cards to William Busch and five letters to Sheila (including one from Elizabeth’s mother, Clementine), has been generously made available by Julia Busch and is now published by the kind permission of Simon Campion, Elizabeth’s copyright holder.

Of all the letters of Elizabeth that have come to hand to date, the present collection provides the greatest insight into her thoughts about music, music-making and musicians in general and about William Busch and his music in particular. They happen to cover a period of intense activity and strain on her part in arranging for the rehearsal, recording and transmission of music from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) during the 1939-1945 Second World War, a good deal of it from London under difficult conditions during the Blitz. Bombs are mentioned (Letters 38, 39, 43 & 46). Some of her radio transmission work involved intricate, secret intelligence work, but this, of course, is not revealed in any of her correspondence. However, the strain of the work is evident in the bouts of ill health that she suffered at the end of 1944 (Letters 26-29) and 1945 (Letter 50), a strain that, fortunately, was relieved by being able to return to her haven in Rooks Nest House, mentioned on more than a dozen occasions,

Almost all of the letters (80%) deal with composition, performance and transmission of music, especially songs, including her own, giving particular attention to ‘the music of the words’, the balance between instruments (as in Letter No. 1), the technique of pedalling piano parts (Letter No. 35) and the musicianship of performers. Among the many people mentioned in the letters, often praised but sometimes strongly criticised, are some 70 composers, more than 50 performers and nearly 40 poets and authors.

The value of the friendship, with two people very much on the same musical wave-length, is dwelt on as it grows (Letters 28 & 30) and felt very strongly when it ended prematurely on William’s death (Letter 50). At the same time, Elizabeth was at pains to stress that friendship could not be allowed to influence her professional opinion of a piece of music (Letters 26, 27, 29 & 30); she did not want to take the initiative in promoting Williams music, but would give an impartial opinion to the BBC if required and felt that she could offers impartial comments to William himself, without fear of causing offence.

The letters are not all dated but are placed in sequence often with the help of Elizabeth’s diaries, kindly made available by Margaret Ashby and with permission from Simon Campion to utilise them fully. All but two (Letters 2 & 13) are written in her beautiful manuscript, usually in ink. Editing has been minimal – mainly italicising titles of works and foreign words, and also providing translations – so as to preserve Elizabeth’s idiosyncratic usage, spelling and coining of words, as well as most of her informal punctuation. Footnotes are supplied to help put into context her frequent references to people, places and events, and in that task, the Poston Pocket Diaries, have been invaluable. The letters, in turn, have illuminated some of the more cryptic diary entries.

John S. Alabaster

July 2007

The Letters

(1) G.P.O.B.7, Bedford

Nov 6th ‘42

Dear Mr Busch,

René Soames[5] has just shown me your letter after yesterday’s broadcast, so I have to thank you twice over, on our joint behalf, as well as for your kind letter to me a few weeks ago. I was going to write in any case, but went away in the meantime to get better after being i Ritornello [the refrain] ill and shake off the B.B.C![6]

I am really tremendously glad you approved of the performance of your Rest. I find so much in the song that I felt it would be hard to do it anything like justice. It is beautifully-wrought and satisfying writing: its strange mixture of artistry and more tender lyricism make a strong appeal to me. The impeccable craftsmanship – the actual quality of the writing, so finely carried out within the clearly defined harmonic scheme might, one would think, take away all real spontaneity. But that is there as well: you have succeeded in getting both and that is truly an artistic achievement. And you have caught the spirit of the poem.[7]

You raise a very interesting point in your previous letter and we must discuss it some day. I experience just the same difficulty in finding the right poem to set and yet the wealth in this language is unsurpassed. This problem has made itself so acute that I’ve long ago given up trying to set any certain set of words. I only know – that rarely – that I shall and must return (if I live long enough); I usually do. But so rarely that at that rate a lifetimes work would have but a tiny showing!

Clinton Baddeley[8] has written a book called Words for Music with some interesting views (though he is, apparently not enough of a musician to illustrate them thoroughly) starting from the premise that the fault is with our poets, who do not consider the musician’s needs; except the Elizabethans, who did and therefore got the right settings, both contemporaneous then and modern. It is a point – but doesn’t go far enough.

I hope our transposition of Rest didn’t worry you unduly. I’m against it on principle, but to do the song René needed a higher pitch. It made it very awkward to play on the piano as it doesn’t ‘lie’ in this key, the original being so black-note in shape and I had to exert all my skill in trying to disguise the difference. We will return you the copy you kindly sent, as I still have available the one in the set I borrowed from Henry Cummings[9], and I can transpose this one for any future occasion with René. I’m very glad indeed you like his singing. His whole approach to the matter is exceptional, his sensitivity and perception rare. We have worked together up to date and we feel the same way about it. Certainly, that one of the first essential of song performance is that it is not, and worse should be, singer + random or routine pianist at the last moment struggle, though which is mostly accepted as the praisal [sic] (particularly I regret to say, in the world of broadcasting), but a true ensemble as in any combination. I cannot see why a singer and the miserable individual ordinarily alluded to as “at the piano” should be denied the self same partnership as a fine instrumental pair. The scale may be smaller – but the fusion needs to be even more delicate, if anything. This, I believe, is why our best modern song-writers have on the whole been failed: why it is that the songs of Warlock[10], Ireland[11] and more have had so much less than their due.

Anyhow, René and I pay any song which interests us the compliment of many weeks and many hours of work and thought – it is only at the end of this that we feel we’ve got it so near that it becomes a sort of second nature and moves into a sphere of freedom. Less than that we’d rather not do, that’s why we can’t, at present, do it oftener, both being tied to other jobs. But I hope it won’t be for ever. There’s nothing I’d like better to do than strike a blow (in my own way) for the best in British song.

I look forward to meeting you whenever the chance comes along, and I hope you are really stronger now.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely

Elizabeth Poston

(2) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House

33 Marylebone High Street, W.1

Telephone: Welbeck 4468; Telegram: Broadcasts, London

Reference: 3/M/EP

12th January 1943

Dear Mr Busch,

I have now moved to headquarters in London, as you see by the new address – a quite awful upheaval, with dirt and difficulties and black-out. But life can’t always be as uncongenial as this and some day one will see the spring again and the country, and be able to think and work in quietness. This is to ask if you would care to let me have the “quick piece” for ‘cello which you spoke of some time ago, and which you said you were writing for Florence Hooton[12], as a companion to the slow one, in MS, which she played at the Wigmore Hall? In case, one of these days, I could do something about a performance? Anyhow, I should be interested to see it.

George Parker is singing a new folk-song arrangement I’ve done, Saturday, this week January 16th, Forces 2.30. Just these little things keep one alive – I mean, Alive! I hope you are well and writing.

With greetings

Yours sincerely,

[Elizabeth Poston]

(3) 35 Marylebone

High Street, W.1.

Welbeck 5577, Ext 20

Thursday Jan.14th [1943]

Dear Mr Busch,

Our letters must have crossed!

I am so delighted to have yours this morning and hear that you will be coming to London about Feb 13th for a fortnight[13]. It couldn’t be better, as I am now up here and make it my HQ except at week-ends, when I always make a dash for the country where I gather strength to meet the onrush of the next week.

It would be lovely to forgather with Norman Fraser[14] and then go back after dinner where there’s a piano and some warmth. That being so you could perhaps play me your new pieces – which I’m interested to hear about and that would be best of all. As you will have gathered I had not forgotten about the cello ones – Nor, in fact the songs – but as I couldn’t yet get the right singer or the right place for them I have been waiting until such time as I can get the hearing for them I feel they deserve. These delays sometimes are exasperatingly prolonged, but I prefer to book them with the object of getting the right result in the end and I am sure you will agree.

Being born with an innate idealism and hopelessly fastidious mind does not qualify one with the world’s requirements for this sort of job in which one finds little support for it where so much is ‘slick’? and shallow. But there is all the more reason for ploughing a lonely furrow and one’s belief in it is its own reward.

I’ve been rather miserable lately – for no better reason than that life has been difficult and rather sordid and I want to go home! (I live at Howards End, of E. M. Forster’s book [Howards End] – I’ll tell you about it.) And I think, because of that I’ve been writing pieces in the small hours and amidst packing-cases. But only trifles – arrangements mostly. But I’m pleased with them and that helps!

The Children’s [BBC] Home [Service] people asked René Soames and me to do a recital for them. I have done them in other services but not yet on Home and we thought it would be fun to try. It’s quite a problem, when you get down to it. I haven’t been able to fix a date yet, as I have been so busy but when we do, I’ll give you notice in advance. I do like the idea of your Nicholas Variations for your merry energetic little son. Did you make any reference in them to his rapture at hearing the bells at Christmas – no, I think it was previously, on the Lileyan occasion? – for the first time. Seeing his experience must have been wonderfully touching.

I shall so look forward to meeting you.

Yours very sincerely

[Signed, surprisingly] William Busch!

(4) 35 Marylebone High Street W.1.


Dear Mr Busch,

I have two letters to thank you for. How good of you to send me a copy of the new ‘cello score. I shall be delighted to have the chance of going through it and playing it over before I hear it and I shall look forward enormously to a ‘private performance’ by you and Florence Hooton at Bluthner’s [the Piano Firm] on the morning of February 2nd.

It was good of you to let me know in advance; it gives me a far greater chance of keeping free for it. I have made a special note of the date and hope nothing will interfere. It is splendid that you are doing the Eclogue and Capriccio with Florence Hooton for Latin-America.

I am so glad you liked the folk-song setting; the first essay I had ever made in that sort of thing – and it isn’t easy to get it just right. He sang it well. Listening to one’s things is very helpful, isn’t it? Forgive the nastiest of Civil Service puns!

With best greetings,

Elizabeth Poston

(5) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage, Herts.

Feb 7th [1943][15]

Dear Mr Busch,

Being in my bed, temporarily cut off from the world, I tried to get a ’phone message through to Norman Fraser sometime ago to tell you of what had befallen me. I don’t know if it ever reached you, as my office at the BBC fell into a state of disruption because my poor secretary got ill too – but your kind letter told me you had managed to get through on the ’phone. It was so good of you to write and it cheered me. I was – and still am – so very disappointed at being again prevented from meeting you and hearing your new ’cello music. I had been so looking forward to both.

But it is no good getting a grudge against Fate for again seeming so determinedly unkind! Instead I shall maintain the conviction that after these repeated frustrations we shall meet in the end and exchange all the news and views we want to – and I hope it will be as soon as ever you visit London again.

I have had rather a drastic time with this flu which left a trail of unpleasant things behind it – but all is going well now and I hope it won’t take me long to get up and about. It has been such a blessing to be at home and I realise how glad I am of a chance to rest. It is as you say: I’m afraid sensitive musical people don’t do awfully well in the throng and clatter of offices and canteens!

I do hope that you have had a successful visit to London and kept well and accomplished all the things you wanted and that your broadcast was a great success. If you will allow me to I should love to keep the MS of your cello pieces till I can go through them at the piano.

Your family will be very glad to get you back and I expect Nicholas will ask lots of questions!

With best greetings,

Yours very sincerely

Elizabeth Poston

PS. I’m supposed to be doing the music for Suckling[16], a production of Douglas Cleverdon’s[17] Home Service, Sunday Feb 28th 10.30 and I’m hoping I shall be able to complete it!

(6) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage, Herts.

Fri: Feb 26th [1943]

Dear Mr Busch,

How good of you to write. I am so glad you are coming up to London again and providing me with another chance to meet you!

I am ashamed not to have thanked you yet for your previous letter. I was about to write. I sent for a terrifying array of papers to deal with from my office and it has kept me busy to the exclusion of other letters. Also I have been working against time to complete the scores for Sunday evening’s broadcast. I couldn’t resort to a copyist as the first copies have to be made by oneself and these I had to put into the post as I did them to the performers concerned. It is amazing what a time it takes making the parts for even small pieces – and these are mostly very small, but only in structure for they are the fruits of delicate and detailed work. These transcriptions and arrangements, seeing daylight, in some cases, for the first time in centuries, need loving care in the doing. I’ve certainly loved doing them and only hope, now, they will sound the way I meant them to. [Sir John] Suckling, for an occasional poet was a good one. One tends to look upon the lesser Stuart versifiers as decadent after the great Elizabethans – but there are lines here worthy of the best. “Prithee send me back my heart”[18] has mysticism akin to that of John Donne[19] and a lovely curious tune. At first sight it looks like the most simple and decisive melody in D minor – yet when I arranged it, I could not account for the strong pull I felt towards G minor: so strong that I couldn’t disregard it: one of those extraordinary senses of tonal duplication. I couldn’t analyse it while I was actually doing it, as I felt too impelled by what I did to do otherwise, and did not account for it until afterwards.

The last verse of those I have set runs:-

“For love is such a mystery

I cannot find it out

That when I think I’m most resolved

Then I am most in doubt.”[20]

And I realised that I had been so imbued with the meaning that that feeling of mystery and doubt had invaded the setting, hence the 2-way pull. Aren’t these things interesting? I do hope you may be able to listen.

Blake[21] is one of the poets who seem to demand music, yet it is intangible to find, I feel. . I should love to see how you’ve set his Laughing Song – it is splendid that there will be two Blake additions for Henry Cummings to sing.

I was thrilled and delighted to hear that there are prospects of your new Cello Concerto for the Proms. I so hope to hear this good news confirmed as a certainty before long. It was brave of you to go to the BBC and face such a formidable array of ‘Music Dept’ and play your Nicholas Variations[22]. I do sympathise and wish I could have been there to leaven the officialdom! It is the sort of occasion which terrifies me. I had almost rather die than be called on to play my own music to a strange and critical gathering – whereas with just one sympathetic musician – or two – at one’s own piano, it is easy to go on all night!

Please do ring me on Monday at 35 M[arylebone] High St. – not too early – about 11 or so, if possible, unless I ring you in London before then.

In haste to catch the post and so hoping to see you.

With best greetings

Elizabeth Poston

PS I hope one of these days your wife will come with you to London and that I may have the pleasure of meeting her too.

(7) Rook’s Nest,



Tuesday, March 2nd 1943

Dear Mr Busch,

It is so nice when an occasion is just as nice as one thought it was going to be! I so much enjoyed our meeting as well as a delicious lunch and look forward to a “continuation in our next”

With all kindest regards

Elizabeth Poston

(8) BBC, Broadcasting House, London W.1.

35 Marylebone High St

March 11th 1943

Dear Mr Busch,

I’m back in the mill and therefore the less able to think or write at leisure! (I feel 40,000 Panzers [German armoured vehicles] are attacking me at once!) But I do want to say thank you for your letter and also that I don’t think one need have any recriminations about talking of one’s own works and its process to anyone really in sympathy – or what is artistic perception worth? Such exchanges are, I am sure, the really valuable ones. And there is much, as you say, to continue Next Time. In the meantime, could you spare me, as soon as possible, a copy of your new Blake song (Laughing Song) and tell me, for a 15-minute recital of your songs, i.e. to take 11½-12 mins. of actual music, which you would prefer to include and in what order? I should, of course, want to include both Weep You No More[23] and the AE[24] setting – both of them outstanding in my opinion. I should be so grateful if you could let me know as soon as possible. You will gather by this that I’m “up to something!”

I hope Nicholas is well and your wife and you are none the worse (perhaps even the better?) for your visit to London

With kindest regards,


(9) 35 Marylebone High Street, W.1.


Dear Mr Busch,

I was touched and delighted by your kind letter after the 2nd edition [by Elizabeth] of [John] Suckling. The encouragement of it was a real light in my path. There is nothing, as you know which helps so much as the sympathy and interest of a fellow musician who knows and perceives from inside the music; and although those old tunes I arranged were small in scope yet most careful workmanship went to their shaping, and to believe by a verdict one respects, that a job has been well done leads one along the thorny way to the next.

I think you and Norman Fraser listening together [at William’s home] in Devon must have cast a kindly and telepathic aura over the stuffy Maida Vale studio where the broadcast was not without its difficulties (or its humours) as some of my MSS got lost in the post and I had to write out the parts again in the studio, trying to think in one key while the play was going on in another and an incipient quarrel afoot between the singer and the cellist, who loathed each other on sight!!

I am so glad you have had Norman Fraser with you, right away from the cares and exertions of his [American military] service. Everyone will love to see him back – but I hope for his sake you will keep him as long as possible: holidays and any real relaxation are all too rare in this fevered life. I haven’t yet heard when he is expected in Aldenham [House, Elstree (BBC)], whither René and I go at dead of night – tonight – to do a Peter Warlock recital. We shall love doing it and I hope it will be just what Norman Fraser wants, whether he is able to hear it or not. It is joyful escapism to me!

You must have been able to pursue and exchange many mutual interests during his stay: the ‘communion of true minds’ is such an essential and valuable part of an artist’s life and one so often denied in these days when there is neither peace nor leisure and the general strain of existence saps one’s out-going vitality.

I am delighted you are writing more cello music for Florence Hooton. She and I spent a delightful time together after the last broadcast she did for me not long ago[25]. I like so much her happy, generous personality and the splendid insight and vitality she brings to her work. We spoke of you, of course, and agreed that much more is yet to be heard of you than hitherto!

In spite of this, I haven’t yet succeeded in getting the songs a broadcast of the nature I want and can but beg your patience in the meantime. I am tremendously excited by your Laughing Song where I find you have absolutely got the spirit of the words: and a rather peculiar one at that – or so. At any rate they have always appealed to me. Behind the innocence and glee, there is something of that ‘fay’-ness of Blake’s which one never really loses in his poems. I wonder if this was unconscious on your part. But perhaps this is too big a subject to write on, and we must continue it in our next conversation! Anyhow, this is a thrilling song and it appeals to me very much.

The other I have not had time to get ‘right inside’ yet and when I do, I’ll write more about them both.

In the meantime, all best greetings and hope Nicholas is loving the spring.


(10) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

35 Marylebone High St W.1.

April 21st 1943

Dear Mr Busch,

I have been wanting too much to thank you for your very kind letter and invitation and have been hoping that the reason for delay is known to you for what it is. Daily pressure of work edges out and edges out those quiet moments one wishes for, to speak to a friend and when at last Easter Mon[day] brought a ‘breather’ I was, I confess, so tired that I just went to sleep!

But now, as the result, I have woken up and am doubly alive to the sense of new good in life from your thought of me. Indeed I should love to come and see you and your wife and Nicholas in Devonshire. Such a chance of escape is not yet but when it does come I will take it – and you, at your word! And in the meantime I shall have a constant feeling of looking forward, at the very idea of anything so nice being round the corner!

I confess that I do long very much for escape – and it doesn’t come often – so the thought takes on an added value: a private source of encouragement and perseverance ever at hand.

I rejoiced to see Norman Fraser on his return from you, looking better than I have ever seen him and so obviously happy for his stay with you. Indeed a good advertisement for your care of tired musicians!

René [Soames] and I thoroughly enjoyed our recital for him in the small hours[26] and had the satisfaction of feeling we had done well. There is something pleasantly un-orthodox about broadcasting to the other side of the world from Aldenham [House, Elstree (BBC)], where one is delivered from many of the more trying and frigidly un-nerving externals incidental to the job. It is all slightly fantastic there – and everyone was so kind to us.

On May 11th we do Warlock at the National Gallery [Concert] and I hope it will go well and I wish you could be there.

Have you written lately, or are you contemplating any new work or works for piano? Irene Kohler[27] was speaking to me of her wish for some new British piano work of sufficient ‘ballast’ for 1st performance at the new Contemporary Music Concerts being planned in Oxford. I tentatively suggested your work to her – without in any way committing you! – and she showed much interest. So in case you should feel inclined to follow it up, bear it in mind. The address is 6 St Andrew’s Close, N.W.2.

Technically and intellectually she is good and powerful. Personally I do not look for much heart there – but then, that is not always a major consideration! Though I prefer to feel that it is in such songs of yours as Rest and Weep You No More which brings me to one more suggestion, I might say: Request: Would you ever, if you felt so moved, write a set of songs for René and me together? – bearing in mind that ‘moved’ is what we want to have you be, to enable us to feel what we should want to feel about the music in order to do it, as we think worthily. And also (a more technical point) that René isn’t a tenor who always likes to be sitting on top notes, but one with a middle register of extraordinary warmth and beauty.

In case you feel too shattered with all these ideas, I will say no more, except how nice it will be to see you again and how specially so it could also be, one of these days, in Devon.

I have made a [Pocket Diary] note of Morley College, June 5th and perhaps I could come?

Best greetings


(11) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

35 Marylebone High St W.1.

May 4th [1943]

0——-Seusi! [the cat![28]]

Dear Mr Busch,

How splendid about the possibility for your Cello Concerto at the Proms[29] having reached a stage nearer certainty in spite of the disappointment with the Reading Panel here. I do so hope you will have good news and soon. What tantalising thrills in the meantime for you and Florence [Hooton]! An artist’s life is subject to different excitements – different, I mean, because they easily distract one from the work in progress – at least I find this so in my case. One should cultivate an invulnerable concentration! But still, it’s difficult!

I sympathise entirely with what you say about songs and song-writing as I share fundamentally your views on the subject. It is strange that of the whole literature of verse at one’s disposal, one should be so seldom inspired towards setting and I had no intent to hurry you, but only to tell you that if ever you had more songs in mind, René [Soames] and I would love to feel we might be your ‘target’.

I’m afraid I’m not very helpful about ‘libretto’ suggestions, as I experience your difficulty in a precisely similar manner – which is why one writes so few songs (and one reason why feeling the urge towards the voice, I have lately turned to the editing and management of songs of my forbears!) I feel that a set of songs to be worthy of its name, should have some definite cohesion: in itself an artistic problem. Unity of authorship – or (perhaps even more satisfying), of Idea. The latter is rarer because more difficult to achieve. There is one paramount instance within recent months – the Seven American Poems by Arthur Bliss (Boosey & Hawkes). Get these and look at them sometime, if you are not already acquainted with them, because of a problem he has finely and originally solved. They are VERY good I think – and it is worth noting – as you will see when you have explored the copy – that he gave them as their original title Summer 1940 – which is their epitome.

I am having a long correspondence with Robert Nichols[30] about music and poetry – we forget the poet too much, and think and are apt (I don’t mean you and me, but many musicians) to treat him as a peg for us! And so it is good have his side of it, especially from as musical a poet as R.N. [Robert Nichols]. Have you his most recent book Such was my Singing (Collins 1942) [174 pp.] – an anthology covering his work since his youth, with an extraordinary fine and wise essay as introduction.

I am delighted to hear of the new Tarantella – and before long I hope to hear it too. How kind of you to see about a ticket for me for June 5th [at Morley College]. I shall look forward to it. Don’t bother about Irene Kohler as you have nothing at present, but you can bear her in mind for a future possibility perhaps. O! The possibilities – and life is so short!

Norman Fraser is coming with me to hear René sing for Anthony Bernard at the Wigmore [at 6.30][31] tomorrow. I wish you could be there too. We are going to the Café Royal after and previously, to a Private View of the new John’s [work][32] at the Leicester Galleries – a day strangely harking back to one’s artistic life of 10 years ago, yet changed in all outward semblance…

More anon

With best greetings



(12) [Post Card] Monday 10th [May 1943][33]

So very many thanks for your letter.  À propos [concerning] the Bliss songs, René and I are doing them next Thurs: May 13th at 4.30-11.45 am in the European Service (373 metres wavelength).  I hope you may be able to listen and that conditions will enable you to follow some real estimate of the work in performance.  Where can I find RN’s [Robert Nichol’s] essay on The Birth of a Poem?  I don’t know it.  Your idea of a loose-leaf private anthology for welding musically into settings is a splendid one for the musician – Perhaps you may find something of RN’s to start on?

It was very bad luck Florence [Hooton] couldn’t accept my date – but I have just dictated a line to you from my other office (European: did I tell you that in the last week I was appointed European Music Supervisor? – tho’ continuity in the Home wavelengths as well) to let you know Ilonka Kabos is to play your Variations instead – and we must have Florence to do the cello pieces as soon as she is free.

I do commend your idea of a Baedeker trip as recreation and inspiration! – Future entry in Who’s Who – WB [William Busch] – Reading Baedeker!![34]

My greetings back to Sheila (doch nicht zu Kannteweise!) [however, not in too familiar manner, i.e. not presuming]



(13) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

Tel: Temple Bar 4383

14th May 1943

Reference P/EP

My dear William,

I do apologise again for official typescript which becomes necessary in the rush!

Don’t feel too modest about the “Busch Festival” as we may live to see another one with five symphonies and a couple of operas!

Thank you so much for the details about the Theme, Variations and Fugue. It is permissible, I believe, to ask a man this question; could you tell me how old you are? I ask with special intent because for the purposes of a European broadcast, to know how old you are is a help to listeners in ‘placing’ you in your generation, but please don’t answer this if you don’t want to! There is just one other point: any connection you have had on the Continent would be interesting material in this service, i.e. if you studied abroad and with whom, and if you have done much playing on the continent. My apologies again for being such a question monger. This isn’t a Brains Trust but I want to give your music the best possible send off.

Best regards

Yours sincerely


(Elizabeth Poston)

So very many thanks for the copy of the Variations and a delightful inscription which I shall always value. I will tell you how ‘thorny’ I found the work when I’ve had a chance to go through it! I have never yet been able to accept any musical jurisdiction of Rubbra’s[35] … but more of this anon.

How very good of you to think of sending me the Rosamund Harding book with the Robert Nichols essay[36]. I shall look forward to reading it.

I wonder what you were able to hear of the Bliss songs?[37] Norman [Fraser] liked them so much he has asked me to do them for him next week. Bliss missed them through being away and asked for another performance. But I fear it was a bad balance, we had a bad studio, not designed for recitals and so much resonance we barely catch the voice-part sometimes. These drawbacks to broadcasting are such a trial when one knows the performance itself to be reasonably good!

I do wish I could play for you songs with Henry Cummings, but with the Nat[tional] Gallery this month and a public concert, I daren’t take on any more!

Someday I should love to do them – properly prepared – with Henry.


(14) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Kingsley Hotel. Bushmead Avenue, Bedford

London May 17th 1943

My dear William,

How very sweet of you, and this lovely looking [Rosamund Harding] book upon my desk since this morning has been living up to its name – for such a thought and gift from a friend are a true inspiration. Thank you with warmest appreciation. I eagerly wait to read and digest and you must put your name in it when you come.

It is brave of the author to have tackled so vast and intangible a subject. Nobody I know of has attempted it before: well done, it would be of infinite service to those of us who seek to know more of what we know only as a mystery.

Thank you also for replying so patiently and in such helpful detail to my tiresome queries: I have now the necessary information to give Europe! Far from your career having been musically uneventful, I feel that its comprehensive range with a deliberately un-prolific output – as yet – is its own justification that you have been right in your time and reason.

I made my first acquaintance at close range, over the weekend with your Theme, Variations and Fugue – an acquaintance which at once persuaded me that it must ripen into friendship. I felt drawn to the work that I wanted to play it. You have found a fine, deeply felt theme: one which suits you and you have built finely upon it.

