Notes and Editorial Reviews
Most music lovers know the music of Amy Beach and Ethel Smyth, but Susan Spain-Dunk? So letís talk about her. She was born in Folkestone, Kent and studied at the Royal Academy of Music where she later returned to teach harmony and composition. She was also the violinist and violist of the Winifred Small Quartet (where the 2nd violin and viola interchanged) formed in 1926. This quartet became well known for putting together ìAnthology Programsî with the intention of attracting the attention of musical laymen to the beauties of chamber music. Concerts of this kind were given at dinners, where selected movements of works by composers of various periods were featured. Spain-Dunk first gained recognition as a composer through her chamber music.
The Phantasy Quartet is a single movement work. It is written in a compressed form, with a strong and lively opening followed by a central section to correspond with the slow movement of a sonata. Being a string player herself, she writes very well for the instruments. During her lifetime, she received numerous performances of her chamber and orchestral works. The list of pieces played at the BBC Promenade Concerts in the 1920s included the Suite for Strings in 1924, Idyll for strings and Romantic Piece for flute and strings in 1925, and the Kentish Downs Overture in 1926. Two major symphonic poems Elaine and Stonehenge were also featured in the 1927 BBC Proms, the same year that Andredís Weald for military orchestra was broadcast by the BBC. Having also received major orchestral performances with the Bournemouth Symphony, the British Womenís Symphony Orchestra and at the Eastbourne Festival, among many, it is hard to believe that at the beginning of the 21st century Susan Spain-Dunk is an unknown composer. The only contemporary performance she has received is the BBCís revival of her concert march Kentonia. Read less
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