PHYLLIS TATE (1911-1985): The Lodger.
Catalogue Number: 03R057
Description: Tate was an unique figure in British music, who has suffered an unusual degree of entirely unjustified neglect (this release is by far the most attention she has ever received on disc). She was something of an eccentric as a composer (her instruments were the ukulele and timpani!) and her penchant for unusual instrumental combinations and timbres is probably her major distinguishing characteristic. Otherwise she was a composer of quality, working in a conventional tonal idiom with a gift for melody, not afraid of writing a tune 'which enters the ear with facility and leaves the memory with difficulty'. The Lodger, to a libretto by David Franklin (whose experience as an opera singer was acknowledged by the composer as assisting in the fluid singability and comprehensibility of the vocal lines) after a novel by Hilaire Belloc's sister, is ideally suited to Tate's style; an entertaining domestic story of no great moment, with horrific undertones increasingly revealed via disturbing events and rumors from the street - the title character is Jack the Ripper. There are Cockney revelers with one foot in the music hall, a love story, a down on their luck couple trying to ignore the sometimes odd behavior of the lodger because they need the rent - and the charming gentleman with perfect manners and outbursts of violence and religious mania. The narrative becomes darker and more sinister, matched by the deepening shadows of ambiguity in Tate's score, as the landlady becomes increasingly certain of her guest's identity and pities him rather than being repulsed. The music would be attractive and dramatic, well crafted mid-century tonal romanticism of character, well worth reviving even without the composer's unique touch, but her ability to subvert the atmosphere into something sinister with a sudden change of timbre or harmonic twist elevates it to something quite unusual and compelling, amply fulfilling the composer's characteristically self-deprecating 'hope that some of my creations may prove to be better than they appear.' 2 CDs. Libretto included. Owen Brannigan (bass), Johanna Peters (mezzo), Marion Studholme (soprano), Joseph Ward (high baritone), Alexander Young (tenor), BBC Northern Singers and Orchestra; Charles Groves. (Broadcast Feb. 2, 1964. mono.)