I disagree (I always do!) emphatically and absolutely with Rubbra. His own particular brand of narrow egotism precludes in my eyes his pretensions to just criticism. (On the occasion of the 1st performance of those songs of Bliss, Rubbra disturbed two rows of the audience by his jeers at the composer’s old-fashioned nonsense. I mention this because it is a help to know what one can discount! He is the enemy of all real endeavours and proven merit and it is scarcely surprising that sooner or later you should come up against his destructive faculty. But thank heaven the power of creation is strong enough to stand against it. In this case he must have so misapprehended the work as to confuse harmonic asperities with lack of emotion. Of the emotional content it is interesting to know from yourself to the long process of mutual concentration that the thought in the end is but a sub-division of one entity. This is difficult enough to achieve now by these forces of circumstances. But rather than suffer its loss, we somehow manage to catch trains and work in the night-watches (often the only hours left to us) or in such week-ends as we can snatch to get away into the country and work for hours on end undisturbed. We do not consider a song anywhere near perfected until neither of us needs the music anymore and only then does one’s oral freedom within it make itself felt. A strict ban on broadcasting in the home wavelengths is placed on those on contract to the Corporation and though this has been got round in our case, once or twice (for a particular reason except a mischievous pleasure in doing a wangle!) its operation is in general unassailable. But, freedom is ahead – and these years and their work will not have been in vain. Believing friends like Norman [Fraser] in whose service there are no such bans, do much to keep us up to scratch, working for him is always good and is its own reward. We have had to put our National Gallery date forward to June. What fun if you could be there (We’re inclined to be terrified, tho’ endeavouring not to admit it!!) Thank you again and again for a joy both present and to come. I shall so treasure the book.

With all greetings


(15) Hertfordshire,

31st May 1943 (Sunday)[38]

My dear William,

I have to thank you for the sheer pleasure you have given me in the Rosamund Harding book. I have just finished it. In snatched exquisite hours of summer peace and to the sound of wood pigeons in the scent of honeysuckle and hay. Having spun out my reading of it so that the enjoyment should not pass to quickly. But much will remain with possession of the book, which will allow one to return to it and delve and browse afresh.

The author had done a brave and fine piece of work: the outcome of a wealth of loving care in assembling the threads of a wide net cast over a world of creators – the bibliography alone is quite staggering! She has succeeded in giving shape and substance to an intangible subject fascinating in all its aspects. One of the most fascinating to me are the common denominators in all inspiration, in essence shared by poet, painter and musician, whatever the variant of evocation or method of application. How well she has marshalled for us the great at work. I found consolation again in Keats’ cry of anguish at the pressure, killing in its suffocation of the throng of personalities crowding & battering one’s sanctuary from without – one of the private and personal endurances I find most hard in the enduring… days.

Norman [Fraser]’s understanding does not fail and he must read the book too. He speaks of loving being in your household and the proximity of just the sort of books he wants to read. For both of us, reading is of the essential spiritual food all but denied now. But one can still cultivate being a camel and last on good sustenance through sun battled deserts!

I have done my best to keep Sat[urday] free after mid-day – so far with success (though I will not boast) and look forward and eagerly to seeing you. Norman [Fraser] must join us and come to Morley College[39]. I am sorry we shan’t have Sheila [William’s wife] with us this time. But quite see the wisdom of her decision to wait till August and the VERY GREAT OCCASION then. How tremendously, gratified-ly, fulfilled-ly you must feel at the very thought of that 1st performance of the Cello Concerto! There is, as you say, a pretty irony in the fact the Boult[40] is to conduct it – I hope he will do it worthily. But I am glad that it is he if only that it may help serve as the introduction to further hearings and broadcasts.

I was most interested in what you say of Van Dieren[41] in relation to yourself, with especial reference to the Theme, Variations and Fugue. I think what I find is a kinship of treatment – a certain harmonic idiom which is probably not the least imitative on your part, but somehow basically akin. It would seem certainly to be so as you did not know him or his work at the time this one of your own was written. Even so, it is in no way obtrusively evident, but an original something hard to define, but which I find also in him. Though I agree with you entirely in liking it and being able to assimilate, only a very small proportion of his work that I know – and some of the songs are impossible! Could anything ever be made of his setting of Weep You No More? which seems to me wholly impractical!

It is curious that you should mention Cecil Gray[42] after Rubbra, for the former I have always regarded as fundamentally alien to one’s life and being as the latter. It was with Philip Heseltine [alias Peter Warlock] that I knew Gray, who used to come and join us at the Van Dieren’s but like you I found no means of communication with him. Nor, I confess did I wish for any. I will talk to you more about him when we meet. There was always something excessively repulsive about him. I ran into him the other day, for the first time in many years (at the Augustus John private view) and felt it as strongly as ever – he has got obese and even more like a white slug[43].

René [Soames] and I have had to put forward our date at the [National] Gallery so that I’m rather afraid it won’t be very early June. One of the days they suggested, we are doing one of the BBC Red X concerts in Bedford and on the other I have a crazy expedition with the recording van in search of material for a broadcast of Allied Nations. But we may have been able to get something settled by the time I see you.

Isn’t the Introduction to Such was my Singing a very fine and touching expression of faith? He has kept a live integrity throughout a strange life of many vicissitudes, rejecting of his own work ever more than he accepts. I confess to having read first his essay in the book on Inspiration. It is characteristic of himself. You are right in saying the (?) analogies reveal themselves, though they are not apparent at first. My mind is full of all this and it is late and time to sleep. We shall all be thinking of you on Wed: at 10.30. I so hope all will go well and that you will hear well. I hope to be in the studio and Norman [Fraser] will be listening and so our blessings will go out to you!


Yes! Do ring me Fri[day]: when you have arrived. In case you do not find me at the 35 Marylebone St. office (Welbeck 5577) you are likely to run me to earth as “European Music Supervisor” Temple Bar 4383 (In Bush House, Aldwych, not Australia; I rather wish it were!)

(16) Rook’s Nest.



Sunday July 4th [1943][44]

My dear William,

How much I have to thank you for. (And be indulgent to my pencil – I write out of doors. The day is perfect.) First, for so understandingly writing to reach me at two psychological moments. Psychological in each case, because they were extraordinarily right! Your earliest letter and Sheila’s came just before the [National] Gallery programme and cast over it a good omen and a benison. We did the whole thing from memory and it went well. It was a wonderfully satisfactory audience – so intent and in stimmung [tune] that one’s fright was mitigated, one’s best called forth. Many people we knew were there and I had quite an amazing number of appreciative letters after and was glad because the songs had recognition for the beautifully wrought things they are. It was sweet of Sheila to think of writing: I enclose a little line to tell her so.

It is much more difficult to explain why the arrival of your song and letter with it was also a ‘psychological moment’! I can’t now but someday I may be able to … Also, it was a good inspiration that caused you to address me at home, otherwise the moment would have gone by and your package would have been waiting alone in London till Monday. As it was, it has been such a happy day – and how can I thank you? The gift of a piece of creation is without peer, as it is, also almost un-thankable [sic] – but again, you have been amazingly, extraordinarily perceptive – as there is no song of yours I should more love to “have”. It is I assure you, Mine already absorbed and become a part of oneself, a precious thing, for which all life is the better, with an added joy. Your diffidence when you say you are not sure how much I shall like it, must be made, aware at once, without another moment’s delay: that I love it – all! The words I have always loved. They are now joined to the only music I could think of that will fit them perfectly. And you are right: it has the ‘flavour’ of your style – yours, mind implicitly and no one else’s! And to me, it appeals the more, because the spare-ness of line is tempered by its un-severity. (Do you realise there is scarcely a chord in the whole thing?!). The clarity and harmonic flow throughout, balanced so delicately in the moving parts is satisfying as I find a song rarely satisfying. The extended phrases too, are characteristic – (specially the end) and the beauty of “he hears the ewe’s tender reply” is a wonder and a delight. You couldn’t have come nearer, at any rate, to my idea of it. In a few more hours I shall know it by heart. This day has been all roses, lilies and the scent of tall mowing grass in the hot sun – a day. For the cool, quiet tones of a Shepherd and his flocks.

Don’t regret too much that you missed those songs of mine last Sunday – they’ll probably happen again sometime. I missed them myself, for the very same reason – I just forgot all about it and was peacefully eating lunch – a devious and mundane reason I haven’t the heart to tell the singer!!

How sweet of you to ask me to come with you and our friends into the (Royal!) box on Aug 13th [45], I should love to, if you really can find room for me. I should be lonely, I think, listening on such a great Occasion surrounded by none but strange elements – tho’ I do, as a rule, feel impersonal about listening to music in the excuse that unless I do so with the right companion, I prefer none. I shall so much look forward to that day – which will be yours, as today, in a special sense, you gave me, has been mine – thank you again.

Elizabeth PTO

European Music

Bush House

Aldwych (Temple Bar 4383)

Is the best and quickest address nowadays.

[Card: before 7 July 1943]

I am doing Norman [Fraser]’s Rilke setting[46] (with him and [Oda] Slobodskaya[47]) this Wed[nesday] 11.30-45[48] – the poems are most beautifully spoken by Lucie Mannheim[49]. Do try and listen (373 m) I will keep this open till I get to London tomorrow, to enclose a [National] Gallery programme.

You were right not to echo ‘is nigh’ at the close. The very fact of doing so (and an 8th higher) would, I think, be out of keeping with the serenity of mood and would provide an emotional ‘lift’ out of place just there. Don’t you agree?

(17) Bush

(Aldwych, not Australia)

Friday 9th July 1943

My dear William,

This is frightful! I mean frightfully tantalising. Those two sealed snowdrops[50] only accentuate my sense of my own inadequacy, and as a sort of composer’s – shield. I think I shall seal myself up and post myself to the nearest salvage-dump. Alas, cependant [however] the two packages, yours and Norman [Fraser]’s just wait. Are you both very patient and forbearing?

I am so glad you heard Norman [Fraser]’s broadcast in the European Service and heard it well enough to judge, in spite of the Devil’s own Dance Band which may have been jamming. Those 3 Rilke settings appeal to me – he has got near to the words and in the “Ur” poem. You are right. Oda [Slobodskaya] was fine, though she worried Norman by not knowing them as well as she might and by having been in her most fatiguing and prima donna-ish moods during the rehearsals previously.

How good a pianist he is. I wish he could play more. I agree with you about the tempo of Chandolin[51] – as a matter of fact, according to my feeling of it, he took the Fugue as well just a trifle too fast at the beginning of it. Just that hairs breath makes all the difference in that 6/8 rhythm, where something to do with the lilt becomes affected. And it’s funny, incidentally, that I should feel it too, because my half of Latin blood is a very strong half and I don’t think I manage to conceal it as well as Norman does! I believe your Latin/Saxon diagnosis of this point about his playing is right. But I think it belongs to an epitome of rather more than that.

I am so glad when I know your understanding presence will be there again and that you are coming this week[52]. You must be feeling very thrilled at this preliminary-to-dress-rehearsal of your work on Tuesday. I had made careful note of it in Bedford, with the intent to get down there for it if I possible could – but alas, a Boyd Neal [Orchestral] rehearsal up here has clashed that day so I can’t get away. Couldn’t you come, if you would be interested, to the recording they (the Boyd Neal) are doing for Norman and me jointly, on Wednesday (14th) in Maida Vale Studio 1. We shall be rehearsing there 7.15 to 9.15 and the recording is due at 9.15. We might fit in food before or after? It is the new Honegger[53] Symphony for Strings, not yet heard in this country. It was written in Paris shortly before the fall of France, or rather, its first two movements were and was completed afterwards in Switzerland – a grim, ominous time to write a symphony – and was flown over to this country a month or two ago in microfilm, from which the score was enlarged. It takes about 28 mins. to play, so we oughtn’t to be too late, with luck. Wouldn’t you come to have lunch with me that day – if you can possibly spare time, so that we could be sure of at least one chat during the brief time of your visit this time? I have written tentatively, ‘Lunch William’ in my little book in the hope that you will. (I shall be here in Bush House that morning).

It is interesting that you should happen to write in this letter of yours, about publication of your songs, because I had things in my mind about that matter and I was on the point of writing to you about it. But now it can wait till I see you, as it is so much more satisfactory to talk about it than write. Of course I don’t mind your having mentioned my name to R. D. Gibson[54] in connection with the songs! You must know that any appraisal I dare make of your work is never made without my complete humility. But I have an incorrigible unconquerable reaching for the stars and it is only that that makes me dare.

I do love My Song – it has grown into me now, a lovely process. If you hadn’t already offered it to Chester’s would you feel inclined to wait till I’ve seen you before doing any more about it?

So looking forward to seeing you and all greetings to Sheila and Nicholas as well.


(19) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage, Herts.

Monday August 2nd 1943

My dear William,

Please pardon a pencil letter, only laziness. Thank you so much for your letter, which came on Saturday – but rather tantalisingly, without the MSS under separate cover, which should have accompanied it But that, with luck, may come by a later post today – if there is a post!

Having spent the week-end blissfully cut off from and unmolested by the world, I found myself, at bank holiday time, without even an emissary for the post! But now a chance arises and I hasten, as with possible delays this may only just reach you before your journey.

Of course, I’m only too glad to feel I could be of the slightest help over the song – I look forward very much to seeing it. You know my belief in your judgment, and I can only dare to offer any appraisal by the exercise of my own and I will tell you candidly what it is. But an outside judgement, as I know well in my own experience, can help when one is too close up to a work for proper perspective upon it. And one’s trenchant and quite terrifying – though necessary – self-criticism is one of one’s major artistic problems!

I have, by the way, written to Norman Peterkin[55], though I have not yet had his reply. It will have come probably by the time you arrive. He has, I think, been away on a short holiday.

How exciting and delightful it is to think of seeing you all so soon now. It is sweet of you to ask me to come out to you in Finchley. Some afternoon there is nothing I should love more. I rather fear this coming Sat[urday] isn’t a good one, because of a friend coming from a distance who wants to see me, though I’m not yet quite certain about this. But would the Friday evening (the 6th) be possible and not too soon after your arrival, for us all – I mean, our special little Gesellschaft [association/partnership]together?

Ilonka [Kabos][56] has already suggested that evening and asked me to keep it free and said she was asking Norman and that we might all go to the Hungarian (oder sowaez[?]). Do send her a line, if it isn’t even already fixed with you and we could all join forces. I then – quite selfishly speaking, should have the joy of seeing you and Sheila before the week-end. And by the next it ought to be possible to find an afternoon when I could get off early and pay my solemn respects to Nicholas on his own ground (be received in audience. As with his Holiness the Pope, I should be on my Very Best Behaviour!) A thousand welcomes to you all 3 and every wish for departure and journey. I await your phone call to let me know both are a fait accompli!

Sempre [Always]



I am so glad the piano pieces for Ilonka have materialised so quickly – won’t they be ready for her to hear and play through while you are here?

I haven’t met Miss Hann-C and think I am a little frightened of her!

It if isn’t too much trouble, could you find room when you come, to bring the Rachmaninov[57] Preludes you so kindly promised to lend me? (complete if you have them). I’m still badly wanting them.

(19) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Bush House

Aldwych W.C.2.

August 25th 1943

My dear William,

Forgive me for a moment, a list of shop – Busch shop!

Nicholas Variations: These were written and completed early this year, were they not? And which was the 1st performance of all? Tom Bromley broadcasting to L[atin]/America, or the occasion at Morley College when we were there? How many variations are there? And how old is Nicholas?[58]

Cello Concerto: Could I have tempo headings of the movements, as I have no score by me for reference. And, roughly – the dates of its composition, from beginning to completion[59]. Do remark on anything else about these works as you feel may be apposite, not forgetting the Cello pieces (of which, by the way, I have not yet heard the recording. I do hope it is good.)

I do apologise for shooting questions at you, especially as most of them are things I ought to know. But when I query my own accuracy it is best to go straight to the source of knowledge! In this existence one’s brain becomes so overcrowded that it ends up retaining nothing.

I sometimes feel my legacy from the BBC will be a fantastic score of extraneous and quite worthless bits of knowledge, e. g. that Gluck[60] died of hitting himself on the toe with his baton and that Samuel Wesley[61] fell into a street excavation at the age of 21 and was ever afterwards subject to mental aberrations. (Unfortunately I can’t lay the blame on a street excavation!)

I do so hope you and your little family are well and Sheila able to rest as much as possible and get fully recovered. I wonder if Nicholas will remember in years to come, his visit to London? Norman [Fraser] and I agree that we must each have a practically pre-natal memory as we remember so clearly so far back.

My love to you all. I so enjoyed every time I saw you in London and thank you so very much.


(20) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage,


Sunday, [before Wednesday 1 September 1943][62]

Dear William,

I was so glad to find your letter here and thank you very much for sending the other and more musical part to Bush House. It was a practical thought as it enabled me to finish arranging about your programme before I left. There will be time to get in some songs too, I think (from the HC [Henry Cummings] recordings). I’m relieved that the Corporation [BBC], never remarkable for generosity, answered to prodding. I pointed out that a visit to London on your part was an Exceptional Occasion, with special reference to new Cello pieces, but carefully none to the Concerto! Your stay [on 14 July?][63] must have been a very expensive one and I’m thankful if the contract helped at all.

I hope Sheila is managing to avoid doing too much and really feels stronger. I enclose a little note. Tell her I’m what is known as ‘Good in the House’ if uneducated as a cook (but I should hate to be good and plain). It is altogether sweet of you to think of adding me yet further to your household. The prospect for [travelling to Devon to see you on] Thursday looks pretty hopeful at present, as the anniversary of [the declaration of] war that weekend has cancelled some programmes for me and left me a little more freer than usual – though in the uncertainties of this present existence I will not be too certain.

Thank you very much for trains and times and instructions about lunch. I’d like to catch the 10.50 from Waterloo Thurs[64]: and will aim for that. Will you expect me by it if you don’t hear to the contrary? If I get held up or have to catch a later train, I’ll wire.

Besten Grüssen – Auch Norman [(with) best wishes – also to Norman Fraser]


Noel Eadin (Home Service, Wed) is singing what is indeed a Song of Innocence[65]. I wrote it when I was 17![66]

(21) Rook’s Nest,



Sept: 7th 1943

Dear Sheila and William,

This is not a bread and butter letter but a honey and pie and pork salame letter, to which I should add Lee [Valley, Devon] and Snowdrop[67] and Sun and Scarlatti[68] and all the other good things of the past days. It was particularly sweet of you to let me come when life at this present is not easily shaped for having visitors. I hope you are not suffering from a surfeit, nor William from too many still-born works?

The coffee and sandwiches were a godsend on a journey in the company of a bull terrier with mange, several women with talons and a man who snored. A cross conductor came in and when he found that no one but me had the right ticket he pointed to me and said “There’s a first class young lady all the way” which made me ‘Feel my Position’ (Alan B[ush] would have led a Revolution on the spot)[69]. I felt particularly first class when I returned to find that I had been getting press write-ups for good ‘hot music’ and swing. I never dreamed I should live to achieve this eminence, but it seems that all sorts of curious greatnesses are thrust upon one[70].

I wonder how the Busch Festival this morning sounded at your end?[71] It seemed good to me, though I missed the very beginning. I find myself in agreement with every word of Colin Mason’s appraisal of Britten[72] in the Monthly Music Bulletin which I left upon the Pult [desk] though I should like him to have extended the examination into works in more detail. I cannot see how any mature mind can be hood-winked into confounding in Britten’s work, craftsmanship and the (ephemeral) excitement of experiment, however successful in itself, creative depth and any lasting beauty? Though I have not yet found such a mind who did so? (But enough of minds. I left mine on the beach to dissolve into waving green seaweed. Let us sing its sea-change. After eating so much chez vous [at your place], I can think no more, and that is too lovely.)

Summer is gone that was so short, lingering here only in the roses, and autumn is suddenly here. I look out on far hills with a little mist creeping over them and the thought of a wood fire is good. My love to Norman [Fraser]. My greetings to Tom (though it is Mr Bromley to him!) My love and kisses (No! respects) to William’s father!! I left a ghost behind in the snowdrops[73].

With my love and all thanks to you both.


I have a job for Nicholas in a Stravinsky[74] programme. It is odd to wake up with a bicycle bell!

(22) London

Monday Sept 13th 1943

My dear William,

I was so delighted to have your letter at home, where I was going to write to you but in the end pride of place went to domestic contingencies – an unexpected one when my small dog swallowed a wasp (fortunately without damage, except to the wasp) and the more usual ones of apples and pears to be gathered. Your Ode to Autumn was a fitting piece. There was a lovely smell over everything and a great mellow-ness and doves coo-ing.

I do so hope Sheila has been able to rest and will now get more opportunity to go on doing so. And you to return to your interrupted thoughts and music. You have both been so good to your friends: over-good, to feel, at real sacrifice to yourselves, and have shed so much comfort and happiness upon them (I do not forget to include myself!). But you have gone to the root of all things (– or so, at any rate, I see it) in your remark about love and in the belief in that miracles only can ever help work them …

I’m so very glad that you could hear enough of your programme to judge that the playing was good. Outstandingly so, all the way through I felt. The Nocturne was loud – but that’s a technicality of transmission. I have plaintively remarked so many times to the engineers that pp [pianissimo] music is made to sound ff [fortissimo] and have been firmly told it’s done on purpose to Europe and that “it’s all right at the other end” that’s all one can do, hope that it sounds a little more faithful in Toledo [Spain] or Berchtegaden [Germany] than it does here! I was only sorry that you hadn’t realised the date in more time to let people know. It was partly my fault not to have kept you reminded.

I’ll certainly hope to let you have the recordings, though I’m afraid we’ll have to wait till a future date. They haven’t been destroyed and will not be, as I have the final word in that, when I order them, and these are on the special list! But as they are so good and would be valuable ones to hear over again, it would be sad if they were to wear out if they were played over without first being ‘Processed’ – a term which means treatment to put them in more permanent form and this takes usually 5 or 6 weeks to 2 months. But I will put them in hand and try to get them done, then they can been repeatedly played without damage. Copyright questions are also involved in this, but I think they can be squared.

I think I said to Norman [Fraser] about the Nicholas Variations was that I believed I should never have the same affection for them as I have for the older set. But this even so may live to disprove itself. I can admire them as much, but my acquaintance with them is, so far, much less, as the other I have in print, and have had beneath my fingers; – then only at a hearing and though Tom [Bromley] gave them the best possible one, I have not yet been able to make them innerlick [internal] to myself. Nor perhaps shall I be able to, until this strange, crowded, leisureless and fatiguing phase of life is done with and there is peace and time again to feel and concentrate on one’s chosen foods… Perhaps, also, though you yourself know the latter works to be fuller, realer [sic], you to some extent – or, shall we say, a more powerful, complete expression of it – there is something about the drawing power of any work written from an impulse of tragedy rather than joy – Pace [with due reference to Snowdrops [i.e. The Snowdrop in the Wind], I hate to seem morbid! but you will not misunderstand me. (Maybe it is also that which peeps out of a song so tiny and so fragile as my Sorrow’s Lullaby…). But the Nicholas Variations I shall one day come to terms [with], then I shall be able to give a better verdict!

Please thank Nicholas very much for his letter. One of these days I shall reply. His plan for going to America sounds very nice (except for the louises! [sic])

Norman Peterkin is coming to have tea with me tomorrow and there’ll be some news. I do so hope you’ll be pleased

Blessings and love to you all


(23) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

Bush House

Sep 20th 1943

My dear William,

Thank you so very much for two letters and the MS of the piano score of Ode to Autumn. The latter I’m afraid has been a special effort to you to accomplish in the face of so many ‘social obstacles’! I am so grateful to you for getting it done, as I want Roy Henderson[75] to make acquaintance with your work and he can now do so. On further consideration I am quite sure that he is the singer for this. Not that Henry Cummings wouldn’t be: but I do feel that R.H. should be added to those who will sing you. I have known his work and his artistry since we were at the R.A.M. [Royal Academy of Music] together. His musicianship is beyond question, his voice, at its best, a thing of beauty. When I heard him in [Frederick Delius’s] Sea Drift this year at the Proms I still felt it was one of the most deeply-felt and moving experiences, and all this I should like him to bring to your Ode [to Autumn]. Which quartet to play it is not yet settled, but I hope it will be satisfactory and I’ll let you know.

It is great news that you will come up this week and shepherd your Piano Quartet in rehearsal. Norman [Fraser] told me some time ago that he wanted to do the work for L/A [Latin/America] this season. I asked him who he thought of having and said that if I did the work myself, as I hoped, and had already decided in my mind on the London Belgian Piano Quartet, which was not his original idea. But since he has decided that he will also have them, a recording can be made from the L/A performance which can subsequently be transmitted from here. So I have a double interest in seeing that they do it well! I think that they will – in fact, I am sure of it as it is possible to be, humanely speaking. They are easily one of the few really fine ensembles in this country – all of them artists and with a rare and real fusion of thought. [Marcel] Gazelle himself (the pianist) is not only a delightful creature but a very find pianist, capable of inspired performance. Moreover, it would be good that your work should be in their hands, with the idea of subsequent hearings.

The prolonged indifference, not to say boycott, of [BBC] Home Service, is, I know (only too well) an inevitable, grim and discouraging factor. But it is insurmountable and in your case will be surmounted in time. I am certain. My faith is strong and ways are many. It is also well to reflect that these can most often best lie outside H.S. [Home Service]. More than a year ago I first met [inversers?] with your songs, which were refused performance in MS. I felt sure given another year that within that year publishers would and could be found. The year is just about up and the songs will be done in H.S [Home Service].

I am sometimes afraid lest friendship and artistic beliefs should be confounded by just such friends as those to whom both are of such value. But I find that they cannot, must not be – even at the risk of friendships. I have always tried hard to keep this ideal of integrity amidst the many problems of this professional existence: therefore I can say to you with a clear conscience of your work, that all and any effect its hearing is because I do believe and a test has been passed and satisfied.

The combination of friendship with such belief is a rare blessing and a blessing indeed I’m very sensible of – so let me thank you!

I was longing to write to you about the matter of the song-publication, but felt that the first concerto news should come to you from Norman Peterkin [of Oxford University Press]. I have seen both him and R. D. Gibson [of Chesters] and the result of a collaboration I hoped for is one of the most encouraging factors. For, as you have no doubt heard, it is planned that the issue by each firm [OUP and Chester, respectively] shall come simultaneously and with joint reciprocal publicity, so that a pretty impressive collection of your songs should appear at the one time and – what is of importance – should provide a representative showing of your work as a song-writer.

[Norman] Peterkin took 3 at first and warmed about the 4th, and that he decided on when he played it. It was Rest (I am so glad it is Sheila’s). And so the four he has taken are all my first favourites – and I say all advisedly, for I am dismayed to think that my irreverent remarks about Come, Oh Come should have (understandably) led you astray as to my very special feeling for it! Remember I am some Spanish and some Irish, and so, prone at times to disguise reverence with the ridiculous out of my own incurable devil. (But I wouldn’t be without him. He is there beside me and fails not, even in the worst hours.)

I love the song for many reasons. If you want cold analysis, I can say, in the first place, because it is, of them all perhaps, the most impellingly spontaneous – as inevitable as a bird’s utterance and as right. But it is enough that it is exquisite. If I’m going to have a rival, need it be Dr. Temple?[76] (I’ve never loved him). I feel that I could never adequately express my appreciation of the honour you do me in these indications. The only music I could write for you to tell you that would be good indeed… But dear William, if you think the Right Revd Dr. Temple wouldn’t mind – I mean, don’t let him stand in the way!!

I AM so glad you felt happier about the performance of the recording of your concerto in this service yesterday. I had been down in Dorset, in the [Thomas] Hardy country, with the recording car on some disc-making errands and made a frantic cross-country dash through Sat and Sat night (including getting stuck in Bournemouth in the pouring rain!) in order to get back to where I could have reasonable expectation of hearing it well. It was worth it, I was delighted. We must talk much more about it when you are here.

