String Quartet No.5 "Song and Dance", Op.72-Folksong Suite No.2
Joseph Holbrooke (1878-1958) born near London in the town of Croydon. Both his parents were musicians and his early lessons were with his father. He was sent to the Royal Academy of Music in London and after graduating worked as a pianist and conductor, all the while composing. Eventually his big works for orchestra and chorus and his operas brought him considerable fame, however, after the First World War, he and his works fell into obscurity. He composed a considerable amount of chamber music, most of which is of a high quality and awaits rediscovery.
Holbrooke's String No.5, which dates from 1917, was the second of two suites for string quartet which became known as National Songs & Dances for string quartet. Suite No.2 also was known as the Celtic Suite. Composed as they were during the First World War, the impulse was clearly to as a show of national pride. As the soundbites clearly illustrate, Holbrooke did not write a didactic, simple take on these folktunes, but instead used them in a sophisticated fashion as had classical composers since the time of Haydn. Suite No.2 consists of four movements and in each there is a wealth of mood and tempo changes. The first is entitled Strathspeys and features the following Scottish folksongs: Keep the Country Bonnie Lassie (from 1768), Tullochgorum (late 16th cent.), and Cameron's Got His Wife (1754). The second movement is entitled Song of the Bottle and is based on a well-known Welsh air of that name. The third movement is entitled All through the Night and uses the famous Yorkist folksong of the same name which commemorates the 1408 siege of the Lancastrian Castle of Harlech by the men of Yorkshire. The finale, Irish Jigs, uses the music of 9 famous Irish dance tunes: Garry Owen was one of the favorites of the Royal Irish Regiment and was played at the Battle of Waterloo among other places. There follows, Irish Washerwoman and Paddy O'Carroll both from the famous O'Neill collection. Next comes The Tight Little Island and Roaring Jelly also known as Smash the Windows, then comes Paddy Whack and The Patriot also from the O'Neill Collection and the last two are Go to the Devil and St Patrick's Day, one of the most popular of all Irish quicksteps.
This is a very engaging work, clearly first rate. Along with his other Folksuites it stands virtually alone in its unique use of British folk music in a early modern post romantic framework. Our of print for the better part of a century, we are pleased to make it available once again.