Edward German – The Seasons
(b. Whitchurch, Shropshire, 17 February 1862; d. London, 11 November 1936)
Christmas Time (Winter)
German Edward Jones was born in the Shropshire market town of Whitchurch. The unusual name of ‘German’ was based on that of St Garmon, a Welsh saint (it should be said with a hard ‘G’, like the names Geraint or Gerwyn). He showed musical promise and won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied with Ebeneezer Prout and began a lifelong friendship with a fellow pupil, Henry Wood. By this time (1880) he was calling himself Edward Jones, but discovering another pupil with the same name, he adopted the stage-name of Edward German. That at least was the story he told for the rest of his life.
German obtained an appointment as musical director at the Globe Theatre in 1887, and began a career that would see him become the pre-eminent theatrical composer in Britain, with a knighthood in 1928. His biggest success was Merrie England (1902), but he wrote six operas and a further nine theatre scores, together with orchestral and choral works, songs and piano music.
The Seasons was his largest orchestral score. He wrote it in 1898 in Snowdonia, during a Welsh holiday, but intended it for the Norwich Festival, for which he had already written several works, including a symphony. It was included in the 1899 festival where it made a good impression, the critic of the Eastern Daily Record saying that it would “considerably advance the composer’s fame as a brilliant writer for the orchestra, and [would] appeal with irresistible force to hearers of every kind”.
Over the years The Seasons had very few complete performances, though Edward German often programmed individual movements.
There are obvious ‘pastoral’ touches, but the music is often darker despite its lively opening. A broad second section introduces an idea that German described as “a young man’s fancy turning to thoughts of love”. The movement ends in a strongly syncopated climax.
Summer brings an extended dance movement, perhaps intended to represent farmworkers relaxing after a long day in the fields. There seems at one point to be a pre-echo of Bernard Herrmann’s score for North by Northwest from 40 years later.
Both Summer and Spring are recalled during a nostalgic movement in which a cor anglais in prominent.
Christmas Time (Winter)
Winter is in two sections, a solemn chorale (which returns at the end) and a lively tarantella – clearly the Christman festivities.
Phillip Brookes, 2022
For performance material please contact Novello, London. Reprint of a copy from the collection Phillip Brookes, Roxas City.
Read full German preface > HERE