How lovely to think of seeing you this week[77]. It happens that I am free for lunch on Friday, so I’m keeping it open. I have a spare ticket for the Albert Hall concert that night in the Festival of Russian Music (Fistoulari)[78] if you would care to come. It is a good programme and there is a new young singer I have promised to hear. The Promoter of the series has already offered me a box (!) so it wouldn’t be so oppressive if you accompanied me! (If you felt like doing so, I should consider at least my mantilla and feather boa worth the occasion) I shall be catching a train down to Stevenage after it. Would there be any chance of your sparing time to come and make acquaintance with the house? It rather depends as to who will be in residence, as I have been there alone of late: but I think the place will be peopled again by then. It is only an hour by train and there are plenty of trains to and from, so that you could get back for rehearsals Saturday if you wanted or any other arrangements.

Please, at any rate, do bear it in mind and take the chance if it comes. We should love to have you and I wish it could be Sheila too. But she must come in future. I do hope she feels stronger, though I fear she cannot altogether, like the W. B. Yeats’ poem ‘Take life easy! As the leaves grow on the tree’.[79]

With love to you both, and Nicholas,


(24) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Bush House

Aldwych W.C.2.

Oct 6th 1943

My dear William,

Mummy and I were so very touched by your sweet letters and I should have replied from Rook’s Nest but for the fact that this time (you will be glad to hear!) I was actually busy with work and not asleep! I am ashamed that you happened to strike me at such a sleepy week-end – though I know you do understand fatigue when it becomes overwhelming and therefore I don’t feel I have to apologise too much!

It is just this power of understanding which makes everything well and your own perception of the place (and its inhabitants) couldn’t but make you ‘fit’. We all (and the place, too, has to be re-considered as an entity) loved having you and feel so delighted to know that you did leave feeling a bit rested and better for even a brief change. You must come again – and Sheila too. I only wish one weren’t so limited by domestic considerations – the problem common to all house holding humanity! Beatrice[80] enquired most tenderly after you and hoped you had got back safely. And it is so nice that Mummy knows you now, because when I say ‘William’ (among the many people who are but names to her) he is now quite REAL and a person!

It is very sad, but it looks as though my chances of hearing your Piano Quartet at the Belgian Institute on the 14th are slender, as I may have to be in the studio. But that isn’t absolutely definite yet – and perhaps there would be a chance of hearing a rehearsal? So far I have had almost no opportunity of hearing the work and I am most anxious to form a proper acquaintance!

Norman [Fraser], in the meantime, decided that he would record the performance on transmission in his service, whatever happened, without saying anything to the players and so I can decide when I hear it, whether it should be put out in that form in the [BBC] European Service, or whether it should be done fresh, ‘live’ a bit later on.

I do hope you will be staying over the 15/19th at least, as after many difficulties and setbacks I have at last managed to get players and singers together to pre-record the Ode to Autumn on Monday Oct 18th.

Roy Henderson is so friendly and keen about it, and anxious to meet you and rang me to ask whether we could all come along to him for just one hour earlier in the day, as a preliminary to the evening session.

So I fixed up matter as follows:-

That the Hirsch Quartet go to the R.A.M. where Roy will be teaching that day and we join them for rehearsal 12-1.pm and you and I and Roy can lunch together immediately after that.

The evening will be at the Methodist Mission Hall (!) used as a studio, 35 Marylebone Road,, Rehearsal 7.45, recording between 8.30-10.00 – so perhaps we could have dinner first and be fittingly autumnal and mellow? The work is due for transmission the following morning, Tues: 19th at 10.30-11.00 a.m.

On the evening of Friday 15th would you care to come to the end Boosey & Hawkes concert series at the Wigmore [Hall] at 6 o/c as I have tickets? It would be lovely if you could. I don’t know that I could face without Lennox Berkeley[81] Divertimento for small orchestra, Webern[82], five movements for string orchestra op. 5, Britten Serenade for Tenor, Horn and string orchestra, (with my bête noir Peter Pears![83]) and Stravinsky Pulcinella orchestral version, with voices (G [Marcel Gazelle] conducting.!)

You see how this wicked clamorous town of London tempts you away to its toils, from the blessedness of your seclusion and work! I hope you really are getting both now, with as little disturbance as possible, whether from visitors, Americans or Nicholas!

I’m so glad you saw Norman Peterkin again and that he was so nice. He is an exceptional and very sensitive person. I will show him the songs – though without your approbation and encouragement I should only too readily hide away my eggs in my nest. I have so little instinct ever to show them and think that a very shy bird’s blood must run in my veins and have such desperate impulses to fly.

It’s funny but I realised with quite a shock of sudden-ness when I showed you the [seven] Italian songs[84] , just what I felt about them and how much I love them. I have never showed them to anyone else and yet I know that they would be likely to impel love wherever they should be known and heard because there is an irresistible quality. That I should have contributed to it in any way is simply by the accident of one’s being appointed a vessel, for one’s brief span of life, for the strange gift one is endowed with … but I feel they have in their little compass, some of the best work I’ve ever done. If all else were to go I’d like them to stand. They are perhaps more characteristic of me than anything I could ever devise that were purely original. If anyone could bring a publisher’s blessing on them I feel that you could.

Mummy and Ralph [Poston, Elizabeth’s brother] both asked to send their love and Mummy was most appreciative; thanks for being such a lovely person to have to stay and for the sweet letter you wrote afterwards

So we all join in love to you all


(25) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage, Herts.

October 24th 1943 [Elizabeth’s Birthday]

Dear Sheila and William,

I don’t think there is anything nicer than to be made, by someone else, to feel glad one was born! You have both certainly made me feel it and I can’t tell you how greatly I have loved your sweet thoughts of me and their expression in such lovely ways. It was a direct link with one’s childhood – that positively golden feeling of a day celebrated with love on one’s own account and it ought to be proof against the world’s hurts and puzzles.

This feeling of being singled out and crowned on that one day in the year persists as the legacy of happy years. When I remember, at Nicholas’s height and even less, the lovely and delicate wreath of late roses which was brought in from the gardens for Mummy to put on my curls. Or when it was a late season for roses, the flowing mixture of gold and red geraniums and chrysanthemums and fiery leaves. Probably hence the predilection you may have noticed , for putting vegetation in the hair!

I was very good, because having had William’s letter giving exciting warning about the books, I knew what the Zwemmer [Bookshop, London] parcel must be. But restrained myself from opening it (like a Christmas stocking!) till the Right Day! I am so thrilled with the books and you couldn’t have made a better choice. I found that I had looked at The Chinese Eye[85] in bookshops and thought how nice it would be to have it (I seem to remember buying for myself, from a grim sense of duty, a book instead about Russian composers, which I didn’t want).

Now I shall love taking my time over this. Whitehead I don’t know at all, but feel sure that I shall go on knowing, once I start and become as knowledgeable as Joad, as wise as Julian Huxley[86]. The latter, by the way, was down at Dartington [Summer School?] when I was there recently[87], and I was struck by how ‘un-wise’ he was to meet and how easy to be with. But all the nicest Great are like this. (I hope we shall never live to grow frightened of William!!) I am sorry this is so crammed on to a piece of ‘village shop’ paper – the family stationary has, for the moment, run completely out and recourse to the lavatory, as [brother] Ralph suggests, would, I fear, not great help matters!

It is a lovely day, one of the perfect October days with everything wonderfully coloured. Nicholas would enjoy the game of kicking about rotten pears, which then explode with a sticky shower-bath.

I shall be writing to William about Ode to Autumn and other melancholy subjects in which we find such attraction! Thank you both for all your sweetness which surrounds my 30th birthday[88]. Your ‘very special wishes’ will help and be with me on my way.

Ever with love


(26) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage,

October 27th 1943

Dear William,

I haven’t yet thanked you for your letter last week. It was so sweet of you to think of writing it before you left London – it made all the difference in the world to get it. Indeed, it is you who ought to be thanked for being a very Long suffering Composer! I only hope you felt none the worse for the performances of both the Piano Quartet and the Ode.

One seeks an elusive Ideal: it seems as if present circumstances must qualify all efforts and that the most one can do is to risk the defects and try to secure the performances and so, perhaps, keep the composer’s flag flying, rather than let works go unheard. But one is only too conscious how far from the ideal is an under-rehearsed work, be it concerto or Kammermusik [Chamber Music], which if it comes somewhere near the mark, is yet far from it. It is easier to forgive robbery with violence than a singer for singing flat – especially a usually impeccable singer!

It rejoices me to hear you say you are encouraged. I am certain that the hearing of a work, being essential, widens the circle, and that the cumulative weight moves, in the end, such the [BBC] Home Service! Although they are notoriously months and even years behind some of the best that is going on elsewhere beneath their very noses. They must follow on in time. And where it is for others to blaze the trail, it must be done from outside before it can be expected to come from within, so I feel that the endeavour is not lost. In fact I think it bears a seed often beyond our knowing. Friendship, as we agree, has nothing to do with it. But when it comes as well, how lovely! And as you say, it is grand to be friends.

I never felt an occasion more truly and warmly enriched by them than this Birthday of mine by you and Sheila: I still bask in this lovely feeling you both gave me.

I do so appreciate your characteristic thoughtfulness about the windy dark, that night after Ilonka’s [Kabos’] though indeed it was best that you should go with Norman who is most in need. Chivalry is one of the things one minds about and watches going around one, with a particular sense of hurt. Though it shines forth from the finest people. Mummy was speaking of it the other day. I had been saying how noticeably fewer feminine women there seemed to be to help keep it alright – and how it inevitably gets lost in a world in which the weaker vessel acknowledges no weakness and where a trousered ‘sex-equality’ breeds the hard necessity of fending for oneself. Then Mummy said that in 3 friends of mine who had most recently visited this house, she had felt that lovely quality in common: you were one, E. M. Forster the writer, another, the third you have not, I think, heard of, but whom you must meet someday. It is, at any rate, best to realise one’s own limitations by admitting one self the wrong kind of woman for this Brave New World[89] and even to be shameless enough to glory in the fact! But I have little else to glory in, who am full of weakness now. The day we were at Ilonka’s, I saved myself from being carted into hospital, but was told by the doctor to give up the job.

I felt awfully ill at her home that night. She and Norman kept on floating away, it was like looking down the wrong end of a telescope and you were the only thing I could focus on. I managed to struggle along till the end of the week and then get home. By working on late into the last nights I was able to leave the plans well ahead, so that the BBC isn’t faced with an immediate crisis but can carry on any job with a temporary replacement in the meantime. I purposely didn’t say anything about this in my letter to you and Sheila as it seemed so depressing and your letter, coming as it did, saying “books & Birthday” was a sort of magic succour through the intervening days!

Norman is desperately unhappy. He is Blake’s sick rose with the invisible worm[90]. But one can always pray, even when obliged, at last, to lie down …

Ever with love and thanks to you both.


[A scribble is inserted, which is meant to signify a Nicholas message!]

Message to Nicholas (his own cuneiform)

Have you put out any fires[91] yet? But let them all go to hell rather than quench any of your own!

(27) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage

Nov: 15th –16th [1943][92]

My dear William,

I do feel terribly guilty about you – for the pleasure I have had in your letter is out of all proportion to my expression of thanks, which has been thus delayed.

I felt so ill for a time that the best thing seemed to succumb to orders and not try and do anything. Then, during these last few days, when I began emerging from this chrysalis-like state, a sort of crisis set-in in my European affairs, which till then had been running more or less under the steam I had left behind me, so to speak! It is very difficult to put anyone else into a job like that at a moment’s notice, even if someone could be found, as much of it is so specialised that they just wouldn’t know the answers!

So I had to rouse my torpid brain and take decisions and sign papers and do what was necessary to set off de nouveau the machinery which was showing signs of creaking and so for some days more, I couldn’t achieve my letter to you.

What I felt just as sad about, was that I couldn’t achieve anything beyond a picture post card (and that not designed for him) for Nicholas’s birthday, which was outlined in red in my mind and my date-book. It seemed too sickening. Mummy came back from the village to say there were no toys anywhere and not a child’s post card even to be found and a council-of-war revealed that the family sweet ration could muster only a few sticky oddments which were not worth sending.

I ought to have been able to find something to please him in London, but that will have been for the future and, in the meantime, it was horrid to have to let the great occasion go without my offering. He must have had a lovely day, and what a wonderful party, with Sheila’s cake and Charlie Chaplin![93] I was much amused at his mind’s growth into rationalism as shown in this year’s castigation of the slap-stick antics which would have produced unquestioning laughs a year ago!

I hope neither birthday-celebrations nor fireman’s duties[94] (awful thought) have been able to take you from your work, nor the quiet, necessary things of the mind. I loved your picture of you not rescuing unregenerate landladies!

I have been thinking over the question of the London Belgian [Piano Quartet] team and your Piano Quartet for the [BBC] Home Service. One is up there against the inevitable barricade of the old Reading Panel business, as weary, stale and unprofitable an obstacle as man ever devised, for killing creativeness. I agree, of course, entirely with you in your attitude towards the thing, with regard to your own work and this one in particular – and this is why, I have often had occasion to say, I am convinced that works of worth must first be made known and find their way from outside.

Until there can be any reform, the crusade must be continued on all ground not subject to these harmful jurisdictions. A good public performance does a great deal to help, if only as an establishing record for a work, in bringing pressure to bear for broadcasting – And that ties up with how helpful is an ever-widening circle of interest in a composer’s work, by performers themselves. The LB [London Belgian Piano] Quartet is certainly alive and enterprising and as players themselves can do a good deal. It is good that they have already done your work at the [Belgian] Institute: and should strongly advise them to press it elsewhere, whenever they have the chance of being consulted about what they will play at future public performances.

As regards HS [BBC Home Service] I feel that the best approach would be by Marcel Gazelle in a letter direct to Bliss[95] – I would take up the matter at once most willingly, were it not that I wish nothing I ever do to harm, even indirectly, the cause I have at heart and it is because of this that it seems best to me sometimes deliberately to refrain from making a ‘direct approach’ myself – if only because there are people (inevitably, I suppose) whom Bliss likes better than he does others and has more faith in (though on the whole, I think he is very fair). He likes me and because what I say usually seems to be listened to, I instinctively avoid saying it oftener than is absolutely imperative, if only for the advisability of avoiding any axe-grinding and also because I seem to have established a name (and a curious leash to act upon it so far, touch wood!) for independence and in the end, it is that independence which I can best use to help on those composers: their works which are to be fought for.

This may perhaps all seem, over-subtle and diplomatic. But I don’t think so, really. For I had so much rather continue to be a power behind the scenes and accomplish something, with weight to throw into the balance which will help tilt it, than rush in, as one is tempted to, trading on this very fact, head foremost, and probably to far less purpose.

Now: I should advise [Marcel] Gazelle to write a pleasant personal note (marked personal) to Bliss, saying that during the course of the war, they have made their name for their performances of works by their own countrymen and French etc., but that now, while they are still in our midst they are particularly keen to take a number of contemporary British works into their repertoire and that as they have recently given successful public performance to you and Howells[96] etc., they would particularly like the opportunity in this country, of broadcasting these works in the Home Service.

With the despatch of such a letter as this, I would myself implement it to Bliss in a number of affairs I have to report and comment on to him and the reinforcement might be timely and usefully additional.

I feel that is the best course of action. Please tell me how you feel about it and I am only sorry that owing to my present defaulting, it hasn’t been taken before – but perhaps it would not have been anyhow, as the Quartet were to be on tour in Ireland?

As to Steffans [Publisher], your answer to him is the right one. The prevailing attitude on the part of unwise publishers, who, without any real sensibility or judgement at all, are go-getters, making themselves get-rich-quick on the vogue of the moment, or choose ‘hours’ of their own for some ulterior motive – never an artistic one, but always Big Business, is but a sign of the times – And in them, such a person as Peterkin stands out alone. But thank heavens, where there is such, there is hope. The paradox will manifest itself when the fruits of publishers’ time saving and bad judgement will suddenly turn barren on them in years to come – a negative reflection perhaps, in the face of so many positive works wanting a champion. But so long as those works are still there, and being produced, I feel that it isn’t possible that they should remain sterile indefinitely. It is very hard to keep faith sometimes, but I’m sure one mustn’t lose it and the battle must go on, with every good weapon one can enlist. And I have never yet thanked you for your splendid and so helpful effort in transposing my small Cradle Song[97] into one far easier and more practicable on paper. There is no doubt that 6 sharps is the more readable key – and it goes very well. It was so sweet of you to undertake such a tiresome task – one of which I can now afford to be blissfully lazy, that, at present, being my rather unworthy aim and object in life!

The cumulative strain of things had affected my heart, so it was not surprising that I had been suffering from that awkward Victorian propensity to swoon – Is this “having the vapours” I wonder? Anyway, the D[octo]rs have said that it will answer to rest and it now is, though rather more slowly than I had anticipated. I did make an attempt to get down some days ago, but not with much success and was sent back to bed – not, I must confess, to my real regret, which probably shows I wasn’t quite ready to get out yet. But I am so lucky and so thankful to have this quiet place in which to lie – And I shall make a better attempt at getting up soon and turn my thoughts to the iron blast without which, so far, I only contemplate from within.

It is lovely to feel up to reading more. One’s mind becomes starved of the good that is denied it and I can hardly believe that I could – and did – once read all day if I wanted to! I take large doses of Chiang Yee, who is enchanting[98]. Shorter and more concentrated ones of Whitehead, whose extraordinary vast and incisive thought fascinates me. I have not yet reached the Cosmology Section.

Beatrice brings offerings from her evening literature the Christian Heart and the Romances by Ruby M. Ayers with which Ralph keeps her supplied periodically, and dear E. M. Forster came down to see me the other day, bearing in a fish-bag a bottle of priceless sherry. It will not be my fault if my friends get me a reputation for Drink!

(An American has just written a book about E. M. F[orster][99] following on Rose Macaulay’s on him over here[100] – but the new one has not yet reached me.)

I am so glad you have managed to hear some of the programmes – Tom’s playing in the Greek one; and the Warlock. Tom [Bromley] has since done for me, with Elsa Tookey, the Villa-Lobos[101] Cello Sonata, which had, I heard, owing to last minute political cancellations, to be put out recorded, rather than live, which was a pity, as it isn’t the sort of work intended for real recording. It leaves me aghast at the sheer number of notes (mostly in Tom’s part) it has – and we concentrate on eliminating as many as possible!

Those tiresome female announcers, who are incredibly dumb at the best of times, get into glorious muddles when they are left unattended, and it was a sheer flight of fancy which attributed the Poniridy Suite to Tom’s arrangement![102]

What a splendidly ssteady standard of achievement Tom keeps up in his performances – I can never imagine him doing one less good than all the ones I have heard.

The pre-recording of the Warlock was one of the last things I did, and I was very pleased with Sinclair Logan[103]. In those particular songs, I would willingly sacrifice something of voice, for real understanding of them and such good diction, I enjoyed seeing him and his wife (you cast a happy benediction over the occasion) The only trouble was with the accompanist (John Hills) who, admirable as he is, failed badly over the Warlock songs and splashed so many wrong notes about and wrong harmonies, that I had to have most of the group repeated, which was embarrassing for me and trying for poor S.L. but he didn’t seem to mind and was charming and most helpful throughout.

I did hear Michael’s[104] recital [on Wednesday 10 November[105]], and liked it – particularly Dowland[106] and Hume[107] in the first group, though not his Purcell[108] so well.

I thought all of the contemporary group was successful on the whole, though I agree entirely with you as to his accompaniments which, beautifully fused and direful as they are, are inadequate in relation to his voice. Your expression “understatement” is exact.

I thought it showed most in my song – This may have suffered (probably did) from the fact that he put it down a tone into G minor, thus losing, in the flat key, something of the incise, clear quality of A minor, in which it was written[109]. I should have liked a far more consistently clear weaving of the independent line which goes on throughout in the piano part. The whole effect of the queer tonal clashes depends on this and they sounded a bit blurred to me and I hardly caught at all the piano’s final echo of the last phrase. It is this blurring which I have always found to criticise in previous performances of some of your songs, particularly Rest which seems crystal clear to me, but apparently is not to others who play it!

But I thought Michael’s performance of My Little Beddoes[110] lovely and sensitive, in spite of criticisms. He apparently took a special fancy to it when he heard it that night at Greenbanks [Woolacombe, Devon] and wrote and asked me afterwards if he might do it – and there was nobody else I could think of who would be likely to do so better. It’s very delicacy would hardly survive most singers!

He wrote a very sweet letter about the programme and regretted there had [not] been the chance to go through the things with me, so in future, I can probably make suggestions and get the accompaniments a little more assertive. I am so very glad you like [my] Sorrow’s Lullaby. I feel like a mouse ready to creep into its hole when I contemplate your big achievements and my little ones. But perhaps the thing is that everything one does should be as fine as possible, without bothering about its scale. I would willingly sacrifice all Mahler[111], for a few tiny songs of Warlock, all Milton and Spenser combined for the songs in Shakespeare’s plays or the early lyrics of Blake.

I know just what words I should set for you, if I could get the setting I want! How long will it be before I can, I wonder? Perhaps it will be much longer than it took me to produce a Snowdrop! [The Snowdrop in the Wind]. I wish I could do these things to order – they seem to be governed by some sinister power outside any control in devilish proportion to my desire to do them. But I waited a year to write The Stockdoves feeling that I should do what I wanted in the end. So I hope it will be the same. I shall keep the words a secret, till I can get the music!

One or two forthcoming programmes ([BBC] European [Service] 10.30) to look out for are:

Tuesday[112] Nov 22nd: Bax[113] Octet (not the one you usually hear, but Threnody [and Scherzo] – unpublished. It is being done from MSS).

Thursday Nov 25th: Hindermith[114] Viola Sonata. Max Gilbert [viola] and Kendal Taylor (piano).

Sun: Nov 28th: London Women’s String Orchestra (Conducted by Kathleen Riddick[115]) Bliss – Music for Strings.

Tues: Nov 30th: Millicent Silver doing Busch Gigue in the middle of Ireland and other songs, sung by George Parker. She isn’t, in my opinion, a very good solo pianist, though she does very well in flute ensemble with her husband John Francis. She is rather unimaginative as regards more tenuous and delicate pieces, which is why, when on her own she is better in quicker moving and rhythmical music. She really wasn’t in this programme originally, but as she and John are great friends of mine, I sent a message to her asking her to fill the gap, which she is nobly doing.

They are a delightful pair, with a lovely home in which they are very happy and a small daughter of 5. I don’t know what sort of job Millicent will make of [Norman Fraser’s] Chandolin, which she wants to put into this programme mainly, I think, because I showed it to her not long ago and she laughed and said its middle section (in 3 staves ) looked impossible and she wants to try it out!

I got them to ask Norman there (though he doesn’t know this) to try and dissipate his gloom – but apparently without the desired effect.

Friday Dec 3rd: Watson Forbes [viola] and Denise Lassimone[116] are doing the Honegger[117] Viola Sonata.

Monday Dec 6th: Prokoviev 4th Piano Sonata [118](interesting) is being played by Frank Merrick.

Any one of these may have had to be altered or postponed by the time their respective dates come round and as I am at present I don’t always know till afterwards. But these are so far so good.

It is noble of you to be so persevering in listening to European programmers! I can’t tell you how much of an encouragement and cheer it is to know that they have the approval of even one such fastidious person as yourself.

It is easy enough to make a good ½ hour broadcast out of a good sonata which plays for 27 minutes. But the real programme building is a very different theory and it is this I always feel so keenly about – the artistic necessity, in every detail, of putting works in their right setting, e.g. a Warlock programme and your Ode to Autumn – have always a definite intention behind it – a train of thought, for a shape (like a sonata or symphony – everything leading up to some point, or away from it – bold contrasts or subtle ones, like colour-mixing for a canvas. It is lovely for me to have you, with your keen perception to notice and take in these things and it makes them worth the trying for, for that alone! If things were not as they are now, or the BBC so ‘close’ about finance, I could do still better. But the very obstacles put one on one’s mettle.

It was a pity Norman’s recording of your Piano Quartet didn’t come out better – but at any rate, you could just play it over. It wouldn’t matter a bit his sending you the discs, particularly as they are not wanted again. I want you to have the European ones of the other works, but thought I had better not do anything about it for the present, as enough muddles tend to happen already, in my absence and the discs might be wanted.

I wonder how much you have been able to write in the last week or two and whether you have got the piano pieces off your chest?

You will be tired with this scribble which has been done in bits spread over two days. Mummy sends her love. I would have asked her to write about a week ago, but she got a chill which made her feel rather poorly herself for some days and I was already concerned with all she was doing for me. She reads to me every evening, which I adore!

With much love to you both and please tell Nicholas I was very impressed with his capital letters! Thank you again for yours (not quite so much in capitals) which have been such a joy.


(28) Rook’s Nest –Stevenage

Nov 26th [1943][119]

My dear William,

How good to get your letter and its delightful and welcome follow-on to our conversation on paper. Mine a scribbly one, I fear, due mainly to laziness and often the fact that if B [the dog?] is lying at my feet a sudden movement on his part or mine sends the ink flying about.

I’m so glad you think well of my suggestion as to mode of approach by [Marcel] Gazelle and I shall eagerly await developments. It is one of the greatest blessings in this life if one can possess the perfect trust and frankness of a true friendship. You are quite right. And it is, I think, a heaven sent gift to those lonely artistic souls whose path is inevitably solitary and for whom there is little other closeness of understanding.

You will be amused to hear that I contacted Alan Bush in his barracks[120] – or rather, did so by proxy, via the secretaries and asked him to do a Sonnet Music programme for me at Christmas which he has graciously consented to do. It will be on Tuesday Dec 12th (10.30) and he seems to have got some quite interesting records and will do the talking himself.

I am sure if he sat us down and fired questions at us about 7ths and 9ths etc – we should probably not answer many before he counted ten! But it is a consolation to me to find that you think you couldn’t either! I get un-academically rusty about these usages in terminology, simply because I don’t stop to think about them as a rule. When I do I think I know all right. But I am convinced that, thinking and working as we do, this is our strength, rather than ones weakness – because to the acutely musical creative thought, these technicalities have become instinctive because they are assimilated. Whereas, however good a professor, analyst and lecturer, such a person as Alan Bush may be, he will never write a bar of spontaneously created music – it is all cerebrated and fabricated and is like the fable of Hans Anderson about the clockwork nightingale[121]. I would rather have even a fleeting visitation from the real bird!

But how “Rarely, rarely comest thou [| Spirit of Delight”][122]. It can be a dreadful, obsessing pain – I am so sorry you have been in a ‘bad patch’ and beset by one’s torturing doubts and misgivings. I believe there is no way round them, but only through them and it is a bitter path.

Yet just when one’s confidence is at its lowest ebb, it won’t be betraying it if one left off, because I think one must turn even it thro’ to account and use it, as nothing of one’s endeavours can go to waste. But it is the effort of forcing oneself to plough ahead when all one does is so ‘flat, weary, stale and unprofitable [| Seem to me all the uses of this world’][123] which is so awful and very sapping. May the miraculous ray of light come again soon. Perhaps your work on the string movements will help and you can play the game over the piano pieces one does with oneself when a thing is mislaid and one says ‘never mind, I’ll find another’ – and then it turns up!

