A Celebration of the English composer Robin Milford
Next weekend, we are very much looking forward to performing at a Robin Milford Festival, hosted by Worcester and St Peter's Colleges, Oxford, and very kindly supported by the Robin Milford Trust - which has, over the last 30 years, worked to preserve and promote Robin Milford's music, and particularly to encourage its performance, publication and recording. We are inspired by the work of trusts such as these: without the tireless effort of their trustees and volunteers, much music which is now available for us to enjoy would be lost forever.
Many recorder players will be familiar with Milford's two works for treble recorder and piano, the 'Three Airs' and his Sonatina in F Major. Oddly, despite the fact that these pieces are more than equal to other works of the English 20th century recorder revival, they are less played - works by Gordon Jacob and Edmund Rubbra, for example, seem to have reached the public consciousness more. It is our aim, through this festival, to work towards the restoration of Milford's musical corpus to popularity in the 21st century, through our own performance of his recorder music, and perhaps a recording in the near future. In collaboration with the Robin Milford Trust, and three of its trustees - Peter Hunter, David Pennant, and Auriol Milford - we are delighted to co-host this festival at Worcester College this coming weekend, 21st and 22nd October.
Milford is without doubt one of my favourite composers. As a recorder player, people often often assume that I grew up playing primarily Early Music, but in my case that is only partly true. My father introduced me to the wealth of 20th century recorder music from the age of 9 or 10, and I have felt a close affinity with it ever since. I find Milford's music particularly beguiling, and even as a young musician I found it possessed an emotional honesty which I now, as an adult, value in all genres of music. Troubled by several tragic events in his own life, Milford suffered from depression: following a short period volunteering in the army during WW2, he suffered a mental breakdown, and while he was treated at this point, the death of his five year old son in a car accident soon afterwards served to worsen his mental health, and very sadly, after the death of one of his closest friends, Gerald Finzi in 1956, he took his own life in 1958 at the age of only 56.
As is the case for many composers suffering from depression, his music itself is not overwhelmingly 'sad' : indeed, it is is more often truly joyful, has a refreshingly straightforward emotional appeal, and is of course of the highest musical quality. Robin Milford attended our own alta mater, the Royal College of Music, where he studied with Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams amongst others. It is only right that we should allow his music to be heard and enjoyed by audiences of the 21st century as it was by those of the twentieth. As Vaughan Williams himself wrote, "If I wanted to show the intelligent foreigner something worth doing which could only possibly come out of England, I think I would show him something of the work of Milford."
Our concert is only one of several taking place across the festival this weekend. Performances by Duncan Honeybourne, Christopher Foster, and of course the Worcester College Chapel Choir will showcase Milford's music for piano, voice, choir and organ.
For details of all events (admission is free throughout the festival, with donations to the Robin Milford Trust), please follow this link, which is to the Robin Milford Trust website. Here you can learn even more about Milford, and find many more opportunities to hear his music.