Variations on Bonnie Sweet Robin (Ophelia’s Song) for flute, oboe and piano (score and parts)
Variations on Bonnie Sweet Robin (Ophelias Song) for flute, oboe and piano (score and parts)
(b. Sidcup, 23 April 1858 – d. Woking, 8 May 1944)
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858–1944) was a pathbreaking British composer, writer, and suffragette. At a young age she determined to study music composition in Germany, entering the Leipzig Conservatorium in 1877 and subsequently receiving private tuition under Heinrich von Herzogenberg. She remained in Continental Europe for over ten years, becoming acquainted with leading musical figures including Brahms, Clara Schumann, Joachim, Grieg, and Chaikovsky. In the decades following her return to England, she drew attention from influential patrons such as Empress Eugénie, Queen Victoria, and Princesse de Polignac, and her works were championed by several prominent members of the music profession, notably Thomas Beecham and Donald Tovey.
Having fallen under the influence of Emmeline Pankhurst in 1910, Smyth devoted the next two years of her life to women’s suffrage, becoming a leading member of the “Votes for Women” movement and even serving a jail sentence for smashing the window of a cabinet secretary’s private residence. In later years, increasing deafness and distorted hearing led her to develop secondary activity as a writer of memoirs, biographical sketches, and polemical essays on the contemporary music profession and the place of women within it. Recognition of her remarkable achievements came in the form of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Durham and Oxford, as well as the award of DBE in 1922.
In the course of her musical career, Smyth broke much new ground within a profession that had hitherto largely excluded women as composers. Her reputation rests largely on substantial works such as her Mass in D (1891), Double Concerto for violin, horn, and orchestra (1926), the oratorio The Prison (1929–30), and her six operas, which include Der Wald (1899–1901), The Wreckers (1902–04), and The Boatswain’s Mate (1913–14). However, her contributions to the song, chamber, and solo keyboard repertories are also significant. Of her handful of chamber works, the String Quintet, Violin Sonata, and Cello Sonata, all products of her time in Germany during the 1880s, continue to be performed and studied, as does her later String Quartet (1902–12).
Composed between 1925 and 1927, Variations on Bonny Sweet Robin (Ophelia’s Song) for flute, oboe, and piano was one of Smyth’s final works, alongside The Prison, her brass fanfare Hot Potatoes (1930), and her Prelude on a Traditional Irish Air for organ (published in 1939). Notwithstanding her hearing difficulties, which were very pronounced by this time, Smyth continued to write music throughout the 1920s while maintaining her parallel literary career. With its modernist idiom, modal harmonies, and frequent musical flourishes including piano glissandi, Variations on Bonny Sweet Robin demonstrates a level of innovation and creativity remarkable for a composer then approaching the age of 70, whose formal training had been undertaken half a century previously.
Set Score & Parts
225 x 320 mm