You will be sorry – as I am – that Busch Gigue won’t after all be in the programme on the 30th as the pianist in it has failed about thrice over since I wrote and is now Harold Craxton[124], who plays old music (though one of these bright announcers did say Thomas Augustine Arne[125] was a contemporary, last time!)

I didn’t hear any of the new works you mentioned that were broadcast, as I have been listening very little. I was all the more interested in all you had to say about them. Stravinsky[126] is the one I should most liked to have heard and I do agree about how poor by comparison he makes the orchestral effects of his successors, who may have brilliance too, but not his secret of it. I thought how very striking this was demonstrated that day when we heard Pulcinella [for chamber orchestra and soloists (1920)] and Britten (Serenade) [for tenor, horn and strings (1943)] in the same programme.

I am afraid I never feel any interest in [William] Alwyn’s[127] work, as to me it is just facility and nothing more. Nothing distinctive or distinguishing, just efficient emptiness, like York Bowen[128] and one or two others. Ever since I first knew these two in my [Royal] Academy [of Music] days, they failed to make any impression on me at all and five minutes after having sat through a whole work, I should have the greatest difficulty in retaining any of it at all!

I liked your comment on Moule Evans[129] that you didn’t start washing the dishes till after the work had started!! I would rather keep someone of perception from washing dishes for a few minutes, with a song, than see them lapse back to the sink before the end of the first 100 bars of an orchestral work! Shall we try out our major works on our friends and make washing up the test?!

I have become quite energetic: I get up and walk about a bit (slowly and with the aged gait of Q[ueen] Victoria) and go and practise bits from your Rachmaninov Preludes and then lie down. Und so weitar [And so on]. Perhaps I shall soon be allowed to go and inspect my office, though I think Mummy is in league with the D[octo]rs against it. However I can’t say I’m worrying. That is what this place and its influence does for one. A letter from Norman describes orgies of Goodbyes and says he can’t realise it.

It has now become Saturday and I must let this go to post. How noble of you and Sheila to take in Mary[130], Nicholas must have loved it, but it must have made such a lot extra to do in the house.

With much love

Sempre [Always]


I liked very much the Hindermith Viola Sonata on Eur[opean BBC service]: the other day (Max Gilbert with Kendal Taylor) prefaced by Padre Martini[131], a good pair. The Hindermith work I feel belies the accusation one meets of his music – for in two sonatas I find emotional power as well as brain. There is nothing obscure, and many passages of beauty.

(29) Rook’s Nest

Dec 12th [1943][132]

My Dear William

I’m glad you sent on [Marcel] Gazelle’s letter, which if not self-explanatory, certainly confirms one’s wonderment at such odd reasoning. It is, in fact, such odd reasoning that it is difficult to count his reasons at all, they are such bad ones and precisely those, as you say, which I should use for not against!

Well, I don’t know what is behind it, but one is rather forced to the conclusion, it seems to me that for some causes unrevealed, they don’t after all want to do the British works in question in H.S. [BBC Home Service]. It is very odd. But Latinos, even the best of them, are as shifty as the devil (brave of me to say this, isn’t it, considering my own share of their blood! But pray heaven it is sufficiently diluted into some centuries behind it!) and one would need Faustian powers to get inside their minds. I don’t pretend to know, in this case – but it does seem, on the face of it, that they are not keen or surely they would be a little more willing to do something themselves towards going ahead?

More work, other offers, Broadcasts etc., may have come in in the meantime…[Rudolph] Soiron [Cellist of the London Belgian Piano Quartet] may have been grumbling about technical difficulties in your work … Qui sait? [Who knows?] At all events, it doesn’t seem advisable that I do anything about it with [Arthur] Bliss without the proper initiative from the artists themselves, who, I felt ought to take it first. Backing is a very different thing from proposing, particularly if the proposal, as now looks likely were not followed up. What do you think?

It is a great pity G [Marcel Gazelle] has taken up this extraordinary line, and I’m glad you wrote and pointed out the reasons from your (i.e. our) point of view. Let me know the reactions. How stupid it is and how perennially hard to have patience with these unnecessary bankers, when the work is learnt and might be being played. If we can’t do anything about it now, I can think of another idea and that is to start fresh another time and get some other ensemble of players to learn the work. But the trouble is that there isn’t, at the present time in this county, any Piano Quartet ensemble to whom a performance of this sort of work would be without risks – I mean, rather more, even than with the LB [London Belgian Piano Quartet] who as a team have put out some very good performances and with the advantages of having, in [Marcel] Gazelle, a really good pianist who knows the score.

I didn’t know Florence [Hooton] had had such a bad time with John Wills and the accompaniments – or rather piano parts – of your Capriccio at its pre-recording, with the Nocturne for S. Africa, but I’m not really surprised. The whole BBC system is at error rather than the individual – because one simply can’t expect any good accompanist to be on tap all the time – as John W[ills] is – for any and every sort of job and plunge them into instrumental works, like your pieces, demanding the highest degree of ‘finish’ in performance and very closely studied ensemble where any opportunity for either is impossible. The whole deadlock over this principle is infuriating: I have fought it for years, but they are not artist enough to see it and time after time it lets down the best works. Also and more than incidentally, it is wretched for the other players concerned, in this case Florence. It is why one is hardly ever satisfied with a performance, with all the opportunities behind it of ensemble and sympathy. But the BBC denies ensemble for anything except Sonatas. For them, Kendal Taylor[133] would be allowed to make a splendid job with Florence; but for any work demanding just as much – often more – but not technically a sonata, he is forbidden and she must have a Staff Accompanist with the inevitable result. It is damnable.

I know now what to expect, every time, of the things one minds about and of whose ideal one may justifiably claim to know something – your songs, Warlock’s and many more.

I told you, I think, how precisely the same thing happened with the Warlock songs recorded for me by Sinclair Logan. John W’s [Wills’] accompaniments on that occasion missed the mark so completely that the recordings had to be scrapped, not because of technical failure in the discs, but because I couldn’t pass such a performance. And as John is magnificent in his own way and given a proper chance, this sort of thing is unfair to him as well as everyone else. It could be so easily avoided. But the BBC won’t see it and the finer points of performance are steadily blunted and the standard lowered, and people don’t know what things ought to sound like! Our only hope is nerve in the face of all obstacles and crassness, to budge from our own ideals and our strivings towards carrying them out.

You will be pleased to hear that after much debatings of Mummy and Dr, I graciously visited my lair in the said crass institution, without special damage to myself (or it!) and came back again having once more made contact with the outer world, which I found very cold!

Every other person seems to be down with ’flu or otherwise ailing (Ralph [Elizabeth’s brother] is the latest victim and has been home in bed) and the crowds and queues seem to be greater than ever. I confess I was thankful to get back! But I can do quite a lot in spasmodic visitations for the time being and in the meanwhile coping thus far is perhaps better than not at all.

Owing to a slight state of “Financial Embarrassment” in the Eur[opean]: Service, prog[ramme]s will have to be on records during the early part of the New Year and though highly unsatisfactory as a state of broadcasting, it may ease things a bit for me personally.

At the beginning of this year £750 was pledged in my name towards a recording scheme though it wasn’t then in my name, as I wasn’t doing this job. It was not until a week or two ago that I discovered – quite by chance – this arrangement made with my predecessor! Needless to say, it would not have received my sanction – but as I find I am now legally bound to it in the complicated affairs of high finance, with not so very long to do it in before the end of the financial year in March, I have ordained Strict Austerity till the debt be cleared and plans can go ahead normally! In the meantime, a formula must be devised for artists and conductors inferring postponement without discouragement. I had thought of “Owing to a slight cold, Eur[opean] Music will be confined to its room for a short while. But all sound offers are acceptable as ever.” So if, any time after Jan 1 you tune in and hear the most un-characteristic programmes, exonerate me from blame!

But in attendant, if you listen at 10.30 am on Mon: 20th [December] you will probably hear me for a change! Only a little group of carols, but very nice ones and I thought I’d do something myself, for once! Veronica Mansfield is singing. I chose her to do them because I felt she would do them best; and she also happens to be a dear friend and one I love playing for. So I hope they’ll go well. Three Warlock – all lovely – (Including Tyrley Tyrlow, which I’m playing not from the simplified reduction, but from his piano version of the orchestral version[134]. It is nearly un-playable, which is doubtless why one never hears it! I have done it before with René [Soames] – but he is still away after his illness). The 4th carol of the group is also contemporary and will be by a composer unknown to you. Do listen particularly to it and tell me what you think about it – that is if the transmission comes over well enough that day for you to hear reasonably well. Alan Bush will be on the next day (Tues: 21) same time, presenting Soviet Songs – I think pre-recorded. My Christmas Day programme proper will come on the day after Christmas Day, Sun 26th, called The Children’s Christmas and will also be in [BBC] Home Service I hear, though perhaps with another title, on Tuesday Dec 21st in a thing called Tuesday Radiogram. On Christmas Day itself there will only be time for a few carols, not specially interesting, conducted by [Adrian] Boult.

I loved hearing about your prospective Musical Party and wish I could have been there to add my approbation of the Busch Trio! The audience, no doubt, were the most enthusiastic butter – or even cream cheese! I wonder if you asked adoring Miss – (her name escapes me) or did Sheila flinch at that thought?

Thank you so much for the Alan Pryce-Jones[135] article on E. M. Forster – I was very glad to have it, as I was lent the copy of the New Statesman in which it appeared, but had to give it back in a hurry, which also applies to my personal [copy], usually, of such good things as The Music Review which comes to me on the BBC list, but has to be passed on quickly so that there is never the time to browse as one would like.

I spent the end of the week with E.M.F. [E. M. Forster] at his house in Surrey, where I was completely happy. He is a dear and wonderful person and I have the feeling you and he would like each other very much. It is lovely, isn’t it, to be in a presence which is restful as well as completely sympathetic.

Parcels of food arrive from his unknown admirers in USA. A wonderful collection of butter, dried bananas etc., while I was there and I thought it was time we did something to stir up those philanthropists into taking a practical interest in us starving musicians. Don’t you think so??

Ever with love,


I am so glad your faith has been restored but one simply wouldn’t be human if one became impervious to the cruel knocks that come. And humanity is best!

(30) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House London W.1.


My dear William,

I owe you more than one letter and even many more thanks. Also apologies – but I have been going through one of those bad patches of concentrated work in the 3 weeks since Christmas and from the moment I poked my nose out from the quiet enjoyment of home, have scarcely known which way to turn. ‘Rush orders’ came pouring in; more people than ever have been down with ’flu and much more had to be seen to than I could catch up with, so letters had to wait. I have been making rushes to Bedford also and that train service must be one of the most uncomfortable in England.

I was so very sorry to hear you also had suffered from ’flu – which is so horrid afterwards as well as at the time. Although I was reassured by the fact that when you wrote you said you were getting up, I felt concern lest Sheila and Nicholas should catch your bad bugs. But I was further reassured that in your following letters you made no mention of their having suffered. I hope they kept clear?

I like being ‘Elizabeth Pospen’ – it sounds like an aspen leaf, or a Russian general. Also please tell Nicholas I loved his card of “God’s littal Fowlers” which had the special honour of being one of the few to stand on my dressing table. I was most impressed with his signature inside!

It is simply sweet of you to give me The Music Review – characteristically thoughtful choice which could not possibly be a more happy one. It is so lovely to have a present which renews itself throughout the year and I am enormously looking forward to the arrival of the first number. Thank you very much. (I hope in due course that you will see the resultant affect upon my conversation and I shall be full of facts and most cultured to talk to!)

I am so glad that the London Belge [London Belgian Piano Quartet] matter has righted itself a bit, with the promise of AB’s [Alan Bush’s] own interest. (They, the LB are doing, as you will have seen, [Herbert] Howells[136] this week – their own suggestion. So why not your work?) It is a great blow about his departure. I knew from something he said to me last year after his breakdown, that his mind was made up, but hoped that his going might be postponed. However, he can’t stick the BBC and wants his freedom again and I can’t find it in my heart to blame him, feeling, as I do, so much the same! His loss to the Corporation will have wide repercussions because in some ways (good ways) he was unique – though Norman [Fraser] never liked him and didn’t believe in him. But [Arthur] Bliss, on the other hand, though fair, never made a pretence of liking where he didn’t or rather, if he had no particular use for anybody, has a way of ignoring them altogether, which is even more disconcerting and poor N[orman] always fell for it.

The new appointment is a retrograde step as regards artistic policy and outlook; the brief progressive era has been nipped in the bud. The BBC Music Department must surely be the most conservative institution of any! I first knew Hely-Hutchinson[137] when he was an early pillar of Savoy Hill – and there will now be a return to that venerable (if muddled) architecture. I don’t wish to appear unduly pessimistic as a prophet – but the view is generally shared and the move regretted. [Adrian] Boult takes on in the interim with no good grace as he hates administrative work – but in the main, things will doubtless be much as they were afore.

There is still a Grosse Pause in European ‘live’ music, until the budget deficiency be met – with a few exceptions (’tho as many as I can make them!) and some unexpectedly good gramophone programmes. One of the exceptions – which I much regret that owing to the rush I didn’t let you know about – was Sunday last (yesterday) when I did the Honegger Cello Concerto with BBC Orchestra conducted by Mosco Carner[138] and William Pleeth[139] as soloist – to my mind our greatest cellist by a very long way. He is in the army, but I watched my moment and secured him while on leave. He also recorded for me the Pizzetti[140] [Cello] Sonata – due to go out in a month or so – which you must listen to when I can let you know its date. From the great depths of his artistic nature comes playing of an amazingly spiritual quality – a true genius of insight into all he touches which – to me at any rate – places him alone. In everything he does, the sheer beauty of tone and phrasing are marked with genius. Honegger did not demand the depths, but much suavity and subtlety. I was very bold and prefaced it with a recording, made in New York, of the same composer’s Concertino for Piano and Chamber Orchestra [H 55 (1927)] – a delightful brittle, acrid, invigorating little work, in which the treatment is well contrasted. The two moreover, are chronologically separated and it was an interesting study.

But I must hasten to disillusion you as to the Swing Programme you happened to tune into! Far from its having been an underling’s makeshift in my absence, it was one of those which I account – with all the pride of a rather fatuous mother hen – my Best Programmes! And if you want to avoid them, don’t listen on Saturdays which, with rare exceptions, are the days given up to these debased forms! It is banned, as you probably know, in various countries under Nazi domination and from France particularly numerous intelligence requests for it cone in and with the aim of doing everything that we do well, I make it a institution of settled policy – one which has quickly justified itself and which was the first, incidentally to bring us in a good press notice! To my amusement there is another – though with a different emphasis this time – in the current no: of Cavalcade drawing flowing attention to the seniors’ music programmes in the Eur[opean] Service. All write-ups, however, have so far agreed in common, whether praising swing or Smetana[141] in rude comparisons with Home Wavelengths … “if they would only follow the example of European Service” etc., etc., a form of harmless rivalry which affords me unholy delight!

I have heard from Norman [Fraser] but not seen him very lately and curiously enough, he doesn’t seem happy, but I doubt whether he ever could be really happy. For purely personal reasons – which you have probably guessed! – it was an immense relief to me when he showed signs of concentrating elsewhere : concentrating in any way which might lift him out of the morass of neurosis and egotism into which he had sunk so far. The effects now remain to be seen. All his friends who know Janet [Norman Fraser’s wife] as well, view the matter with comical dismay as an unqualified disaster – a state of affairs which N[orman] oddly does nothing to contradict (Ilonka [Kobos] is terribly funny on the subject!). I hope very much he won’t make that poor girl unhappy, as she has little idea of what she’s in for and no experience of life. But if it turns out for the good, it will be justified. One only hopes that N[orman] has at last begun to study a bit the question of what is good!

The Latin American Service goes ahead amicably under the baton of Maurice Miles[142], who rather incredibly, keeps up his conducting as well and seems to like to job.

I’m glad you heard my odd assortment of broadcasts around about Christmas! There is some more reading coming along – E. M. Forster. Yes, wasn’t his a magnificent broadcast. He must have heartened , in that 20 mins, many faithful, struggling artist people, whose cause couldn’t have had a better advocate. I had a delightful and appreciative letter about The Church Mouse from its poet[143]. She is a very hidden away sort of person. I wish I still were!

Much love to you all, dear Busches

Sempre [Always]


I send the enclosed for a good article by E. Evans[144]. Send it back when you’ve done with it, for my archives.

(31) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

Bush House

Feb 3rd & 4th ‘44

My dear William,

How sweet of you to write so understandingly and appreciatively about the Boyce[145] song – it’s a little thing, but near my heart. You are right, and I always feel this acutely: one turns back with ever-renewable satisfaction to these old composers who wrote down what they felt so honestly and spontaneously without the insincerity of over-reaching, the effect hurting, and cheapness too often found today. I find a serenity here, in such a small thing as this, which belongs to the eternal. I am glad you think I have not mis-used it, but have kept a right ‘frame’ – which was what I tried to do. And I’m very glad you feel it belongs to Rook’s Nest and those things I belong to, because it does, and perhaps they ‘will out’! Anyhow I shall tell Mummy, because she will love to hear it, and it was like your perception to realise the fact! I happened to be speaking on the phone to Norman Peterkin [OUP] this morning, and as your letter today had just come, I told him some of what you said, as I thought you wouldn’t mind and he was very pleased.

The other little one (Boyce too) should be following soon. I wonder if you will like it too? It is really rather a joke and has a naughty little mischievous quality which my imp insisted on and which this one hasn’t[146]. (You see, it is necessary, to keep my own ‘internal balance’ that I be rather naughty occasionally!)

What a wonderful help and encouragement it is to have a mutual understanding and interest in one’s work – I always come from every manifestation of it feeling that life is so much the better and one’s own endeavouring strengthened. Perhaps it is the reverse side – and what a good compensating one – of the indifference and the stupidity, hurt and antagonisms, which the very sensitive have to meet at some point or other so constantly.

I am thrilled to hear that you have set The Lowest Trees have Tops …They are wonderful words and they do go for musical setting I should love to see it, when it is ready to send.

People like your friend Kathleen Schlesinger[147] make one feel horribly humble! What a wonderful mind she must have and what a goal to keep for one’s own 81st year! I have a friend – rather younger, but far from young, white haired – who inhabits the same limitless country and is one of the greatest living authorities on Greek terra cottas. She seems herself to be cast in a classic mould, untouchable by modern evils. After many years and a long and distinguished career, researching, writing and digging, with a professorship in USA and one in Athens and a lovely house in each, she married another expert in the same subject. When Greece fell she left, but he stayed and news has now come that he digs on among his beloved shards in Corinth, living on grass and vegetables with Nazis all around, but apparently unmolested!

I am very interested to hear you have set the Herrick[148] Bell-man and I hope the prospect of having to move out of Greenbanks [Devon] by June won’t make you feel too unsettled now and put you off the String 4th movement which is in train. It is very tiresome that you have to be turned out by the hotel-keeper next door. Won’t it be possible for you to come back to your own home in London? It would be lovely to have you near at hand. Again.

Have you heard the much-talked-of recording from USSR of their young violinist David Oistrakh[149], playing the Myaskowsky[150] Violin Concerto with the Moscow State Orchestra, under a conductor rejoicing in the name of A. Gauk.[151] The boy Oistrakh has earned a great sensation both here and in USA for his superb playing on this recording. He is still under 40 I believe [actually 38] and has not yet been heard as a full-blown artist outside his own country – but this makes one long that he should be. The Myaskowsky Concerto is uninspired as a work, vieux jinx as Russian idiom by Glazonov out of Tchaikowsky – but holds one by the wonderful playing by both orchestra and soloist. I can’t, unfortunately, play all 3 movements in half an hour and though truncating a symphonic work is an act of vandalism I most heartily disapprove of, in the normal course of events, I am playing the 1st and last movements of the work, rather than not do it at all, for the sake of the playing, on Sunday next Feb 6th – so you may be interested (10.30 am), Thurs 10th, same time and I have some most attractive popular music of Portugal (Fados, Viras etc) – belonging to a delightful Portuguese friend of mine, Francisco de Carvalho, Feb 14th is interesting: Pizzetti Cello Sonata (W[illia]m Pleeth and Margaret Good[152]) – it is a strange and unusual work with a very other-worthy spiritual quality. Feb 16th includes Shostakovich Quartet[153] (played by the Hirsch), I don’t like it much, but it is representative! I hope the invasion doesn’t happen before I have the chance to carry out some of my more interesting plans! I have just been having lunch with one of Gen. Montgomery’s aid-de-camps[154] but didn’t succeed in being Mata Hari! I should love to see you in your ‘Gustapo’ uniform but all the same, I feel the WFS [Woolacombe Fire Service, Devon][155] isn’t the place for composers!

Lisbeth Pospon salutes Nicholas with a kiss and his father and mother with MUCH LOVE

(32) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcasting House, London W.1.

Bush House

Feb 25th [1944]

My dear William,

This should be a long letter, but time forbids. I really must thank you at once for my lovely Christmas Present, which arrived yesterday – Vol. v, No.1 – in its full glory. I found it at Rook’s Nest when I got in last night, and it transformed a cold and dreary railway journey up again this morning, so that I was almost oblivious of the two addled beldames who [without mercy!][156] were screaming Yiddish at each other opposite me and welcomed into my morning thoughts two at least, of my favourite reviewers – Gerald Abraham[157] and Mosco Carner. [My brother] Ralph, rather blue at the nose, muffled in thickest Harris tweeds, looked at The Harmonia: Creator of the Modal system of Ancient Greek Music by your friend Kathleen S[chlesinger]. and said “My dear: if you take that in you will be learned” – so now will come the Test. You will soon see how I‘ve responded to it if, next time we meet, I am able to converse with great authority upon “the dissimilae tetra chords of two related Harmoniaie”! But if this should be too strong meat or I’m feeling particularly unintelligent I have only to turn over a few pages to find a delightfully fantastic Gulliver or an enchantingly illustrated chapter on Don Giovanni. It is a finely-produced and well worth while magazine and I shall look forward to & eagerly enjoy each number, never failing in my grateful thoughts each time, of your generosity and thoughtfulness in giving me such a truly good gift.

It comes at an appropriate time: the recent spell of nightly raids in London has been so tiresome that it has driven me to get out when possible. Working late one got caught and couldn’t get back or only with the greatest difficulty and anyway the loss of sleep is very exhausting, so I find a cold journey amply repaid by quiet and sleep in one’s own bed at the other end of the remaining hours – and when there is daylight or the black-out lamps are not too dingy, one can read in trains.

You have heard, haven’t you, that your Piano Quartet is due to be done in HS [BBC Home Service] by the London Belge [London Belgian Piano Quartet] in April (Monday 3rd 10.10 pm – a ‘good time’)? I am so glad. [Arthur] Bliss didn’t forget and something was done about it and I hope there will really be a worthy performance this time. Perhaps it might even bring you up to Town? – though I shouldn’t dream of coming if the raids are still on. London nightly is a highly unpleasant place just now. The London Library has been hit (thank goodness I had out the book on Spanish music!) and Chatham House, St James Theatre and Spink’s… How long will this mutual devilment have to last? I am getting so tired of the Lords, Bishops and the Pope on the subject of bombing Rome!

Did you hear the Hindermith Oboe Sonata (Léon Goossens[158]) HS [BBC Home Service] recently? It had such a beautiful clarity of line and fine logic – it was also a practically flawless performance – and in case you missed it or want the chance of hearing it again, I recorded it and am putting it out next Tuesday (20th) 10.30 am plus the Walter Leigh Trio[159], written when he was studying with Hindermith,

Nothing has been seen or heard of Norman [Fraser] since he got back. I had a message to ring the MM [?] to find him and Tom [Bromley]. But the situation is difficult with all N’s erstwhile friends over Janet and I wish N[orman] would try and make friends for her, not go out of his way to alienate them.

I must fly. I do hope you are all well and you progressing upon paper? Thank you again for The Musical Review. Mummy send her love. So do I.

Ever E

I have been rung up several times to supply ’Publicity Notes on WB’ [William Busch]! Having supplied such as I could I referred the enquiries back to you as regards the actual work to be playing, i.e. the Pf 4tet [Piano Quartet]. You may, by this time, have been badgered by them about this! If so, forgive me. But if not, perhaps you could send some notes on the work – when it was written etc., mentioning that I had asked you to do so – direct to Publicity Officer, C. B. Rees Esq., BBC, Rothwell House, New Cavendish Street, W.1.

(33) Rook’s Nest

April 12th [1944][160]

My dear William,

You are a very dear and forbearing and patient and long-suffering William (now grow a nimbus!) to be so understanding, when I can’t write letters, as not to give up writing them to me yourself. Please don’t let your saintliness ever be put off by my inadequacy for they are all an untold joy and come as lovely, tangible rays of light and life when I’m overwhelmed with machine-made pressure. It is stupid that one should be so overwhelmed but I console myself that it is part of the inevitable war and that even archangels, if they had physical form, could scarce withstand a robot. The last few months have been a fever pitch of pressure, whose conditions have been complicated by the renewed raids. Not real and compensating music, but its drabbier by-products: the endless recording of Invasion stuff, worker’s tunes and so forth, entailing the reiteration of some cheap and frightful 8 bars some hundreds of times for five hours on end, while it is recorded with words in every known European language – etcetera, etcetera. I know the arts must even be roped in to fight a war – but mein Gott! I shall never forget the meaning of music-as-propaganda. All the same, it needs a musician to deal with it. But to my sort, it is a rigorously penitential discipline!

So – in the midst of all this – it was good to know you had completed the W. W. Gibson[161] songs and have laid the foundations of a Violin Concerto. How very exciting!

I always feel that the setting of war poems is problematical, partly because though they are a fundamental alas! in our century, they are, too, by their nature, occasional; and unlike the eternal themes of poem and song, love, spring and the rest, the soldier’s cavalry is one too terrible at the time, to be turned to afterwards rather than more often, turned away from. But I don’t mean this should be in any way a deterrent from this creative expression. Indeed, it has a very definite place now and you must have felt it a powerful vessel for the emotional forces bred of the past 4 years.

I should be enormously interested to see them. But first send me The Lowest Trees[162] – for I love the words and it will be a gentle introduction. My fires are not out, but smouldering – a damp bonfire at present with empty tin cans on top.

Just after, in desperation at the letter situation at my end, I bade my secretary tap out to you on her typewriter, tante de mieux [so much the better], a message that I wasn’t dead, I was suddenly overtaken by violent ’flu [Saturday 1 April]. I thought I felt rather light-headed and put this down to natural fatigue and overwork when the Red X people took my temperature and said go straight to hospital. I firmly said no thanks, I’d got a private one built by rooks, and tapping their foreheads with the well-known gesture, they let me go. It turned gastric after awhile, so I’m still here. [Brother] Ralph, who had preceded me with ‘flu developed a guise of it which attacked the liver and has now turned to jaundice and means about 3 weeks in bed, the colour of Mr Gandhi crossed with a daffodil.

Meanwhile I’m being carefully watched for signs of yellow, but so far have not got beyond a gentle beige. Mummy has had much the worst of it, as she has nursed the whole thing day and night with no other help than fat Beatrice’s potterings below. Fortunately she has managed to keep well, so far. She is a darling and adorable and selfless nurse and finds time to go out and bring all the spring garden into my room, in little gardens of all the spring flowers planted in moss and jugs full of violets and daffodils.

And now it is too sickening that your quartet is to be done before I am likely to be able to come to the [National] Gallery and hear it. I am more sorry than I can say to miss this splendid chance of its public performance. But I do rejoice it is to take place – and – after the previous disappointment of its postponed broadcast, it is so good for the BBC!

I do hope it will be the sort of performance which will justify the work and you and the players. I can’t help feeling that the work must have grown and ripened a good bit in the players since they first played it – if so, the fruits will be manifest. How sad that Sheila can’t be with you – but I suppose it is hard for her to get away and that you wouldn’t risk Nicholas just now. May there be no raids and alarms while you are there. I am so relieved to hear you have found a house. It must be a huge relief to you. Will it be anywhere within reach of me?

Please give my love to any of our mutual friends you happen to see. Ilonka [Kabos] is supposed to be playing for me soon. Norman [Fraser] I haven’t seen for weeks and missed Janet’s concert. This is the first letter I’ve written and I haven’t written any others as I haven’t felt up to it. So forgive, once more all my failings and let me know soon all about you and your music and everything else that is of supreme interest. I adore you when you are catty! It is most inspiring to hear you hit out on occasion – and always with justice!! Myra Howard Ferguson Hess is about the size of it (there’s something undignified about it, isn’t it?) And why, in God’s name, do these extraordinary mortals, whether pianist, critic or ordinary dilettante, appoint themselves ‘composersand even get a hearing for their rubbish? There have been one or two astounding instances lately, most outstanding, the C. G[ray] ‘Opera’ which you so beautifully describe. I could not hear it, but can imagine – And when I tell you the story behind it, you’ll be even more astounded than to credit it, unless you had some cause to know the BBC a bit by this time![163]

This great opera I have known about for years; it was a standing joke in Philip’s time (Peter Warlock) when Gray was writing it, in and out of Philip’s house, and has been a bee buzzing in his bonnet ever since. A few weeks ago the wife of Julian Herbage (bearded nonentity[164], no 3 of the hierarchy of Music Home Service) left him and eloped with Gray. A preferable liaison one would have thought, would have been with the large white slug which he so resembles, whereupon the infuriated husband: Give me back my wife and I’ll put on your opera. But the laugh’s on the slug – The world heard the opera, but he has kept the wife! NOW go out and drown yourself! NO!! For they ain’t worth it and perhaps they won’t always have to control the musical destiny of Britain (Not if I can help prevent it anyway). As for Ralph Hill, he’s just a Fleet Street soak, tap-room savant, expert in none else but alcohol, filling the Radio Times columns to order with what he’s told.

Why, my dear William, there is enough here to put me in a perjurer’s cell for life. Be a discreet friend, won’t you and realise I don’t talk to everyone like this! But surely it’s a good sign. The bonfire isn’t as effective as I thought – indeed the tin cans on top rattle ominously in sign of volcanic eruption. It is a case for Bombardier Fireman Busch. The effort has exhausted me and I sink back prone, but not without a feeling of satisfaction

…and with a cela va sans dire [that goes without saying]

Much love



I’m so glad Sinclair Logan is doing some of your songs next month.

(34) Rook’s Nest, Stevenage, Herts.,

Sat April 22nd [1944]

My dear William,

It was so good to get your letter and so very sweet of you to send me the Cowper[165] book[166] and to telephone. Mummy expressed it when she said: “Dear William, it was lovely just to hear his voice – somehow he makes you feel everything’s all right” – a verdict reserved for few indeed and by no means what she usually feels about people on the ’phone, for her disarming and perpetual graciousness conceals fastidious predilection as strong, deep underneath! But we talked about you when she came up to my room to tell me about it and it was almost as if you were here. And it was especially nice to have a parting benediction from you on your way back and know that the previous day’s performance had gone off successfully. How successfully, I am longing to hear in detail and how you felt about it and who was there. I do hope Norman Peterkin was, as I had a letter from him that morning saying he was hoping to go. As for the book (I was so thrilled when I saw the Zwemmer [Bookshop, London] label!), you couldn’t have made a righter choice for I have loved it ever since I have known it, but never possessed it – an issue on which I have fought several winning battles with myself and then, paradoxically and irritatingly, felt the loser! For it is a book to have and I do so rejoice in the possession of it. That strange, happy and tragic story of the stricken Deer and Mary Unwin is surely one of the most poignant things ever recorded[167]. And the book is so much more than its recording, for its characters are framed into one of the best landscapes of certain aspects and implications of the 18th century that I know and all unfailingly done by that writer of exquisite English who gives me acute pleasure. Not long ago I was turning over in my mind the opening chapter, wishing I could have recourse to it again on some definite point and all but its atmosphere eluded me. But now I can browse to my heart’s content.

I hope you got home quite safely and not too tired and that you managed to avoid “pneumonia wagons” driven by army in substitute for buses, which the strike, adding to London’s difficulties, has imposed.

[Brother] Ralph had gone off for a week in Berkshire and was, Gott sei dank [thank God], nearly a normal colour by the time he left. I have no idea when I shall be allowed to go back, but I’m not worrying and am so thankful to be feeling better, with a spell of peace in which to do so, and my darling Nurse at hand, now able to relax a bit after her heroic labours.

Yes, it is delightful about Florence [Hooton], and should be a very happy thing for them. She amused me, when she first told me about it, by her characteristically practical standpoint saying “if you ever want me, I shall be going on, for the microphone, even when I have to drop concerts”. How aghast our grandmothers would have been!

How sweet of you to think of suggesting anything of mine for Sinclair L[ogan]. I’m sorry to have missed him when he rang my office. I fear the answer is that there isn’t much except one or two of the old ones, to which George Parker remains faithful, but they’re not the sort of things I write now, though I like them always when he sings them. The best is, I think, a little setting of a poem by W. B. Yeats. I will make a list overleaf:-

Maid Quiet [1925] Words W. B. Yeats F min

Ardan Mor [1927] Words by Francis Ledwidge (Irish) F min

In Youth is Pleasure [1927] 16th cent.anon., F maj

The Bellman’s Song [1925] ” ” D Flat

She is all so Slight [1942] Richard Aldington. E Flat

All Boosey and Hawkes

There might be one or more among them he might like. There is a great power of concentrated tragedy in the little Yeats’ and which still smites me. Ardan Mor wants a very delicate touch and is a thing of mist. In Youth is Pleasure and The Bellman’s Song are “typical baritone songs” which is probably why average baritones like them and they are straightforward and don’t present any problems of subtlety! Though there are some ungainliness in the piano writing which can be got over, which I certainly shouldn’t perpetuate today!

The last one on the list, comparatively more recent, was really an experiment and I don’t think quite comes off. A certain ecclesiasticism suggested by the words was uppermost in my mind but the declamatory style should be anything but au grand sérieux [too serious], which is probably why it fails with most singers – not as a rule, a race – gifted with subtlety of humour – though it is easy to blame them and the fault probably lies with me, for not making my intention clear.

The remedy in any case, would seem to be to write some proper new baritone songs, in the way I should do them now. But you know the present difficulties in the war! If any of the old ones, in the meanwhile, are liked for their own sake – and I find good in some – so much the better. Most of the rest I disown and these are among the best. I will look and see when I go downstairs, if I can find any copies to send, but have no idea if I still possess any. Anyhow, I think it’s very brave of me to say anything about them to you – but whatever your judgement (which, however, I welcome and don’t fear more than I do my own present one!) there may at least be, to anyone who knows one personally, some slight antiquarian interest in seeing the very beginning of things and the dawning of the very young, young Lisa (I was only 17 when I wrote the earliest things printed!). In those days Boosey and Hawkes were a very different firm, having for their guide and mentor a charming man, who long since, having battles continuously with their rising commercialistic opportunism, took himself off to America. He had [Norman] Peterkin’s happy blend of shrewd perception and good business acumen. He was a friend of Warlock, Ireland, Walton and the younger generation of newcomers, like myself, to whom his wise encouragement and advice were of unfailing help. Alas! For the reversal of his policy by his successors. But we need to be all the more thankful that in such a materialistic and hard-boiled world as the music-publishing, there is still [Norman] Peterkin, for truly there is not such another. He shall have my own specially awarded halo for evermore, for seeing the significance of your Blake songs. I look forward to playing him the cello recordings as soon as I am back and you must hear them too. I am so glad you are coming back soon, in early May. I do hope you won’t all be quite dead with house-moving.

With my love to all the Busches and specially, with so many thanks to you.


(35) Rook’s Nest

May 6th [1944][168]

My dear William,

This pencil is no sign of invalidity, but only that I’m recumbent – a position of which I find a pencil laziest and preferable. Also, if I did put ink upon my nice clean bed, I should doubtless never get it out, since cleaners, we are told, are the next bit of civilisation to be curtailed to us almost to the point of disappearance. How dirty we shall all become in our outer garments! I personally shall aim at the more colourful dirt of sunny countries, as one can at least be picturesque, but the drab, uncoloured dirt of British middle classes is a sorry prospect!

It was sweet of you to send me the two songs, I was thrilled. I haven’t yet taken them to the piano, but only read them away from it, nor have I yet thanked you for them, as these days have been given up to peregrinations to and from my office (with some necessary intervals of recumbence to prepare for the next time) where I felt I must hasten and assume such direction as possible, as me [sic] senior secretary is away ill.

Within the next few days I shall hope to become really acquainted with the songs, before seeing you. It was good of you to make copies – I know the labour of this. The Mary Coleridge[169] words seem to me a perfect choice of poem: in fact in both the concentration, the crystallisation of the lyrical idea is there, needful to one’s demands for setting. They each have the fundamental expression: I mean the beautiful directness and simplicity of the actual statement, with its overtones of evocation, without any of the training or diffuseness of the moderns. It is these most essential qualities to the song writer which drives us back, I believe with satisfaction to the Elizabethans & Blake and the romantics. Whatever the Spenders[170], Audens[171] and Eliot[172] do, they do not seem likely to contribute to the inspiration of song-writers – and pray God, there will remain some song-writers unwarped by the prevalent over-complications.

You asked me a little while ago about contemporary writing, such as is to be found in [the magazine] Horizon. I’m afraid my own feeling about that particular periodical is that although there are things of interest, these are all too often overlaid by the just-not-good-enough. I find I simply can’t accept much of the poetry as good poetry, though this may be something wrong with me! Among the more-published contemporary poets I find, in the same way, interest and sometimes stimulation, but little real pleasure. I did find quite a degree of pleasure in such verse as I have read of Anne Ridler[173]: she is a real and spontaneous poet, it seems to me, unafraid of the power of her own emotions. But as these, up to date, have been mainly of happy marriage and childbirth, I should rather like to see what she could do beyond them. The very opposite is the case with my friend Ruth Pitter, whose experience somehow started beyond and never got back to or included the basic female emotions (she admits it as her own tragedy). There is something exceptionally strong here, but also sad and unfulfilled. I have heard, by the way, the other day, that the poem of hers [The Church Mouse][174], I recorded and broadcast at Christmas, is one of the 6 chosen from the year for preservation for the permanent archives of the BBC. An odd thought and savouring of mortality, that one’s voice should be preserved long after it is forever silent! How much more interesting the Past will be to future generations, who will hear Churchill and Hitler. I should so love to hear Blake and Charlotte Bronte and Napoleon. And yet …we are free to imagine as perhaps the future people never will, they will know so tiresomely much more and see each other with that Beastly television!

I have not seen Norman Peterkin yet, but hope to do so within the next few days. As he is interested in the cello pieces, I think he is probably right about giving them next preference for publication [by OUP], in that it is best for you that you should be known all round. (And there is a demand for short concert cello pieces). The Miss Hamill you mention is the sort of senior secretary person of the organisation within the BBC known as the L.T.S. (London Transcription Service) which records things for overseas, mainly with a view to helping stock the record-files of Empire stations etc., who want to include speeches, plays and music from this country. I’m delighted N. America is to have your Tarantelle as played by Florence [Hooton]. The accompanist who played the piano part is unknown to me.

I know just your feeling of difficulty on the indication of pedalling, with special reference to L’Oiseau Bleu [The Blue Bird]. It is a problem, and I personally have never found a way of surmounting it by indication in print. For one thing, the necessity of the way of pedalling is so inherent in oneself and so much a matter of instinct, that it is very difficult to say and to put on paper, just what one does do, – I’ve tried! I have no doubt that any rigid academician would hold this to be all wrong, and would trot out one of those detailed manual of Use of the Pedal in Pianoforte Playing and put unsightly and disfiguring gashes and forked lightening beneath each line – as you find in the editions of the Matthay[175] publications (vide the old Anglo-French things) and yet, in the end leave one worried but not much wiser. I think all one can do is an occasional indication where any more obvious misapprehension can be obviated, I trust, for the rest, to the discernment of the pianist – though God knows, it is taking a lot on trust!

I think this particular problem belongs to all your songs, not only L’Oiseau Bleu. I know that in the earliest days of my own acquaintance with them, when I first met and so loved Rest, that the whole question of its pedalling – the washes of sound necessary to the arpeggio passages and the crystal-clear outline of the rest in contrast, was the first inadequacy that struck me about the performances I heard, and the first cause that I must make it heard again and do it the way I felt! But how to infuse this extremely delicate source of pedal into those who haven’t got it, I don’t know, as it is tremendously subtle, and a special artistic perception on its own, I believe.

I used the term ‘céder’ (knowingly, quite out of its place!) in the Gentle Shepherd[176], as there is no other which conveys, with the French minuteness of meaning, just the implication[177]. The April Musical Times has gone into gentle ecstasies – for it – over this little song. But I don’t take no notice [sic], to quote a favourite expression of Thomas-in-the-garden, for praise or blame are unlike as illogical as fitful from these gentlemen of the press, and one ought to cultivate a Buddhistic imperviousness to all of the nonsense alike!

There is an excellent chapter Where Musical Criticism goes Astray in Ethel Smyth’s book Female Pipings in Eden[178], where she lays her finger on salient points. I should like to tell her how much I agree, but alas! Poor dear, she is 86 and stone deaf[179].

The BBC has a series of broadcast talks going out in its Eastern Service (in which E. M. Forster takes part regularly) directed to women in India, to their emancipation. Illustrious women broadcast fortnightly on their own kind, Mrs Churchill[180], Lady Astor[181], an airwoman on Amy Johnson[182], a woman’s specialist on Dr Garrett Anderson[183] etc., etc. And to my great surprise I found myself included, being invited to contribute a talk on Dame E.S. [Ethel Smythe[184]]. And although feminism would scarcely be my chosen subject, this one is certainly after my own heart in providing a theme of vitality and humour. Incidentally, I have always admired her very much and reading around and about the subject, its bye-ways and companions, I realise afresh how much we, now, owe to these pioneers – the imbued, the possessed, the masterful, violent, single-minded ones who braved much unpopularity to remove obstacles from our path. At the same time, it makes one ashamed! For there is no doubt as another good woman writer has remarked recently, that a woman, by her very nature, was not created, as a man is, to be so inevitably whole. In other words, her life is normally composed by the disturbances of the physical creator, – a factor which or inevitably militates against her concentration as an artist, and there is something rather terrifying in the way such women as Florence Nightingale[185] and Ethel Smyth threw all feminine impediments aside – and to such a renegade as me, something a bit unnatural as well! So I don’t think I’m the best advocate on this subject! Though I can extract plenty of fun in doing it, in the way of a journalist or essayist provided with a live and controversial subject.

A wave of variegated broadcasts seems to have swept over me for the coming week. On Tuesday (9th) in the Children’s Hour Home Service at 5.30, I am talking, for a few minutes at their request, on a funny and rather boring little book of pieces by Poldini[186] – to make anything of which is an endeavour rather of bricks without straw! They also, to my distress, have chosen in Henry Bronkhurst[187], an execrable pianist, who usually slams through with packets of wrong notes. However, I’m only doing it because they (C’s H) [Children’s Hour] are friendly people and in future I shall try and make my own suggestions first.

The nicest programme of all – really one of my own pets, is due on Sunday May 14th in the European Service, 10.30-11.00 am and you must try and listen. Like a good sparrow, I have been some 6 months or more collecting the wisps of material choosing and sifting, for a half hour of Nursery Rhymes from many countries. They are a most delicious, fascinating and touching side of the world’s folk-literature and enthralling as musical geography. There is no mistaking, in a few bars of its own tune, the golden Anglo-Saxon child under its grey skies, in a green lane with a wind blowing – and its fellow, in the self same words, to a tune that leaves you in no doubt, but is full at once of black hair and brown eyes and a southern landscape of sun and dust and clear, brilliant colours (Two of the Italian ones will be in it)[188].

The programme, moreover, is an amusing game of guess-the-singer, as a number of good ones have contributed little bits (including René [Soames]) and I’m completing the last recordings this week. I have arranged a great part of the songs myself, and in addition to having done the playing, am doing the talking, so it’s pretty near a One-man-band and if Mr Eisenhower interferes with it by having his invasion before then, I’ll have his blood[189]. To complete the week’s list, George Parker, as you many have noticed, is singing In Youth in Pleasure[190] on Wednesday (10th) in the Home Service, 12 midday and you may be interested to hear what this early effort sounds like, de facto! [in reality].

My last few days of freedom here were spent not in composing, but practising – in an almost desperate effort to pick up big works necessarily untouched otherwise. Heartrending too – because of the dormant powers which nothing but months of finger-loosening will bring into play again, and the hopeful consciousness that some technique and powers are there, but must yet be denied.

In spite of everything – the things I find interesting about it and those I could [find] worthwhile, I have never returned to the London work with such reluctance and such a dragging. Part of it is, I’m afraid, the long toll of physical reserves now nearly spent and the consequent sense of effort which threatens to dull and diminish the mind’s eye and the spirit’s eye, simply from a force majeur [circumstance outside one’s control] for one can’t really help. And the rest is, I acknowledge it quite frankly, almost desperate longing for one’s own work again and the pent-up ache of years for the expression which has had to be laid aside and the fears going by and going by meanwhile. Ah, well, among all the platitudes handed out of recent time, the one that the last lap is the hardest, is perhaps uncomfortably true. And even the last lap can’t last for ever!

It is lovely to think of seeing you so soon. You will be able to stay over and come to your quartet at Bush House (16th) won’t you? That was a fortunate quick stroke of diplomacy-cum-jugglery, when on learning that you were to come up for the forthcoming Contemporary Music concert, I managed to juggle round programmes so that your work, which was destined for a little later, should coincide with you!

I can quite truthfully say that of all the works known to me on the concert programme, none but those by WB [William Busch] hold much interest for me (I except the [Arthur] Bliss songs, which I like). The opening doleful meditation of Alan B[ush], certainly doesn’t and I find it most dreary![191] It seems over-modest that WB should be in smaller print, ‘At The Piano’ (an expression I always find somehow rather drawing-room!) in contradistinction to the red-headed Miss Sellick[192], in whose place I had much rather see him. NB: This is really not Busch-bias, as Phyllis S[ellick] as a pianist is one of those I find purely negative: to me, she is all that is competent, but nothing that means anything, and I go to sleep or think far-away and enjoyable thoughts.

One of these alternatives – or both – seems a good idea now, if only because it is late and you have had enough scribbling to plough through. It seems so funny to be writing to “Strathaden” (have you a tartan front door?). I do hope you are not all quite overcome with the fatigue and bother of the move, which must have been awful – or latter, both. I should have said, as you and Sheila had the burden and Nicholas even probably enjoyed it! Is the new house nice for him? But I shall hear this and all else very soon when I see you and I so look forward to it. Then we’ll have all your new songs, won’t we – with you to make the unindictable pedal parts just what they should be!

With much love


I meant to say how greatly I enjoyed the story of you and the old lady at the Nat[ional]Gallery! A pure jewel. I feel so glad for the poor old dear that it was you she made the lovely remark to and not one of the fierce composers who would have bitten her! How disappointing that the Belges [London Belgian Piano Quartet] didn’t do better. They ought to have rehearsed the work in the [National] Gallery; it does help to deal with its very queer acoustics.

(36) Monday: May 22nd [1944][193]

My dear William,

It was so sweet of you to write me that dear little note when you got back that night, it greeted me when I got home. My instinct was to do just the same, (thought I couldn’t have caught you before you left) for after a very happy time with someone special (speshal as A. A. Milne’s spelling)[194] with things shared and loved, one seeks in some way to extend the hours that have sped and feels: oh don’t let’s leave off!

But it is only the tiresome wartime conditions of work and travel etc., which make that necessary and the joyful thing is that one can always say: well, it is to be continued.

It was so sweet of you to fetch me away to the quiet and greenery of Finchley and look after me and feed me (that was the most delectable lettuce ever – its [?] literally green!!) and then perform the feat of piloting me to Golders’ Green and Maida Vale [London]! It was such fun to have you there for [William] Klenz’s recording[195] and to meet [accompanist] John [Hills]. They both loved you. WK [William Klenz], who is very much alive, as you saw, knew all about you – he mentioned at once the Cello Concerto, which unfortunately, he had not been free to hear – so he was doubly interested. I have told him I will get out the recording for him, if there is an opportunity – you see my Private Archives come in very useful!

They were so, again, for Norman Peterkin, who studied the cello pieces intently with score (on Friday) and I think was confirmed in his first opinion. He was very impressed with your piano playing. So incidentally am I, as it comes out very particularly well on that set of records. It also does on those I’ve tried of the latest song set. I played P[eterkin] the two new soldier ones – [Sinclair] Logan’s diction is impeccable, though we both agreed it is a pity there isn’t a little more voice. I expect P[eterkin] will now write and ask you for the W. Gibson settings. I feel I am being a pest, but I should live more happily if you could make me a copy of [your] The Promise, as I can scarcely live without it.

There is no hurry about the v and vla [Violin & Viola] work but I’ll look forward to having it when you can retrieve one of the copies. I think we could make a bid for the really good performance we want, without treading on the toes of either David [Martin] or [Maurice] Raskin[196], which I should hate to do! I don’t know how good Raskin is on his own – he has asked me to lunch before a concert at the Belgian Institute[197], so perhaps I shall have a chance to find out.

I’m glad you liked William K’s [Klenz’s] little Sonatina, I like its freshness and independence and its clean shape and line. He may be called away to fight any day, and I want to try and get it recorded, so, as no copyist would undertake it in the time, I spent most of the weekend at home making a copy myself which is the reason for this illegible scribble written in the tram on the way to work. The copy is now done and is being photographed by the American Army. They sure do get things done!

I do hope you accomplished your journey with the minimum of crush and fatigue and found all well with Sheila and Nicholas. Much love to them both, specially to you and come again soon.

Sempre [Always]


Norman Peterkin has such a nice wife [Marie née Lang]. She is small and slight with a charm of looks, appealingly, almost girlish, though I don’t think she can be so very much younger than me.

I do want to emphasise what I hope you‘re already sure of! – that I’d never try and influence him about any work of yours about which he wants to form his own opinion, other than to help the process by any quite objective aid one can give, e.g. in playing over. Not that I think he is the sort of person who would be influenced as he is exceptionally strong-minded and independent in his judgements. But in the case of things, like the cello pieces, it is really essential to hear as it’s impossible to get all the final effects on paper.

(37) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Wed: [31 May or 7 June or 14 June, 1944][198]

My dear William,

A note from me awaiting my (unwilling) resurrection and Mitgefühl [sense of emotion] which simply couldn’t have arrived at a better moment, have done much to dissipate something of the prison-shade descending irrevocably after a weekend of perfect heaven – a heaven which I confess, consisted largely of sleep, but none the less welcome for that, and sleep – by day – among buttercups, may-blossom, birdsong and the first roses, a dream, whether one’s eyes were open or not. Really it was much too lovely to do anything, even compose or practice, except in the mildest way. All my natural languor and Southern fainéant [lazybones] comes uppermost and after the hurly-burly of life up here, it is gorgeous to do nothing! Coals of fire were also heaped upon my already-singing head, by the fact that you had so sweetly given yourself all the labour of making an extra copy of The Promise just because I wanted it! It was so lovely to have it, with 3 whole days in which to play it. And you might perhaps feel recompensed if you knew what exquisite pleasure it gives me – no, hardly even pleasure, which isn’t really the right word for that particular emotion, which is pain linked with satisfaction: the satisfaction of the Final word uttered upon a fundamental subject. I do feel you have uttered it here: that returning lambs’ cry and the final 7th drop are something already become a part of me – and of anyone’s music, one can’t say more.

I do hope you haven’t been too hard at work over Whitsun on the Passacaglia copying? I do hope results will compensate and I’m so looking forward to getting something “in hand”. What do you think about having Eda Kersey [violin] and Winifred Copperwheat[199] [viola]? I’m inclined to them as my 1st choice, rather than, say [Frederick] Grinke [violin] and [Watson] Forbes [viola]? Let me know how you feel about it – which is most important. It is most thoughtful and advisable in a work of this nature to make score-parts for each player, as I think it would be impossible for them to get a thorough grip of the work without each seeing what the other is doing. Thank you so much – I see your quartet (LB) [London Belgian Piano Quartet] on H.S. [Home Service] is 3.30- 4.10 pm June 16th. What a b____ silly time! But just better than none. You’ll be coming won’t you? That’s a lovely thought. My love to you all

Sempre [Always]


(38) Bush House:

[Tuesday] June 27th [1944][200]

My dear William,

It was a joy to find your letter at home late last night. My remissness piles up on my head and you are the most good and forbearing of friends. You have been, as ever, in my thoughts, but I was unable to translate them on to paper.

I spent the morning with the Belgians (London ones) [London Belgian Piano Quartet] who all came here, armed with your score, to hear a playback of your quartet. Flying beetles [‘Doodle-Bugs’] were exploding all around and in our cavern 2 floors below ground, the music came to us through the thuds and earth-tremors in deafening reiterations of alarm bells and buzzers, and flashings of Mephistophelian red and blue lights. Only one of us could lay claim to any sleep last night and little more the succeeding nights so the session was disappointingly unproductive of Great Thoughts. One exists, rather than lives, in a haze or a glaze of fatigue. No, daze, I think, is the right word! But some day there will be quiet and safety and normalness again and not this queer sensation of being a Martian lost on a strange Mars.

Alas, through a hostile mass of circumstances, I was unable, in spite of desperate attempts, to get to a set in time to hear the H.S. [BBC Home Service] performance of your work – but your account rather bears out what I gathered from the players themselves. It was unfortunate they [the London Belgian Piano Quartet] had a [National] Gallery concert on the same day [Friday 16 June] – it must certainly have added to general fatigue, though I hope that on the whole, the work was better heard then than not? Even if this is but a tepid measure. It is damnable how plans and arrangements are dogged at present by devilish circumstances – which is, of course, just what the dear Führer [Adolf Hitler] wants! May his triumph be short lived. I have had almost no time to recollect my thoughts in music at the piano – weekends have telescoped if not vanished: since the invasion, Ralph [Elizabeth’s brother] works in his office all Sunday as well, and I have been on extra jobs in Bedford etc., getting home, if at all, at late hours of the night. But on one of these recent nights I perused and loved your new cello piece. And thereby hangs a tale – for the piece was apparently telepathic and a direct answer to prayer!

When William Klenz was in here one night, I played him the discs of your cello pieces as played by you and Florence [Hooton]. He listened intently and with apt comment, and at the end, after praise of both work and performance, he said ‘but it still isn’t our work’. I said, no, as that, after all, was its raison d’etre [justification] and that though in no way anyone’s artistic ‘copyright’ the pieces were written round Florence’s personality. He had meant, of course, that that was neither his nor mine – a direct, and at the same time, a subtle remark characteristic of his mind. Here – I said, though is something with which I feel myself strangely and compellingly identified – and I played him The Promise and from the at first unspoken wish that we had a cello piece of yours came the spoken one – And the next thing was A Memory aptly christened, indeed, for you have caught much significance, in fact the whole, in that title. Although one’s first strong impulse toward the song was conditioned by those few poignant words which gave it being, I just like to think that they remain a private significance (for me at least) in the cello setting. A memory it will always be – not only of this climax war-spring of beauty and tragedy, but one of those days, as if part of the same allegory, which was an oasis in the desert, a withdrawing and peace in the midst of crush and turbulence. When I escaped to your piano in Finchley for a few hours and was happily and carefree, piloted through the mazes of Golders Green to the wilds of Maida Vale. And let us not forget how intermingled are spirit and body – for A Memory includes the King & Prince of Apotheosis of all Green Salads!!

It seems to me that the piece in cello adaptation is not only justified but entirely successful. You have kept both line and content: the dialogue between the two instruments well becomes them both and in treatment at the end (piano part mainly) is a gain, I think, in a certain atmospheric softening of the outline – a dwelling on the meditation which brings it to a close in a lovely serenity. I am now only awaiting the opportunity to try it over with cello, which I will do the next time WK [William Klenz] can get some free hours. Do you remember that he mentioned a Te Deum of his that evening in the studio – rather casually? I got hold of the MSS in the end and, discovering only then that the BBC had had it for a year or so, with the usual mortuary results. This was harder to realise when I looked at the work, which is a thing of unique beauty and force. I had it recorded (chorus and brass) within a week and secured it not only for use as representing USA at the Armistice but permanently for the Corporation’s archives – Where you can hear it for yourself, next time you come, that will be better than any attempt of mine to describe it. There is no doubt left that there is in the world here and now, something stronger than all bombs. All evil, when a young musician who comes as a soldier from the other side of the world, knowingly for worse rather than for better, has the vision which leads him to put down upon paper in the distractions and hubbub of camp, a Thanksgiving intended for the End… This, in itself, however praiseworthy the intention, would not be enough. But the workmanship is so good, the quality of sustained inspiration so fine, that this will live – and survive a BBC morgue for even 10 years. Let us take courage at the thought and not be put off by them from what lies within us. How distressing it is that the USA should be such a mixed blessing (not to say an unrelieved cause) when they are let loose with army bands! You don’t think it will influence your style in the manner of Sousa[201], do you? I don’t wonder that you concentrate on work in the morning, when they are yet silent, rather than bother about European programmes, which, though they continue, are at present nothing much to write home about, and subject to the many special exigencies thrust upon us – interruptions by communiqués and consequent resort to martial gramophone records etc. Not my soul’s chosen lifework or a headache anyhow, but simply one of the necessities of the moment. I will try to let you know if there’s anything of special interest to look out for.

I am still waiting for an answer from Eda Kersey about your violin and viola work – her slowness being, I suspect, due to the fact that she has just got the Samuel Barker[202] Violin Concerto off her chest at the Proms. If word is not forthcoming within a day or two, I will hurry her up, as till something is fixed, the songs must be kept waiting. Shortly before this nasty bombing got under way, I went to Ilonka’s [Kabos] ‘house-warming’ at the new flat – and lots of people there – a good many Hungarians and I hardly knew anybody. But it was good to see her looking so well and happy and festive. She seamed better altogether and to be so hopefully at the outset of a new and better life – and her mother is well again and about. I so do hope they will be safe now and that nothing will happen to the house. It seemed miraculous to see anything looking so trim and festive and un-war-time-ish! I am hoping very much to do something about her and engagements in [BBC] Home Service – though I have said little to her on the subject yet awhile.

Mummy would send her love – so I send it for her. She says ‘Dear William’ musingly and lovingly whenever you are mentioned. E. M. Forster is coming down this week [on 28 June]. I wish you could be there too. But someday you must be, together. Give my best love to Sheila and Nicholas (“cutter grasser” is a very nice name) and keep for yourself your own permanent and special reservation.


I’m sorry this is so wobbly and messy but bombs and fire engines and ambulances have been going on all the time![203]

(39) 35 Marylebone High Street. W.1[204]

Monday: July 17th 1944

My dear William,

  • Your little note about Eda Kersey has just come. How sweet of you. Your tribute is so fine that one grieves that she can’t hear it. She and Ida Haendel [violinist] (who will now step in to as many as possible of the vacancies) were of different worlds. I have never had any use for I.H. [Ida Haendel] or her kind – and all that was anathema to Eda, to whom a self advancing or self-glorifying thought was, I think, impossible. I didn’t know her very well because I was never thrown with her for long at a time and met her mainly professionally. But it was impossible not to like and admire all one found: as a person, she was so sane and balanced and magnificently common-sense – so that one could say and meaning it as a tribute, ‘You’d never believe she was a famous violinist’. I do agree with you in admiring her all roundness. There was never the attitude of fishing for concertos and scorning chamber works. How badly we need many more of this type. The Harold-Holt-Star System[205] is as big and vulgar a menace as Hollywood.

Eda nearly always wrote to me in her own hand, and when there was a delay over the Passacaglia, I sent off a line to find out the prospects. Just simultaneously, I learnt from a mutual acquaintance that she wasn’t feeling well and was going to take a short rest. (I had but that morning listened to a play-back of her playing the Samuel Barber Concerto at the Proms) Then her sister wrote saying ‘She would love to play William Busch’s work – she is not well now, but hopes to be quite well very soon.’ The wording impressed itself on my mind at the time. The Doctor found cancer, and it was the matter of a day or two. I wonder if they knew at the time? It does seem too dreadfully sad and has cast a sadness all over the musical world[206]. How very nice and comforting to think of all the Busches, 1, 11, 111 and 1V!

Much love,


(40) The British Broadcasting Corporation.

Bush House

[After 17 July & before 12 August, 1944, based on Poston Pocket Diary entries]

My dear William,

Out of even bombs good may come indirectly. The renewed desire for First Aiders had temporarily removed my secretariat to the Red X alas, leaving me in solitary possession of my office with none of the telephones ringing! Such a chance cannot be missed, even if it is but brief – and so I seize it for an attempt at the letter so long overdue.

First of all: news of the Passacaglia. It is ‘in hand’ – i.e. if not yet netted, at least one stage further from the bush (Achtung! [Attention!] Puns!) and is in rehearsal for pre-recording, with Frederick Grinke and Watson Forbes, There were other possibilities but on all counts and taking in every consideration, I decided on these two players as the most satisfactory available choice. The main question, of course, is one of ensemble and also involves the necessary condition of musicianship to contribute to it. Both rule out [Max] Rostal, in my opinion, who cares only to be a soloist, i.e. with piano. In present circumstances it seems to me imperative to have for this work two artists of balanced understanding and used to working together (sorry – both phones rang!) Olive Z[207] and Winifred Copperwheat [viola] would have fulfilled this, but Olive could promise nothing for so long that I was disinclined to continue waiting on indefinitely. Grinke and Forbes are interested and like the work. Their workmanship is always reliable. What is required in addition, I hope they will bring to the music. In any case, I am sure I could not have done better and I do hope you will feel the choice reasonably justified. I have planned ‘your’ programme, all being well, for Thursday Sept 21st (European [BBC Service] 10.30-11.00 am) with the Sinclair Logan recordings you did, so may the Low [BBC Long Wave] send you clear listening conditions.

There is another reason too, worth consideration in choice of artists – and this is the work’s future. It should be as well as anywhere with these two, who stand well and are enterprising and musically ‘mobile’ and as the London Belges [London Belgian Piano Quartet] have had one good innings with your work, it is good, I think, to farm it out for performance where the circle will grow, with the chance of new and widening contacts. (This is the sort of thing the BBC ought always to consider with composers and so seldom do!)

I’m the proud possessor of two new Chester publications of yours, with the Blake songs as well as The Centaurs – and it is a great satisfaction to see them in print. Greater[?] in fact, than as to format: could you prevail on Gibson not to put ‘Vocal’ on the cover? A form of the commercial obvious which offends the artistic soul. But then, of course, he hasn’t one! The outside of any piece of music does matter a great deal and [Norman] Peterkin alone has kept flying the flag, throughout the war years, of disinterested artistic production. The OUP is almost unique in this – and how worth while. It will be a great day when William Busch comes out under that fine hall-mark!

I’m glad Olive Z[orian] delivered my message. I like your capacity as Direma[?], finding the un-findable in the way of accommodation in Woolacombe [Devon] for the romantically-inclined!! Yes, I think she and John Amis[208] are getting, or rather, have got off. She is a sweet character and gifted and I could have wished it otherwise. But there: it’s her choice! I have never yet had time to thank you for being so good as to write to Ralph [Elizabeth’s brother] about his. It was no surprise to us, if equally no particular joy. But his career has been sufficiently Adventurous for our commonsense to come uppermost and be thankful it is no worse – though for one’s nearest and dearest, one would hardly be human if one did not crave cause for a more jubilantly positive attitude! How wonderful it is – in a problematic world – to feel Positive about any two people thus joined. You and Sheila have done that great thing for your friends, and I among them should crown you with laurels, though I wish I could be of more practical help and save your household from over-many requesting friends, crying children and German measles. I do hope most of these have departed and that you are surviving?

My phones have started an angry clamour – so I must leave you with my blessing and much love


P.S. Wed – Sept 20th is my Big Day – looming – Keep a look-out for Parsonage in the Hesparides.[209] Home Service ‘Star’ programme of the week (I hope it is!) 9.35 pm following 9 o’clock news and war report. Does this give you a clue? (a bit like a Crossword Puzzle!)

(41) Bush House

Friday [between 8 and 12 August, 1944][210]

My dear William,

I just can’t get this letter written and you’re at least 3 up on me and two songs!! I loved them all and do congratulate you on the advent of The Centaurs and two Blake settings. It is really thrilling to see them in print! That intrusive G, by the way, 3 bars from end, in R[ight] hand of accompaniment in Gentle Stour [211]is most unfortunately a type-setter’s error and should of course read F. [Norman] Peterkin [OUP] is having it corrected as well as may be in subsequent issue. I’m so pleased you like the rearrangement and feel the ‘balance’ is justly preserved. No news yet about your Passacaglia, but I hope there soon will be. It is too stupid that you are not to play the piano parts yourself of the songs to be recorded. IN WON’T DO! But that Society for the Promotion of Bad Composers has only got you into its brew by accident and I’m relieved (and surprised) if any good comes out of evil in cette galère! [this hell-hole].

I’ve been very busy and it’s very hot, and this is only just a makeshift till I can write properly. That bomb[212] left weeks of dis-organisation and extra fatigues in its train and I am at present short of one secretary. See Children’s Hour, Home Service, Mon[day] next 14th 5.20 pm and listen if you can – it will be nice. And give my love to Olive Zorian whom I envy seeing you so soon.

Ever much love to you

(42) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Bush House

[between 31 August & 20 September 1944][213]

My dear William,

How sweet of you to write before you left. It was so good to get your letter and all your kind thoughts which will follow me as I go about the work in Progress.

I do so hope you went back with a happy and flowing feeling of something truly well accomplished – as indeed you should, for the performances of your Cello Pieces at the [National] Gallery left nothing to be desired. Really, it was one of the best performances anywhere of anything I’ve ever heard. Each of the pieces stood out with memorable clarity, individually and in sequence and your piano playing was a joy. The ensemble was lovely and thoroughly acoustically good where I sat. It was marvellous to sit back for once, and give oneself up to sheer enjoyment, without any distractions, even subconscious, of time, place or technicalities, which normally so beset music in a broadcasting sense!

I wish Sheila had been there to share in the triumph of the occasion, but the time will not be long, hoffantlich, [it is to be hoped] till she does. It was a good audience wasn’t it? (I didn’t see anyone asleep during your pieces or eating sandwiches!) I was so sorry that the time we had planned to spend together suffered interruption. I am, as you say, well surrounded and it is likely to happen at any time – myself being a more or less powerless agent! (– How wonderful and unbelievable – to be a free one ever again!) It is grand to know that Next Time is no farther off than next month – and then we must hope for better luck.

It was nice you could just hear the Passacaglia recording and give your approval. The other copy will be used for transmission. The mishap with the needle proved a faulty turntable, which I had put right at once, so no further harm was done. I do hope you will be able to hear the broadcast reasonably clearly.

I have enquired about the MCPS (Mechanical Composers!) [Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society] which is a good thing for you to join whether you are being recorded commercially or by BBC because both should bring you in rights. Copyright Section of BBC (who are awfully efficient and infallible – they have to be!) tell me that you are fully covered automatically, by routine, by them with the MCPS. Full details go from this office of every recording, which is then passed on to MCPS and regularly checked. They expressed surprise that MCPS should ask you for such information, when it all goes to them regularly and when it is their job to inform you of what works of yours have been recorded. So I should let them do their own work! Anyhow it is all in order.

One more copyright query – from this end this time: to have to make a return of the poems used in any broadcast: The Soldier cannot be located in the only collection of [W. W.] Gibson’s work in our library. Please could you send me a copy of this poem in its entirety, when you are able to and details of the volume you took it from. No hurry, if, as I expect, you can’t get at the book while you are away. On your return will do. I’m sorry to bother – but as I don’t happen to possess this poem, nor your MS of the song, I can’t help.[214]

Bill Klenz (who is due for the continent at any moment) was stricken with dismay after you had gone and said that owing to his hectic and ‘secret’ existence (their camp, wherever it has been, has been uprooted in the past week, ready to cross) he hadn’t yet written and that when he saw you he had felt unable to express anything about your cello piece (A Memory) and wanted to, without making any headway. He is a strange creature, shy and reserved behind the façade. He said “Oh don’t let him think … I don’t want him to think” – so I said “He won’t! He understands much too well” I am right, dear William, am I not?

With much love and from my dear mother

From your

Great friend


I hope the many little bedside bits of Abinger Harvest[215] will make good holiday reading in your Sweet Retreat, and that you will have a lovely and peaceful and well-fed time!


(43) Bush House,

Tues: Sept 5th [1944][216]

My dear William,

So very many thanks for your most welcome letter received last night. I must be brief: You must admit that I’m disinterested if I even seem to dissuade you – but think well before you decide to come up for the 14th, even for the Cello Pieces at the [National] Gallery. The papers may tell you flying bombs are over, but they’re not and any treachery, I have no doubt, and in many variable forms, will go on till nearer the End than now. E.g. After some 72 hours full of false security there was a bad outbreak in the small hours of the morning today. Howard’s End [i.e. Rooks Nest House, Stevenage] and its sleeping inhabitants were nearly removed!! I am not in the least alarmist, as I think you know, but I’m wondering if the risk to you, especially for Sheila just now is worth considering. Two purely practical considerations may weigh: – (1) The Gallery Concerts at present are being carried on under the worst possible conditions; they are trying for the audience, and quite awful for the performers. They have gone back ‘underground’, which is underground only in name, as they are on street level instead of up one storey, as before, under the dome and yet doubly underground in the sense of a completely asphyxiating atmosphere with almost no ventilation and quite superb discomfort for all concerned. Add to which there is no platform: nobody in the audience, except those in the first few rows can see the performers, especially if they perform sitting down – and except for the fact that the concerts are carrying on, the circumstances are about as unsatisfactory as they could be. (2) Is that the recording of the Passacaglia has already taken place[217]. Owing to the news, – which may have reached you – of the impending departure of the RAF [Royal Air Force] musicians to the Continent, I decided to run no risks of further postponement. [Frederick] Grinke, [Watson] Forbes and co., are more than full with last-minute jobs and as they had got the piece ready, I booked the session quickly and got it done. So you would not, in this case, be required for a rehearsal. I am being fiercely realistic about your contemplated trip to Town, as you see – and of course don’t want to influence you unduly. Florence [Hooton] would love to have you to play – but as Gerald Moore [piano] is available, he at least could do the pieces justice this time and I feel sure there would be a chance for you later on. Think about it.

The Passacaglia sounded well, by the time we had finished with it, but gave a bit of trouble, owing to the writing – I’m being frank, as you would wish! And the credit goes to the extremely competent pair who made it come off. I’m afraid we made a few alterations here and there – mainly in chords, double-stops and a mid-passage note or two. But I believe I’m safe in taking a bet you wouldn’t notice (much!) and in every case any change was made only for the better. The trouble, as I diagnose it, is, that a good deal of the work, though perfectly well on paper, is not real string-writing and therefore is ungrateful to play and causes discomfort in the players. It is difficult for me to illustrate here and now and anyhow the subject is too extensive – but you will best see by the marks in the score, which I’m keeping over the transmission. It strikes me that this work is very much in your characteristic idiom – I mean by this, shape and fall of phrase and that it seems not to have been thought in terms of strings. There are phrases or groups of notes which are musically fine, and in no way wrong, except that they are just not music that lies satisfactorily on the strings – and as the Belges [London Belgian Piano Quartet] also have made this comment on your string-writing, it is not just a personal opinion of mine. I think, myself, that one of the remedies is to think more vocally for strings – the two techniques (for voice and for strings) have curious analogies – and when your musical thought says to you, write: [here there is an example of written musical notes][218] sing it, and see how awkward the augmented 4th interval is and then think how much shift it will involve in a string player’s fingerboard position and how likely it is to break the line of a phrase or cause him an effort in the flow of the music, which will betray itself and so come out in the musical effect? I think, for this reason, that there are no better models for the technique of string writing than the early masters who were themselves string experts and mastered the idiom. Bach, Handel, Corelli, Tartini etc. The Italians had a wonderful sense of it. Another good thing is to mess about on a violin and get the feel of it[219]. Anyhow, as I pointed out to the two players of the Passacaglia this is not a recent work and you have probably gone a long way towards the mastering of these problems in your attacks upon them since. In any case, the piece has a most invigorating impetus in performance – a vitality I thought they caught very well and their technical mastery was such that none but anyone very intimately connected with the score would probably even be conscious of its problems. But as these are of paramount interest to its creator – and also I believe of help on his way, I pass these reflection on for what they are worth – thought NOT, as you know, without the greatest personal temerity, for none knows the problems more fully (or indeed more sympathetically) than a fellow-struggler!

I’m most amused at your description of the Soirons[220] as guests, and do think it is more than noble of you and Sheila to be so wonderfully good and hospitable to your friends. It is an altogether excellent idea that you and she should get away this month and to such a lovely spot. I do hope it will provide real rest and lovely weather. I contradict all my wise commonsense (as any true woman will) by saying what a splendid thought it is of seeing you. But again – I could wait, in such a good cause, as I believe the END is now in sight!

Ever much love


(44) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Bush House

Oct 6th [1944][221]

Lieber [beloved] William,

Thank you so much for both letters and The Soldier and forgive me for not saying so sooner. I was grief-stricken at the impasse [deadlock] about your programme and take most of the blame as I ought to have sent you a wire to remind you. It is just my hard-pressedness that is to blame for the many things I ought to do and don’t and I am all too conscious that they’re alarmingly on the increase. My days or is it nights? – now average 8 am to following 1.30 am.

I have gained air time per day and am likely to be gaining more. The gates – and airways of Europe are suddenly opened as if by magic. Radio Paris flew over their official Music Representative who landed, Deus ex Machina [by an unlikely and providential intervention] straight into my office 3 days ago on a mission of extensive artistic interchange of goodwill. [Adrian] Boult for Paris, Parry[222] for London, Poulenc[223] for Lambert[224], score for score. The years of darkness in which this strange and valiant service struggled on in the dark with its – seemingly – often forlorn banner, have suddenly brought a blaze of light upon the fact that alone and in its obscurity, it has still the biggest list of Enterprise for the war years in the cause of artistry and progress.

Now we can set the snowball in motion. Paris has been followed by Lisbon, yesterday. There will be many more, in many more tomorrows, and if I die of the strain, I shall at least die reasonably gratified! I feel like a weird insect with antennae stretched into capitals of many continents.

I am so glad about your impending arrival on the 17th. I haven’t seen home for a good many nights now, so it is just possible I might still be able to come and hear you and S.L. [Sinclair Logan] on the evening of the 19th. I must leave it to nearer the time.

Would it be too much to ask you to keep free provisionally, from lunch-time onwards on Friday 20th? I have marked it down accordingly. At the present tremendously increased pressure I can’t tell yet which bits of the 2nd half of the day might have priority calls on me – but this way, it certainly ought to give us the chance of at least some of it – and I hope as much of it as possible.

The other things that have happened are that Ralph [Elizabeth’s brother] was ‘requisitioned’ by the War Office at a week’s notice, seconded to Captaincy and is on his way for SHAPE (Supreme H.Q) to Germany[225]. All the original arrangements for the wedding had to be cancelled and a last moment marriage rushed through[226]. I managed to get off for it and accompanied Mum back to a very empty house. The choir sang Jesu Joy[of Man’s Desiring by Bach] at least a quarter tone sharp and rather more in tune, a solid, four square Lutheran hymn tune, and odd choice, I thought. But I think the bridegroom’s sister was the only person benighted enough to notice or suffer! All the old ladies said how lovely the music was!

The history of poor [Robert] Herrick and my beautiful Henry Lawes[227] tunes were fantastically awful. Two nights before the broadcast [on Monday 18 September], I was up all night, save for an hour or two about dawn. The next night, the last and only missing air arrived in Photostat from New York Metropolitan Museum in the Diplomatic Bag by bomber. I managed to transcribe, score and copy parts and then worked on the scores till small hours with Watson Forbes, the mainspring of the string players. Just as I had retired to bed in his music room, the sirens went and bombs came down and we started transferring his two sleepy, objecting babies from warm cots to garden shelter. And so to the studio, for 10 hours nonstop rehearsal, cast, musicians, paraphernalia of engineers etc., only to be greeted again by sirens and Danger Overhead signal during the few tense moments before going on the air and be ordered by wardens to abandon studio with broadcast cancelled. All is now to do again – next Wednesday Oct 11th (Home Service) 11- 11.30 – underground this time. Who would be a broadcaster?!

I understand just how you felt about your holiday, but am very glad it was one for Sheila, nevertheless, in the main respect of rest from household responsibilities. I do hope she feels better for it and keeps as well as possible. Warmest love to you both.

Sempre [Always]


(45) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Oct: 17th [1944][228]

My dear William,

A tiny line – to give you 1000 welcomes and thank you for your sweet letter and the thrilling gift of ‘my’ songs – so beautifully and personally inscribed! I feel them really ‘mine’ – with a particular love and understanding which perhaps qualifies me a little bit to say so and these copies will always be my special treasures. I only hope that one day in the future I may have the chance and the joy of doing them in public with singer who is worthy of them and can enter in.

I’m so sorry about Sheila’s asthma and the renewed attack: I hope life will be less beset with household responsibilities – even if quieter – for you both during the coming months and that her complaint will respond to more rest.

I fear I shan’t be able to come on Thurs: evening [19th] after all, as I have to give the time to a dear man about to go East and he may go any day, so I dare not postpone. Ralph [Elizabeth’s brother] has already gone – at 6 am today – how hateful are all these departures and tearing asunder. Bill Klenz has also gone to France, but I have had no further news yet.

I’m so sorry about Thursday. I do hope all will go well. Will you listen carefully, on my behalf, to the Copland Violin Sonata and time it roughly, if you can? – only approx[imate] minutes, not seconds – as I’m ‘interested’!

Friday (touch wood and cross fingers) is still free for you – I’m hoping for lunch time. So ring me that morning, if you can, before 11, if possible, when I shall be with my head in the hairdresser’s basin for an hour! (in Bush House)

Quel abandon!! [Such lack of restraint]

So looking forward to seeing you

With much love



I’m so pleased you liked the [Robert] Herrick tunes [broadcast on 11 October] and approved their doing.

(46) The British Broadcasting Corporation

20. xi. 44

My dear William,

Your letter was very nice telepathy on your part as I was wanting one, and was about to write and provoke it, though with nothing very news-worthy to say at this end! We are not liking the Vergeltungswaffe [retaliation weapon, i.e. rocket bomb (V.2)] too well: a disconcerting engine, as unlike its brother [V.1], it gives no warning of its approach – you are quite suddenly in Eternity – or not! One descended, not too far off, in the middle of the Reception given to [Thomas] Beecham[229], causing me to empty the contents of a good glass of drink down the neck of a short and scruffy little man jammed in front of me in the throng. He seemed vaguely familiar, but showed no signs of having noticed. I peaked round his right ear and found it was Jack Hylton[230], deciding that he was already so well buttered, innerlich [made cordial] with alcohol, that a drop more or less down his collar didn’t make any difference! TB [Thomas Beecham] went on making one of his interminable speeches as before … the man’s a rogue, but he is conducting superbly. Whether one agrees or not with his interpretations, he has the genius which infuses magic life and a power of moulding and shaping a phrase which wins one for always. It has been rather an epoch of conductors, for Charles Münch (from Paris) now in our midst, is yet another of brilliance. You probably listened to the big concert broadcast from Bedford with the BBC Orchestra. I went down for it with a lively contingent from the French Embassy and it was really a very thrilling and moving occasion.[231]

Sonnst, nicht nenes[wert – Otherwise, not worth mentioning] – Life goes on its whirling way and the gales bring down the last clinging gold leaves at Howard’s End [i.e., Rooks Nest House, Stevenage], never disturbing its inmost peace. EMF [E. M. Forster] was down again the other day. Did you hear his HS [BBC Home Service] broadcast on Matthew Arnold?[232]

I am so glad that your mighty sea-winds do not disturb your musical thought, and that the Violin Concerto 1st movement is so well on its way. There is room for shorter violin pieces too. Yes, do send along the new one when you have a copy. I’d love to see it (Cue in a bassoon here, there was an ‘ossia’[233] if you have any doubts – see V.W’s [Ralph Vaughan Williams’[234]] propensity for writing things for any and every possible combination of instruments e.g. for lack of a clarinet try the fire-irons!)

Aren’t the HS progs [BBC Home Service programmes] AWFUL? In those rare moments – mostly of an evening – when I sit back ready to be soothed and relaxed, I look in vain for good music or live real music, since the music department seems to have become mainly a gramophone one! I’ve done some specially good things lately, but for lack of time, could not keep you appraised. You may be interested on Thurs: Nov 23 USA Thanksgiving Day, to hear [William] Klenz’s Te Deum – the first time. It is the best thing of its kind I know. Word has been sent to him by special sources where he is, and I hope he’ll hear it: it will be a big day for him. This month also being the anniversary of Fauré’s death [4 November][235] besides recording of the Requiem [in D minor], I saved an earlier recording I took of the D minor Trio with Eda Kersey and Kathleen Long, who is the pianist in the trio, will come to the studio and play the Db Nocturne and a Barcarolle. That’s on Tues Nov: 28th

Maurice Raskin is playing English Music for me on Sunday Dec 10th – Vaw’s [Ralph Vaughan Williams’] The Lark Ascending, with the London Chamber Orchestra. I wonder if anyone will ever write such a perfect piece for solo violin and orchestra? It is in all respects, to me, an example of what to do and how. I have also translated the prefatory quotation from Meredith[236] into French, which is much more difficult than writing a fugue!

A recent programme of mine (recording) is in GFP[237] on Wed: Nov 22nd at 4.25 pm – May Mukle[238] and Anthony Bernard[239], a very nice ½ hour of early Italians.

I am much intrigued by Nicholas’s amours: I fear we are left behind by the present generation, with whom I certainly could not have competed at the age of 5! I’m sorry Sheila isn’t better than ‘fairly well’ – but as quiet as life as possible over the present time may be her best help. Do give her my love and tell her I think of her.

There is nothing I should love more than an extension of The Music Review if you could really run to it – I look forward so much to its advent and confess that I should miss it very much! I will send Mummy’s love with much of mine as ever,


I had lunch with Ilonka [Kabos] the other day [14th] – back in the flat [at 52 Hanover Gate, London]. She seemed very well and her Mother too – but there is a maidless period ahead as the nice Hungarian has to go into hospital to be operated on her gastric ulcer.

(47) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Dec 1 ‘44

My dear William,

It is nice to know you are “thoughtful if, maybe, slightly bleak”. I have recently read this interesting pronouncement in the Nov: Mus[ical] Times and now feel clear that the best you can do is to re-christen your house Bleak House and always have a drop on your nose.

Critics are absurd, anyhow – don’t take any notice of them – I hardly agree with a single point of Anderson’s except the one about Rest[240]. His faint praise, tinctured with patronage – especially as to your perception of Blake and Campion[241] would irritate me more if it didn’t so obviously demonstrate his lack of perception. Anyhow, why worry – a prattling dilettante, who isn’t even a musician but a precious books fancier recently had the temerity to suggest that my treatment of Old Masters was “Elgarian” – a really astonishing flight of fancy. I should only prefer Wagnerian – for if there’s one composer I dislike more than Elgar[242] it’s Wagner![243] [Norman] Peterkin is justifiably scornful over these futilities, and futilities they are. I’m only sorry – as one naturally is – that the task of reviewing your OUP songs did not fall into the right hands in such a conspicuous place. But whose ARE the right hands, in the cheap marketplace of journalistic publicity? Which has got the power to be so damaging. Yeats knew it when he made his heartfelt cry “Tread lightly, because you tread on my dreams”[244]. But it takes more than Nazi-ism, even, to kill dreamers and may their dreams always continue.

I have been waiting since last week-end to thank you for sweetly sending me the Violin piece and for your most interesting comment on your hearing of [William] Klenz’s work, which has the more point when it comes, as this did, from one self-confessed as not a great comparative critic of the genre. If you, listening objectively, and without any special enthusiasm for Te Deums in general, found in this one the things you did, then it’s a good argument for it. He would be pleased to know of your praise; he is a curious mixture of a very modest person and a very assured one in his work. The Randall Thompson Alleluia[245] is really a very good and sensitive work of its kind, but suffered sadly here at the hands of definitely NOT the-best-choir-in-London plus an indifferent recording, which was thrown into worse contrast by the magnificent performance and recording of WK’s[William Klenz’s] piece. I was ashamed of it, but it was not my recording or choice of performance and, passed on from Stewart Wilson[246], it simply had to see its turn, though badly. The little organ pieces at the end were only make-weights, and are as you rightly said, far less mature. But if slight, they are pleasant, and I feel one Alleluia and 1 T.D. [Te Deum] is enough at one go!

Larymosses is a superb title – you have as Grandma Buggins would say, re-constituted it thus for me for life – and pace [with due reference to] the irreverence (which is yours anyhow!) I like the use of it here. I do confess that I like it more than I do the piece i.e. the music. I’ve no criticism thus far as to shape or technicalities. But I think why I don’t like it more, as music, than I do, is that I feel it is rather enervating sadness: I don’t think I can explain better than that, and anyhow, it’s a purely personal reaction! I have in any case a special affection for such a beautifully annotated MS. H. M. Salvager is certainly not worthy of it! I will keep it by me for the next time I get a violinist and a piano together and then let you know what I think. You are very patient and forbearing to put up with my thinkings – and with this awful writing which deteriorates with eye-strain towards the end of a lamp-lit day.

I delight in the evil influence (– which surely couldn’t be mine?) which corrupts you to such levity. Be bleak, dear William, be bleak. I hope Sheila is feeling suitably bleak too and that your offspring is at least thoughtful.

With my very un-bleak love,


(48) The British Broadcasting Corporation


My dear William,

I have to go away tomorrow (14th) over some regional recording jobs[247] and am so very sorry that because of it I shall miss you and the concerto this time. I may be out of range of listening, but I shall do my very best. I do hope all will go very well and that you will get the sort of performance you want and will find in it a real encouragement.

Maurice Raskin told me that he had heard from you about your new Violin Concerto in-the-making and I’m so interested and glad that the first sketch is progressing and growing. If you want help and criticism in the writing of it and should bring it with you this time, you couldn’t seek better advice than his, both in general musicianship and as an exquisite and sensitive player. He is such a charming and sincere person and he is going away fairly early in the New Year – so perhaps you will be able to get hold of him.

I do WISH I could be in Bradford on Monday. Damn. But I shall be thinking of you.

With much love,



P.S. Raybould[248] is a darling!

(49) The British Broadcasting Corporation

24. I. 45

My dear William,

I do apologise for seeming so neglectful. I really haven’t meant to, but circumstances have been rather agin’ me – Not more than winter and war and work, tho’ I put winter first, as it has somehow been impeding everything else! With an admixture of rocket bombs, it is nastier than it might be, but on its own it has been constituting a major difficulty with Howard’s End [Rooks Nest House] practically snowed up, car frozen, ’phone frozen (cables down) and road all but impassable, and Mummy in bed with gastric flu! She’s better now, but I make every effort to get to and fro, spending as much as 3 hours on the way, sometimes, and the general total of all this has made me a worse correspondent than ever. I haven’t yet been driven to fetching the coal in a taxi and/or wheelbarrow (according to one’s means) like many Londoners, but I suspect that it is not far off!

I hope you have been spared as many of the rigours of the times as possible: your “boarding house coast” though it may be bleak is at least peaceful. How glad you and Sheila will be when this season’s great event for you [the birth of their second child] is a fait accompli [over]. I hope she keeps as well as possible and that you do not feel too anxious. I so often think of you both, though I don’t write.

It was very sad that I never heard your Cello Concerto broadcast in the end – but in the circumstances it would have been impossible anyway. At one of the furthermost points of my recording expedition, I walked into a pub in Cornwall to hear the announcer’s voice on the wireless remark that what we had been hearing was a broadcast performance of the Cello Concerto by W.B. [William Busch]. But his voice came through such a racket of noises off, Morse [Code], atmospherics and the radio location to that part of the coast and the 9 o’clock news which followed was so unintelligible, that I consoled myself with the rather negative consolation that even if I had arrived there in time, I still shouldn’t have heard it.

I’m so glad you were pleased on the whole with the performance and felt it became nearer satisfaction than at the original hearing. On Tuesday Jan 30th (European Service 10.30-11 am clock time) I am putting the recording of the Passacaglia in again. Do you remember you missed it previously, in the programme with the songs and Sinclair Logan, when the time changed? I was hoping to repeat the songs as well, but as a place couldn’t be found for them in the meanwhile, I seized this opportunity for the Passacaglia. It will have a rather queer – definitely queer – stable mate in the shape of a weird string quartet, played by the Zorians [Quartet], by a young woman called Priunlx Rainier[249], S. African born of Huguenot extraction – studied under [Nadia] Boulanger [in Paris] – has had one or two things played since the war, but nothing very outstanding. This [First String] Quartet is of a clever, cerebral school – full of artifice with cleverly-exploited pattern, but with no profundity to my mind, and leaving a curiously negative effect on one.

Ilonka [Kabos] is playing on Thursday (25th) in a contemporary Hungarian ‘folk’ programme of Bartók[250] & Weiner[251]. I’m glad you have been listening sometimes to the European programmes of late and hope that you may have lighted on something you enjoyed. We have been doing some noteworthy things of exceptional interest lately, particularly the outstanding performances of [Maurice] Raskin in the Absil [Violin] Concerto[252] and [Vaughan Williams’] The Lark Ascending. The first performance of the former in this country in the Belgian programme on the Home Service was my doing (incidentally largely paid for out of European funds!) I should hardly expect anybody, even the keenest and most expert listener to make much out of that strange and very individual work at a first hearing. After much rehearsal, with the complex intensely logical score, it only revealed itself to me with perseverance, but with the gratifying conviction, at the end, that it was well worth it. And I think a first hearing would at any rate induce interest and some fascination, if not excitement, at the most exquisite and unusual scoring. It is good that your Piano Quartet has gone to Portugal with the London Belges [London Belgian Piano Quartet] and vindicates my early practical hopes of a wide dissemination for it. It is, incidentally, the only British work they are playing on the tour. It will be amusing to get the Portuguese reactions!

My recent pilgrimages included a ghostly one to Bedford in arctic weather, to get to grips with A Child of our Time[253] one which was rewarded with less satisfaction, in that curiosity only was satisfied, for in spite of its various merits, I didn’t think it a good work, or one worthy of lasting value. Did you hear it? It certainly did not bear out Mr Glock’s[254] extraordinary statements that one of the greatnesses of Tippett’s music is its capacity “to advance at crucial moments to a position in which music itself becomes inarticulate” It articulated a lot, often with the greatest vehemence, yet, apart from the reiteration of its ‘message’ had nothing to say. Anyhow, this utterance, like most of Mr G’s is sheer nonsense if analysed and not accepted as the facile journalese which is all it is, because the logical conclusion of the above would be that Mr Tippett writes works of varying lengths of silence! And if he did, I wish a lot of other composers would get the habit too!!

Your Christmas present celebrated its advent with a most amusing and potent article by Cecil Gray in his series called Contingencies[255] which hit various nails on the head with reverberating bangs. So much so that I had to lend my copy to a number of people who, having heard of the article, were anxious to read it, but hadn’t been able to procure the issue – so you see you were a public as well as a private benefactor!

One thing I mustn’t forget to thank you for is your sweet thought in ringing up Mummy at home when you came for the concerto and I was so unfortunately away. It was so touching: she said to me when I came back “Dear William rang me up” and then explained that she had thought you were ringing me and that she was just telling you about my absence, when you said no, it was her you wanted to speak to! She couldn’t have been more glad, as she was alone and missing me, and the sound of your voice delighted and cheered her. I hope it won’t be too long before you can come again.

Thank you also for all your welcome letters, now at last, acknowledged with the appreciation that should have been expressed before.

With much love and special wishes to Sheila.



Roger Fiske[256] spoke of you and said he had so enjoyed seeing you when you came for the concerto.

NB European Service Sunday Feb 11th 10.30-11.00 am, a lovely (at least I hope it will be!) programme called The Fountains of Rome. Do listen – some beautiful songs (I shan’t tell you any more, just to be tantalising!!)

[William had returned to Woolacombe to celebrate Christmas with his family, and in the New Year, just two days after Elizabeth had written to him, his daughter Julia was born in an Ilfracombe Nursing Home. Because a heavy snowfall had disrupted normal transport he was obliged to return home. after visiting mother and child, using the now difficult cliff path; exhausted and cold, he suffered severe internal bleeding and, with no doctor able to get through to help, he died, tragically on 30 January.][257]

(50) Rook’s Nest

Stevenage, Herts.

Wed: evening Jan 31st [1945]

My dear Sheila,

Steuart Wilson (of the BBC) telephoned the news from London this evening. I happen to be in bed ill [since Friday 26th], so you will, I know, forgive. This is not a time for words, when one is past words, and when they may be only unbearable. But they are the only human things we have left now in the face of something so unbearable – so unthinkable.

William himself is at the centre of us, just as he always was, just as he always will be. I don’t feel that the fact of the withdrawal of his human presence can ever alter that, nor lessen his power among us – that very power of which he was so unconscious; and in all the first shock of grief, one’s absolute incapacity in the fact of the mystery, the real and living thought is uppermost: how terribly he would grieve at our grief – and so, somehow, it seems that all we can do is to commend ourselves to him and to his love to help us now. I am sure that love is stronger than death. And all the love and the fullness and the happiness that came to him in his life was through you, a perfect achievement on your part, perfectly unclouded.

You have still the most precious legacy of all, of his – the renewed witness of himself and you, to grow up in that image, and follow. But the hardest part of all has come to you. On my dear, my heart breaks for you and for what the world has lost in him, and what each one of us, who had the great gift and honour of his friendship, has lost and can never repay in love and gratitude. I can only thank God that I knew him, for the years of his friendship and the knowledge of his most lovely personality, which will influence life so long as ever it lasts and pray that strength and the help that is beyond human comfort, may be yours now and in the days ahead.

Don’t please think of writing now, or until some moment later on when you feel you can. I long to come down and look after the house and Nicholas and do any little practical thing to be of help to you – but the office I have to go back to denies even that. There is nothing left but my prayers and they are all yours –Tonight and tomorrow and Saturday and every day. God bless you.

Your very loving


(51) ‘Personal’

BBC Bush House

Aldwych W.1.

Temple Bar 4383

Thursday Feb 22nd [1945]

My dear Sheila,

The reason why I have not yet thanked you for your sweet letter and for sending me on copies of the Lisbon notices, is that within the last few days I have returned to London to try and do some practical things for William. So, because it is most important that you should know about them and that nothing can be done for his music both now and in the future should be left undone, nor done in any way except rightly, you will understand, I know, if I’m strictly practical now. To make it as clear and as little troublesome to you as possible, I am tabulating the most immediately important points, so that you need only make a very brief assent. I shall of course be writing soon again.

Very much love


PS No time before post – but Olive [Zorian] has thoroughly discussed with me the whole question about the works for Bideford [Devon] and I think we’ve got a satisfactory conclusion Ode to Autumn safely received this pm. So many thanks.

Rights and Publication of as-yet unpublished works

It is most important that all MSS be safeguarded – Otherwise there is the risk of their falling into unscrupulous hands, with danger of unauthorised alteration and even undesirable publication in incorrect form.

I am pretty well acquainted with the publishing world and other sides of the musical profession. Would you, in order to safeguard this matter, entrust me to act in it?

I have just discussed the whole thing with the Oxford University Press and have on their behalf Norman Peterkin’s offer to take over, provisionally, all MSS works unpublished of William’s. This would: –

a) give them the 1st chance of publication with the OUP

b) Safeguard your financial rights in the works

c) Prevent, by housing with the OUP, correct copies of the MSS, any unauthoratative handling. The copies would be available, centralized, in the OUP library and catalogue, and obtainable there for all performances.

The OUP stand for complete integrity: there could, in my opinion, be no better thing for William’s works. Peterkin and I will collect all fair copies, for the important business of final editing, to follow later. There is, for example, the very important matter of the Piano Quartet. Any authoritative published edition of this would have to be made from the one actual copy and string parts actually in use by the London Belgian [Piano Quartet], so as to incorporate every detail of their bowing etc., worked out in detail with William. The players are shortly returning to Belgium, and it must be seen to, while they’re still here.

Memorial Concert in London

I am trying to arrange this. For many reasons – mostly artists – action must be taken quickly. John Amis is helping[258]. The date is March 28th. Hall and all details to follow. Please keep this confidential to yourself until arrangements can be further confirmed.

The chief aim is to give a public concert devoted to William’s works, not only in special tribute to him, but as representative as possible a survey of his best chamber works (i.e. excluding the concertos) with the best possible performance, well advertised, with the opportunity of hearing a whole concert of William’s music and to start towards its established place for all time to come.

The artists to give their services and to be drawn from those associated with William’s work and most truly qualified to perform it:-

The London Belgian Quartet

Henry Cummings,

Sinclair Logan

Tom Bromley

Girlie [Florence Hooton]

René Soames

Probably a further quartet, the Zorian, for The Ode to Autumn

And myself (to accompany the songs)

The enterprise is hedged about with practical difficulties and being of so personal a nature, as well, must be carefully handled. But I have great hopes and good support. Sir Humphrey Milford (the head of the whole OUP) is being approached. And I have just had the promise of all the help that he can give, of Gerald Finzi[259]. It will not, of course, be possible to include everything, or everybody. But I want to do it all as William would have liked, for the music, and for our love of him. And both are the same for you.

If you could wire assent in two words ’Approve arrangements” here to BBC, I will take it that I can clinch this at once with the OUP which should not be delayed.

(52) The British Broadcasting Corporation

Monday March 5th 1945

My dear Sheila,

I was going to write you over the week-end, but arrangements for the concert and rehearsing delayed my getting down to it.

By now you will, I expect, have heard from Norman Peterkin and I do hope you will be feeling happy in your mind about the future of William’s work. It may seem worrying and confusing – as indeed I know these things are – at the present, but put on the surest basis possible, it will straighten out in time. I do believe that it is the very best course to take and I think, also, it would be what William would have liked.

I had not – as you know one doesn’t – bothered much about the question of bombs and sudden death, though constantly in the midst of it. But last year, when we [BBC] were actually hit and so much was lost here, I did wake up to the fact that it would at least be most practical if I left my personal musical, as well as my other affairs in order.

There is no more delicate task, need, as it does, such perfect artistic understanding and sympathy between two people devoted to the same things. I had determined that I would ask William if he would undertake it for me and, having drafted the necessary codicil, was waiting to get it incorporated. I delayed doing so for some months, as one was always rushed and it meant going to a lawyer and somehow from day to day there never seemed to be time. But I think one can’t give proof of greater trust in anyone: and if, on William’s behalf, you would feel it in me, to try and do this for him, it will be the greatest joy and privilege – never I do assure you, a labour of anything but love. There is no-one I would choose to have associated with it rather than Norman Peterkin: his fine artistic sensibility, his real insight as a musician into the recesses of William’s musical thought and his great practical experience are a bulwark we are so lucky to have and I know we need have no fears.

You will also, I hope, have received a letter from John [Amis?] telling you that the Nicholas Variations are well and truly in the programme – as I all along intended that they should be! As I originally drew up the programme and he suggested an alteration or two, I let matters be for the time being – a good deal of tact is necessary, especially when so many people and factors are involved! But all is well, and the programme as originally intended and I do hope you feel that it is as representative as possible, in the circumstances and as he would have approved.

I am glad above all that you approve of Rest being done by René Soames and myself. Your very sweet and understanding words mean a great deal and are a comfort to me. One can’t express these things – but there is something which that song is to me and always will be, which goes to the depths of all one’s belief – an experience beyond words, which he gave us in this perfect thing, which, when I first knew it and first broadcast it, those years ago, before I knew William well, or you at all, meant what was you in William’s life, for without that it couldn’t be. Perhaps something of that got through in the performance: and now you know why. I don’t think I ever tried to explain this to William, though I think in his perfect understanding, he knew. He often spoke of our doing it together and wrote of it and I promised him that in the future when I should be free of these present tasks and back to making music again, that René and I would always sing it with the same love. René is a curious and lovable person with a flame of genius, a law unto himself and utterly incapable of writing anyone a letter about anything he really feels: he keeps it all for his singing, which is perhaps one of the best things anyhow, and is what makes everything he does unique and impossible to doubt.

Don’t feel you must write to Mummy, because though she would love it, she doesn’t expect it. She is the most dear and adorable and understanding (and untiring) person who loved William so and has lived her long life in the complete love for the man she lost almost as you did, with two children, and one who never knew him. We quite understand that you and Julia will go to Oakdene with William’s mother, but do just (both of you) feel you can come when you will and can.

With very much love


Press arrangements up to date are notices of the concert in Times. Telegraph and New Statesman, some printed ones in postal form for personal sending (these will come to you as soon as they arrive) and a brief biographical note on William which John [Amis?] drew up (and read me over the telephone) to try and catch the Musical Times before the next issue went to press and which I think is all they’d have room for this time. Norman Peterkin had promised me he will do all in his power to make the concert known, particularly among those we feel should know about it in the musical profession and Gerald Finzi too. Do let me know if there are any further suggestions you can think of in this time.

(53) Rook’s Nest



March 20 – 45

Dear Sheila,

This needs no reply. I only just felt I must thank you for your very wonderful letter – I have never ceased to think of you and as you say it is only those who have gone through this ‘agony’ can ever know! A wonderful sister of mine [Mary], who “knew” too, always said there was much to be said for the Indian Suttee! Then she bravely brought up 2 children – and you and I know what that means too. It’s the doing it alone is so hard! And the lack of all the lovely support and sympathy. Still I always feel there is a real part of our beloveds left – to enrich the world and so they are worth working for!

Elizabeth is throwing her whole soul into the concert! I can hardly get her off the music stool to go to bed! She so loves to feel it’s for William (and you!) I am so sorry not to have you and Julia! But quite understand.

Don’t mention me in this to Elizabeth, but if not too much for you and you’d care for it, do try and persuade her to go to you for just a few days. She does grieve so and is so tired. I know it would help so much, but don’t say I said so! And don’t bother to answer.

My love and utmost understanding

Clementine Poston

(54) The British Broadcasting Corporation

22. iii. 45

My dear Sheila,

I loved getting your sweet and understanding letter this morning and appreciate so much your thought of me in the midst of all that is so grievously upon your own shoulders. I should have written before, but the rush of existence prevented and it seemed wisest to concentrate on all the practical matters in hand. Please don’t have any feelings of worry or apprehension about me: I have tried to learn wisdom and be as sensible as possible and have the greatest possible help along the way in the little intervals I manage to snatch with my darling Mummy at home. She was so very touched and glad to get your letter and it was a comfort to her as she has felt it terribly about William and knows, you see, too much about it.

I quite understand the position about the necessity for you making a will and giving the instructions before the matter of change of the MSS can be put on a legal basis. I expect it will not take long once you have been able to see to it in London, and in the meantime, Norman Peterkin and I will do everything we can to safeguard all the works pending the formal confirmation to me. We have agreed, in the meanwhile, to cite the OUP as central ‘control’ for the present, for all unpublished works, in connection with the list to appear in the Concert programme, as a wise precaution against any unscrupulous ‘sabotage’ from other firms or quarters, until this can be legally safeguarded by grant of executorship.

I shall think specially of you on Sunday at the Bideford Concert, and over your long journey up on Tuesday with Julia. I so hope none of it will harm either of you. It is so splendid and wonderful of you to be coming on Wednesday. William would be so glad and to all of us, it will be a particular and personal support.

Always with much love,


(55) Rook’s Nest



July 7th 1945

My dear Sheila,

It was very nice to have your letter with news of you and the children. Dear little Julia must be a very sweet person and it is good that Nicholas is so devoted and generous. She will be a great thing in his life, and though nothing can replace his father to him, I hope that in some measure this new and growing person beside him will help to fill and develop his own progress.

Your life must be very full of the daily tasks of looking after them and your household – I hope you manage to get enough help to avoid the load being too great for your own health.

I have been forced to lay down my work on Dr’s orders. In any case, the European Service was reorganised in attenuated form after V-Day, to include no more music except odd gramophone records put in here and there by news editors as fill-ins, so my job was done and probably just as well, as I knew for some time past that I should not be able to go on with it.

One of the last things I managed to do was to put in a programme of William on his birthday [25 June]. It was done at a few hours notice and with the old order just dissolving only ¼ hour was available and that only on a wavelength not possible to pick up in this country, so it was useless trying to let anyone know. There was just time for the Ode to Autumn and one or two songs, which Clair [Sinclair Logan] and the Zorians [Quartet] and I had recorded after the concert, for the Memorial Broadcast and had planned and which had unfortunately to be cancelled because of V-Day.

I have the score of the Ode to Autumn, which perhaps I may keep until it is wanted again, so that I can check with it the BBC score which I lent the Zorians to play from and which at the time of performance proved to contain various inaccuracies.

The score of the Piano Quartet is with the OUP now in its first stage towards publication. It will be a lengthy business as the work of editing is extremely complicated and will have to go through many drafts. Norman Peterkin is away ill, unable to deal with any correspondence and I managed to stay on in London until I had completed the revision of the first draft with several days of invaluable help from Maurice Raskin in the bowing, markings and all indications as used by the Quartet, so that a definitive edition is now in the hands of the Press until the next stage, when I hope, if I can fly to Brussels later on, to get the help of [Marcel] Gazelle in cross-checking the piano part as he played it.

The original score will of course be returned to you eventually, but I’m afraid it will be a longish while before it is freed.

Yours ever, with love


Draft: John S. Alabaster, July 2008

Extracts for consideration for Vol. III

Letter No. 3 (14 January 1943):

Para 1, line 1: […] I am now up here and make it my HQ except at week-ends, when I always make a dash for the country where I gather strength to meet the onrush of the next week.

Para 4, line 2: (I live at Howards End, of E. M. Forster’s book – I’ll tell you about it.)

Letter No. 21 (7 September 1943):

Para 4, line 1: Summer is gone that was so short, lingering here only in the roses, and autumn is suddenly here. I look out on far hills with a little mist creeping over them and the thought of a wood fire is good.

Letter No. 25 (6 October 1943)

Para 2, line 1: It is just this power of understanding which makes everything well and your own perception of the place (and its inhabitants) couldn’t but make you ‘fit’. We all (and the place, too, has to be re-considered as an entity) loved having you and feel so delighted to know that you did leave feeling a bit rested and better for even a brief change.

Letter No. 44 (5 September 1944)

Para 1, line 4: The papers may tell you flying bombs are over, but they’re not and any treachery, I have no doubt, and in many variable forms, will go on till nearer the End than now. E.g. After some 72 hours full of false security there was a bad outbreak in the small hours of the morning today. Howard’s End and its sleeping inhabitants were nearly removed!!

Letter No. 47 (20 November 1944)

Para 2, line 1: Sonnst, nicht nenes [wert – Otherwise, not worth mentioning] – Life goes on its whirling way and the gales bring down the last clinging gold leaves at Howard’s End, never disturbing its inmost peace.

Letter No. 50 (24 January 1945)

Para 1, line 1. […] circumstances have been rather agin’ me – Not more than winter and war and work, tho’ I put winter first, as it has somehow been impeding everything else! With an admixture of rocket bombs, it is nastier than it might be, but on its own it has been constituting a major difficulty with Howard’s End practically snowed up, car frozen, ‘phone frozen (cables down) and road all but impassable, and Mummy in bed with gastric flu.

  1. Transcribed by Julia Busch and annotated (with some editing) by John S. Alabaster.
  2. Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters (2006) Ed. John S. Alabaster, The Friends of the Forster Country, 129 pp.
  3. Elizabeth Poston: Her Own Words.(2008) Ed. John S. Alabaster, The Friends of the Forster Country, 91 pp.
  4. Julia Busch (2007) Some Letters from Elizabeth Poston to William Busch, pp 3-8 in Elizabeth Poston: Post-Centenary, 2005 Appreciation (2007) Ed. John S. Alabaster, The Friends of the Forster Country, 138 pp.
  5. René Soames (tenor) performed many of Elizabeth’s works.
  6. Elizabeth returned to work on 2 September after a month of little activity (Poston Pocket Diary).
  7. The poem Rest was by George William (A. E.) Russell (1867-1935).On me to rest, my bird, my bird.The singing branches of my heartAre blown by every wind toward the homeWhereto their wings depart.Build not your rest, my bird, on me.I know no peace, but ever sway.Oh, lovely bird, be free, be free,On the wild music of the day.But sometimes when your wings would rest,And winds are laid on quiet eves,Come, I will bear you breast to breastAnd lap you close with loving leaves.
  8. V. C. Baddeley-Clinton (1941), Words for Music CUP, 168 pp.
  9. Henry Cummings, Irish baritone (1906-1989); one of several entries of his name in Elizabeth’s Pocket Diary for 1942 is for 28 October.
  10. Peter Warlock (1894-1930), a close friend of Elizabeth’s; she had broadcast on his work on 10 September 1942
  11. John Ireland (1879-1962), composer & arranger.
  12. Florence Hooton (1912-1988): cellist, Professor and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, married in 1938 to David Martin, violinist.
  13. William may have come earlier, on 26 January (Poston Pocket Diary entry, ‘Wm comes to town’).
  14. Norman Fraser, composer, worked for the BBC, 1936-1943 and 1954-1967.
  15. The year is confirmed by the entry in the Poston Pocket Diary for 28 February 1943, ’10.30-50 Suckling’.
  16. Sir John Suckling, English Cavalier poet; Elizabeth’s incidental music for the BBC included Lives of the Poets: Suckling (1609-1642), Herrick, Donne, 1943-1947 (Doctorate Thesis by Jamie Claire Bartlett, Beyond the Apple Tree […] University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, 1996).
  17. Douglas Cleverdon (1903-1987) was a BBC producer and later collaborated with Elizabeth in various productions (e.g. Scenes from The Tempest, In Parenthesis, and Life and Death of John Donne), she writing the music for his radio scripts.
  18. Song, I Prithee Send me Back.
  19. John Donne (1572-1631), English metaphysical poet.
  20. The version in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is slightly different: ‘But love […] I then am in most doubt’.
  21. William Blake (1757-1827), poet and painter.
  22. These variations were played before Horace Dann, Ronald Briggs and Lennox Berkeley (Julia Busch, http://www.musicweb-international.com/2003/Nov03/Williamˍ Busch.htm).
  23. This may refer to an anonymous poem which includes, ‘Weep you no more, sad fountains| What need you flow so fast’ in Songs set by John Dowland, viii, Oxford Book of 11th Cent. Verse.
  24. George William (A. E.) Russell’s setting of Rest.
  25. Sunday, 21 March 1943, ‘Russian Music’ (Poston Pocket Diary).
  26. ‘4 am!’ (Poston Pocket Diary).
  27. Concert Pianist (1912-1996).
  28. Julia Busch, personal communication.
  29. Promenade Concert at the Albert Hall, Friday 15 August (see Poston Pocket Diary, ‘William’s Prom’).
  30. Robert Nichols (1893-1944), war poet & playwright; Elizabeth corresponded with him at great length after the death of their mutual friend, Peter Warlock in 1930, and had written again in April 1943 following some derogatory remarks about Warlock in the Press. See Elizabeth Poston: Her Own Words(2008).Ed. John S. Alabaster. Friends of The Forster Country, 98 pp.
  31. Poston Pocket Diary.
  32. Augustus Edwin John (1878-1961), Welsh painter, draughtsman & etcher.
  33. Month and year fits 1943 and Poston Pocket diary entry for Thursday 13th accords, ‘Eur 1130 R[ené] & me – Bliss songs’.
  34. A reference to Karl Baedeker’s Guides to various countries.
  35. Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986), English composer who set melodies synchronously with their inversions and used downward scales as focal points.
  36. This is probably Dr Rosamund Harding’s An Anatomy of Inspiration an essay on the Creative Mood: with an Appendix on The Birth of a Poem, by Robert Nichols.
  37. Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), English Composer and Master of the Queen’s Music; the songs were broadcast on Thursday 13 May 1943 (Poston Pocket Diary].
  38. This date is anomalous; if it was a Sunday, it should be 30th not 31st; the year is taken to be correct at 1943, not 1942 because of the mention of the Dr. Rosamund Harding Book.
  39. Saturday 5 June, Poston Pocket Diary entry, ‘Morley Coll[ege]. 6 pm. “Nicholas Variations” (Tom Bromley)’.
  40. Sir Adrian Boult (1889-1993), first conductor of BBC Symphony Orchestra, 1931-1950.
  41. Bernard Van Dieren (1887-1936), Dutch composer, friend of Peter Warlock.
  42. Cecil Gray (1895-1951) wrote a controversial memoire of Peter Warlock which Elizabeth found to have ‘a good many errors’ (see Letter DS29 in Elizabeth Poston Centenary, 2005: Contributed Articles and Personal Letters. John S. Alabaster (Ed.), Friends of the Forster Country, 2006).
  43. White, ‘Ghost’ slugs, carnivorous on worms, do occur in Turkey and Georgia, of which Elizabeth may have been aware.
  44. Year based on Sunday being 4th July in 1943 & corroborating Poston Pocket Diary entry.
  45. 1943 (see Poston Pocket Diary entry, ‘William’s Prom’).
  46. Rainer Rilke (1875-1926), esteemed German language poet, three of whose poems were arranged by Norman Fraser in 1939 as Drei Rilke Lieder (Philip Scowcroft 1994, Classical Music on the Web).
  47. Oda Slobodskaya (1888-1970), Russian soprano.
  48. See Poston Pocket Diary entry for Wednesday 7 July 1943, ‘11.30 Oda Slobodskaya RILKE Record’.
  49. Lucie Mannheim (1899-1976), German singer and actress, immigrated to England because of the political situation in Germany.
  50. This refers to the song, Snowdrops in the Wind which William, Elizabeth and Norman Fraser had agreed to set to music. William’s published version is dedicated to ‘ER and NF’ (Julia Busch, personal communication).
  51. A romantic prelude for piano composed by Norman Fraser in 1933 (Philip Scowcroft 1994 Classical Music on the Web).
  52. Poston Pocket Diary entries for Wednesday 14 July 1943, ‘Wm in town’, ’12.45 Lunch Wm’ & ‘Boyd Neal Reh[earsal] 7.15-9.15.Rec[ording] 9.15-11.45 MVa. [Maida Vale]’.
  53. Arthur Honegger (1892-1955), Swiss composer.
  54. R. Douglas Gibson worked for Chester which later published several of Elizabeth’s works in 1960-1963 (See Simon Campion Archive, Box No.6.).
  55. Norman Peterkin (1886-1982), composer, took over from Hubert Foss at OUP in 1941 and took early retirement in 1947.
  56. Ilonka Kabos (1898-1973), Hungarian pianist.
  57. Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943), Russian composer.
  58. William’s son, Nicholas was then three.
  59. By the end of 1940, William had written three movements of the concerto for Florence Hooton; by the end of August 1941 he had orchestrated the first two movements; and the whole work was first performed on 18 December that year (Julia Busch, Music Web 2003).
  60. Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787), German composer.
  61. Samuel Wesley (1766-1837), English organist and composer.
  62. Letter dated by Poston Pocket Diary entry 2 September 1943, ‘to Devon’..
  63. Poston Pocket Diary entry.
  64. Poston Pocket Diary entry for Thursday 2 September is, ‘To Devon, Waterloo 10.50’, and for Monday 6 September, is ‘Back’.
  65. Songs of Innocence were written in 1789 by William Blake with the theme that true innocence was impossible without experience.
  66. This song is Sweet Suffolk Owl published in 1925 by Boosey & Hawkes (Simon Campion Archive); the relevant Poston Pocket Diary entry for Wednesday 1 September is, ‘H.S. 12.30 Neal (S. Owl)’.
  67. Probably composing music for The Snowdrop in the Wind.
  68. ‘Scarlatti’ refers to an Italian 17th century composer, of forename either Domenico or Alessandro (baroque).
  69. Alan Bush (1901-1995), British composer, pianist and conductor, known as an outspoken Marxist.
  70. Reminiscent of Shakespeare (Twelfth Night, II. v), ‘… and some have greatness thrust upon them’
  71. Poston Pocket Diary entry for 7 September 1943 is, ‘Busch, Nicholas & Cello’.
  72. Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), English musician
  73. It seems likely that Elizabeth was alluding to William’s The Snowdrop in the Wind, the words of which she had copied out in her diary, dated Saturday 3 July:She wears a shred of marble green,She looks so white and cold,But underneath her tossing skirtHer smock is worn in gold.She dances on my grave, my boy,She dances in my heartAll through the long & bitter nightWhile we two lie apart..
  74. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Russian composer (who used unique combinations and extremes of instruments).
  75. Roy Henderson (1899-2000), leading English baritone and teacher.
  76. Dr. William Temple had been made Archbishop of Canterbury on 2 March 1943.
  77. ‘Friday 24 September for lunch’, (Poston Pocket Diary).
  78. Anatol Fistoulari (1907-1995), Ukrainian born, had been made principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1943.
  79. ‘She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree! […] She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs.’ from Down by the Salley Gardens.
  80. Beatrice was the resident cook and domestic help, befriended by Elizabeth and her mother.
  81. Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989), had joined the BBC Music Department as orchestral programme manager in 1942; conducted the premier of his Divertimento by the London Philharmonic Orchestra
  82. Anton Webern (1883-1945), Austrian composer and conductor.
  83. Peter Pears (1910-1986), English tenor and life-long partner of the composer Benjamin Britten.
  84. Sette Canzoni (unpublished), subsequently reduced to six, not to be confused with the Sei Canzoni (1956), also unpublished.
  85. The Chinese Eye: An Interpretation of Chinese Painting (1935) by Yee Chiang, 240 pp.
  86. C. E. M. Joan and Julian Huxley were both members of the BBC Brains Trust programme that dealt with awkward questions from listeners.
  87. On 11 October (Poston Pocket Diary).
  88. Elizabeth was actually only 28!
  89. This is the title of Aldous Huxley’s satirical novel of 1932 of a future, loveless, sinister world of both communism and capitalism.
  90. Blake’s lines from The Sick Rose are: ‘O Rose thou art sick.| The invisible worm,| That flies in the night| In the howling storm| Has found out thy bed| Of crimson joy| And his dark secret love| Does thy life destroy.’
  91. A reference to the local Fire Service in which William was employed.
  92. The year is based on Poston Pocket Diary entries for 25, 28 November& 6 December 1943.
  93. English comedy actor noted for his slapstick films.
  94. As a member of the local Devonshire Fire Brigade.
  95. Arthur Bliss (1891-1975), composer, was Director of Music at the BBC from 1942-1944.
  96. This probably refers to the composer, Herbert Norman Howells, prominent at the Royal College of Music.
  97. This may refer to Elizabeth’s unpublished and undated Cradle Song but there may be a connection with its namesake included in The Mother Duck’s Book, published in 1962 by Augener-Galliard. (Simon Campion Archive).
  98. Chiang Yee (1943) The Silent Traveller in London, Country Life (First published in 1938).
  99. E. M. Forster by Lionel Triling (1943) New Directions Books, 192 pp.
  100. The Writings of E. M. Forster. The Hogarth Press, London (1938).
  101. Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959), Brazilian composer, who wrote three cello sonatas.
  102. Georges Poniridy (1892-1978), Greek composer whose works include a number of suits.
  103. Blind baritone singer who has written a short biographical note on William Busch on the Music Web: http:///www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2003/Nov03.Buschˍlogan.htm
  104. Michael Head (1900-1976), British composer, pianist, organist and singer.
  105. Poston Pocket Diary entry.
  106. John Dowland (1563-1626), English composer and singer.
  107. Tobias Hume (1569-1645), English composer & viol player.
  108. Henry Purcell (1659-1695), English Baroque composer.
  109. This suggests that Elizabeth was probably aware of the inadequacy of the equal temperament , established in 1919, compared with the well-temper4d scale of Bach and his contemporaries. See also letters No. 32 & 33.
  110. These were probably Two Beddoes Songs for tenor and piano (1937) by Bernard Stevens (1916-1983) using poems by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1900-1926), English poet and dramatist.
  111. Gustav Mahler (1861-1911), Bohemian-Austrian composer and conductor.
  112. This appears to be an error; the 22nd was a Monday, the Poston Pocket Diary entry for which includes ‘Bax 8tet’.
  113. Arnold Bax (1883-1953), English composer and poet.
  114. Paul Hindermith (1985-1963), German composer.
  115. Kathleen Riddick (1907-1973).
  116. Denise Lassimone, pianist & teacher, appearing in the National Gallery concerts; compiled, with Howard Ferguson (editor) Myra Hess and her Audience by her Friends, Hamish Hamilton, 1966.
  117. Arthur Honegger (1892-1955), Swiss composer.
  118. Sergei Prokoviev m(1891-1953), Ukrainian composer.
  119. The year is consistent with Letter No. 27.
  120. Alan Bush (1900-1995), English composer who had founded and was conductor of the London String Orchestra from 1938 and was stationed in London during the war.
  121. That could play only predictable waltzes whereas the real bird gave new life to the Emperor on his deathbed (The Nightingale by Hans Christian Anderson, 1844).
  122. Shelly: Song: Rarely, Rarely, Comest Thou.
  123. Shakespeare: Hamlet, I ii.
  124. Harold Craxton (1885-1971), English pianist and composer.
  125. Thomas Arne (1710-1778).
  126. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Russian composer.
  127. William Alwyn (1905-1985), English composer and conductor.
  128. York Bowen (1884-1961), British pianist and composer.
  129. David Moule-Evans (1926-1888), Welsh composer and conductor.
  130. The Busch’s next door neighbour at Greenbanks, Devon (Julia Busch, personal copmmunication)
  131. Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784), Italian musician.
  132. Year consistent with Poston Pocket Diary entries for Monday 20 December 1943, ‘Music for Christmas E.P?’, Tuesday 21, ‘Tuesday Radiogram 10- 10.30’ and Sunday 26, ‘Children’s Christmas’,
  133. Kendall Taylor (1905-1999), concert pianist.
  134. Elizabeth wrote her own version in 1947 (Simon Campion Archive).
  135. Alan Pryce-Jones (1908-2000), writer and critic.
  136. Herbert Howells wrote one Piano Quartet, op. 21 (1936).
  137. Victor Hely-Hutchinson joined the BBC in 1926, serving variously as programme organiser and performer (organist, pianist accompanist and conductor).
  138. Mosco Carner (Cohen) (1904-1985), musicologist, author and also conductor.
  139. William Pleeth (1916-1999), English cellist, with a strong preference for chamber music.
  140. Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968), Italian composer who published his Cello Sonata in F in 1921.
  141. Freidrich Smetana (1923-1997), Czech composer.
  142. Maurice Miles (1908-1985), conducted the Northern Philharmonic Orchestra 1945-1946.
  143. This would be Ruth Pitter (1897-1991) who wrote The Church Mouse, published in The Bridge – Poems 1939-1944, London Cresset Press, 1945; her name appears in Elizabeth’s Pocket diary for Wednesday, 12 January, ‘Michael Head & Ruth Pitter 6.30’ and she is also named in Letter No. 36 (6 May 1944).
  144. This was probably the obituary, Peter Warlock written by the music critic, Edwin Evans for Time and Tide, 3 January 1932; it is reprinted in The Peter Warlock Society News Letter No. 82, Spring 2008. pp. 7-8
  145. William Boyce (1711-1779), English composer, was organist, editor and master of the King’s Music.
  146. Elizabeth is referring to her two songs, Tell me Lovely Shepherd and By thy Banks, Gentle Stour, both published in 1943 by OUP; she arranged three further Boyce works later.
  147. Kathleen Schlesinger (1862-1979), British musicologist who identified in her book, The Greek Aulos (1935), London Methuen, an ancient system of unequal temperament tuning, but overlaid it with philosophy and mysticism; its being contrary to the 12-tone equal temperament scale of Schoenberg would have appealed to Elizabeth. See also Letters No. 28 & 33.
  148. Robert Herrick (1591-1674), prolific poet, some of whose works were also set by Elizabeth
  149. David Oistrakh (1908-1974) Ukrainian violinist to whom Myaskovsky dedicated his Violin Concerto which was premiered and performed in Moscow in 1939
  150. Nikola Myaskovsky (1881-1950), Russian conductor.
  151. Alexander Gauk (1893-1963), Russian/Soviet composer and conductor.
  152. William Pleeth had married pianist, Margaret Good in 1942.
  153. Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1976), Russian composer; the Quartet could have been No. 1, Op. 49 (1938) or No. 2, Op. 68 (1944)
  154. Poston Pocket Diary entry, Thursday, 3 February 1944, ‘lunch Wyss’.
  155. William had joined his local Fire Service in 1941 after being allowed by the Tribunal for Conscientious Objectors to continue as a composer (Julia Busch, Music Web, November 2003).
  156. An allusion to Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci.
  157. Gerald Abraham (1904-1988), English musicologist who was Director of The Gramophone Department of the BBC, 1942-1947.
  158. Léon Goossens (1897-1988), teacher and concert artist
  159. Walter Leigh (1905-1942), English composer who was involved with V. V. Chester-Baddeley (see Letter No. 1) and whose Concertino for Piano and Strings was later premiered in London by Elizabeth in 1946 and performed again at Stevenage in 1952 and 1959; the Trio was for flute, oboe and piano.
  160. This is consistent with Poston Pocket Diary entry, 1 April 1944, ‘In bed ‘flu’, and the crossing out of events covering Sunday 5th to Saturday 8th.
  161. Wilfred Wilson Gibson (1867-1962) British poet, associated with World War I.
  162. Sir Edward Dyer (1643-1607):The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall
    The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat;
    The slender hairs cast shadows, through but small,
    And bees have stings, although they be not great;
    Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs;
    And love is love, in beggars and in kings.Where waters smoothest run, there deepest are the fords,
    The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
    The firmest faith is found in fewest words,
    The turtles do not sing, and yet they love;
    True hearts have ears, and eyes, no tongues to speak;
    They hear, and see, and sign, and then they break.
  163. Cecil Gray (1895-1951), controversial Scottish critic and composer, wrote an opera, The Temptation of Saint Anthony which has been described as containing ‘desperate confused morality’ (John Purser, BBC broadcast 11 November 2007, Programme 44): ‘Heaven and Hell are confounded as the Queen of Sheba, in a Vision, attempts to seduce St Anthony’.
  164. Julian Herbage, at the BBC, had received and rejected the first two movements of Williams Cello Concerto in 1941
  165. William Cowper (1731-1800), English poet
  166. The Stricken Deer or The Life of Cowper by Lord David Cecil, London (1929).
  167. William Cowper knew Mary Unwin for a year before she was widowed in 1766 and moved with her to Olney in1768; they became engaged in 1773, but he had an attack of madness and then Mary died in 1796.
  168. The year is congruent with the Poston Pocket diary entries e.g. for 10 May, 1944.
  169. Mary Elizabeth Coleridge (1861-1907).
  170. Sir Stephen Harold Spender (1909-1995), English poet, novelist and essayist, was co-founder of Horizon & co-editor (1939-1941).
  171. W. H. Auden (1907-1973), Anglo-American poet.
  172. Elizabeth was probably referring to T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), rather than to George Eliot.
  173. Anne Ridler (1912-2001), British poet and editor of Faber & Faber.
  174. See letter No. 32.
  175. Tobias Matthay (1858-1945), piano teacher at the Royal Academy of Music & noted for his detailed attention to technique.
  176. This work is not included in the Simon Campion archive, but may refer to her Tell me, Lovely Shepherd.
  177. In the sense of some parts of the music yielding or giving way to others – e.g., no dominance of piano accompaniment.
  178. Peter Davies, London, 1934.
  179. She died two days later on 8 May, as Elizabeth noted in her Pocket Diary..
  180. Clementine Churchhill, wife of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.
  181. Nancy Astor (1879-1964), first woman member of the House of Commons.
  182. Amy Johnson (2903-1941), pioneering woman aviator.
  183. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), the first woman to qualify as a doctor of medicine.
  184. Ethel Smythe (1858-1944), English composer and leader of the movement for women’s suffrage.
  185. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), pioneer in modern nursing, writer and statistician.
  186. Ede (Eduard) Poldini (1869-1957), Hungarian composer,
  187. Little information about him has come to light but he had the dubious honour of accompanying behind a curtain a singer at the inauguration of TV in August 1936.
  188. These could have been chosen from her Five Traditional Tuscan Songs (1935)
  189. The invasion of France by the Allied Expeditionary Force took place a month later on ‘D-day’, 6 June 1944.
  190. This song of Elizabeth’s was published in 1927 by Boosey & Hawkes (Simon Campion Archive) and the broadcast is noted in Elizabeth Pocket Diary on 10 May.
  191. Alan Bush’s Meditation on a German Song of 1848 for violin and piano Op. 22 was given its 1st performance at the Contemporary Music Centre on 15 May 1944, with Max Rostal (violin) (Alan Bush Music Trust).
  192. Phyllis Sellick (1911-2007), pianist.
  193. The year is consistent with Poston Pocket Diary entries, e.g. on Thursday 18 May 1944, ‘William 3.30. Klenz record.’
  194. A. A. Milne (author inter alia of Winnie the Pooh) said his spelling was wobbly!
  195. William Klenz, an American, came to England during the war (1942-1947) and made public recitals and broadcasts from London and Paris.
  196. Maurice Raskin, Belgian violinist
  197. On Tuesday 20 June (Poston Pocket Diary).
  198. The year is consistent with the Poston Pocket Diary entry for 16 June 1944.
  199. Winnifred Copperwheat, an outstanding viola player whose performances had included some at the National Gallery concerts.
  200. The year is consistent with the Poston Pocket Diary entry for Tuesday, 27 June 1944, ‘Qr [Quartet] Belge Playback 11.45 Busch.’
  201. John Philip Sousa (1854-1932, American bandmaster, author and composer composed The Stars and Stripes Forever.
  202. Samuel Barber (1910-1981), American composer.
  203. Three days later, on 30 June, there was a bomb on Bush House (Poston Pocket Diary).
  204. Elizabeth moved to Bush House on Monday 17 June 1944 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  205. From the mid-1950s Harold Holt Ltd. was a music management agency that promoted many festivals including the Edinburgh Festival.
  206. There was subsequently a Memorial to her by Kathleen Long, Myra Hess, Adrian Boult, Edward Isaacs, Gerald Moore, Albert Sammons, Malcolm Sargent and James Whitehead in The Musical Times, Vol. 85, No. 1220 (Oct. 1944), p. 317.
  207. Olive Zorian, violinist in the London Belgian Piano Quartet.
  208. John Amis, born 1922, broadcaster and music critic and administrator, married Olive Zorian in 1949, but the marriage was dissolved in 1955 and Olive died in 1959.
  209. Poston Pocket Diary entry for 20 September is, ‘HS [Home Service] 9.30-1045 Herrick’.
  210. Deduced from Poston Pocket Diary entries.
  211. Elizabeth’s song arrangement of By thy Banks, Gentle Stour (Boyce) was published in 1943 by OUP.
  212. There was a bomb on Bush House on 30 June 1944 (Poston Pocket Diary).
  213. Dates are indicated by the context of Poston Pocket Diary entry for 31 August 1944, ‘2-3 Busch Passacaglia’.
  214. The Soldier was written by Rupert Brooks; Gibson’s poem, Back captures the feeling of a soldier returning safely from war.
  215. This is a 30-year collection of articles, essays, reviews and poems by E. M. Forster.
  216. The year is consistent with Poston Pocket Diary entry for Tuesday 14 September 1944, ‘Hooton Busch’.
  217. Probably on Wednesday 23 August, the Poston Diary entry for which reads, ‘Busch 1.45-3.15 Record 2.30’.
  218. The sequence of notes written in the treble clef, E, D, C#, G (as quavers) and B (as a crochet) would involved changing from the A string to the G string and back again for the last three notes.
  219. Elizabeth was talking from experience since she had studied violin as well as piano.
  220. This would include Rudolf Soiron, cellist of the London Belgian Piano Quartet.
  221. Year indicated by various Poston Pocket Diary entries, e.g. for 17 October 1944, ‘Wm comes. Stays S.L. [Sinclair Logan]’, for 19th, ‘Wm Concert’ and for 20th ‘William 3.21-4.21’.
  222. Probably Huber Parry (1848-1918), English composer and scholar.
  223. Francis Poulenc (1899-1963), French composer and pianist.
  224. Probably Constant Lambert (1905-1951), English composer, conductor and writer on music.
  225. Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
  226. Originally scheduled for Saturday 30th September, Ralph’s wedding was brought forward to the 23rd. (Poston Pocket Diary).
  227. Henry Lawes (1595-1662), English Musician and composer who set Milton’s Comus to music, as Elizabeth herself was commissioned to do for the BBC Third Programme in 1946.
  228. Date confirmed by reference to Letter No. 45.
  229. Thomas Beecham (1879-1961), British conductor and impresario who having been abroad since the spring of 1940 had returned to England in 1944 and (as recorded in the Poston Pocket Diary) conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert on 2 November.
  230. Jack Hylton (1892-1965), British Bandleader and impresario who had just (on 12 October) made almost his last appearance as a conductor.
  231. Charles Münch (1891-1986), French conductor and violinist for whom there had been a reception on 8 November (at Welbeck St,) and a Münch Concert at Bedford on 15th; Elizabeth had also lunched with him at Bush House on the following Friday, 17th (Poston Pocket Diary entries).
  232. Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English poet and critic.
  233. This is an alternative superscripted passage of music.
  234. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1985), English composer and collector of English folk music who was Elizabeth’s mentor.
  235. Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), French composer, organist, pianist and teacher.
  236. George Meredith (1828-1909), English novelist and poet whose poem inspired Vaughan Williams.
  237. Generic Frame Protocol
  238. May Mukle (1880-1963), cellist, labelled ‘the female Casals’ after Pablo Casals the famous Catalonian cellist.
  239. Anthony Bernard, head of the London Chamber Orchestra which premièred Elizabeth’s Comus on the BBC Third Programme in September 1946.
  240. W. R. Anderson later reviewed William’s Piano Quartet (Musical Times, Vol. 91, No. 1285, pp. 98-100).
  241. Thomas Campion (1567-1620), English composer, poet and physician.
  242. Edward Elgar (1857-11934), English Romantic composer.
  243. Richard Wagner (1813-1883), German composer, conductor and theorist.
  244. ‘Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams’ from W. B. Yeats’ He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven.
  245. Randall Thompson (1899-1984), American composer who wrote his Alleluia in July 1940.
  246. Steuart Wilson, at some time Head of Music at the BBC.
  247. Elizabeth’s itinerary included: ‘Bristol, Brixham [Devon], Penzance [Cornwall], returning on 20th’ (Poston Pocket Diary).
  248. Clarence Raybould (1986-1971), conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, 1936-1945. He had conducted William’s Piano Concerto with the BBC Concert Orchestra on 6 January 1939 and his Cello Concerto in December 1944 (Julia Busch,http://www.musicweb-international.com/2003/Nov03.William Busch,htm).
  249. Priunlx Rainier (1903-1986), British composer and teacher of composition whose quartet (1939) shows her ‘characteristic idiom: simple melodic and rhythmic patterns used repetitively and cumulatively, with frequent use of unison and octaves; an absence of counterpoint, and a harmony built on an individual use of triadic tonality, not simply diatonic (Contemporary British Music by Francis Routh, Macdonald, 1972).
  250. Béla Bartók (1881-1905), Hungarian composer and pianist.
  251. Leo Weiner (1885-1960), Hungarian composer.
  252. Jean Absil (1893-1974), Belgian modernist composer and organist who wrote his Violin Concerto Op. 11 in 1933.
  253. The oratorio, A Child of Our Time was written between 1939 and 1941 by Michael Tippett (1805-1998), expressing man’s inhumanity to man and was premiered in 1942.
  254. William Glock (1908-2000), British musical administrator.
  255. Cecil Gray’s Contingencies and Other Essays was subsequently published by OUP in 1947.
  256. Roger Fiske (1910-1987), musicologist, author and broadcaster, joined the BBC in 1939 & produced educational broadcasts and was the author of the BBC Music Guide and was editor of the BBC Music Magazine.
  257. Julia Busch, http://www.musicweb-international.com/2003/Nov03.William Busch,htm.
  258. Elizabeth had a meeting with him two days previously (Poston Pocket Diary),
  259. Gerald Finzi (1901-1956), English composer and friend of William.