Posted on 4th June, 2022

There has been discussion recently about 1922 and the appearance of Ulysses and The Waste Land (although the cognescenti had been aware of them as they evolved). Rather less remarked is that it also saw the death of Percy Hilder Miles at forty-three. What's more, a century on, his work has been recorded for the first time. As with Ivor Gurney, he wrote a great deal not all of which has survived but there is enough to make one eager for a first CD made by the Ensemble Kopernikus on the MPR label.


This is for various combinations of piano, cello and violin. It makes for enthralling listening.I have done so three times, and shall keep returning to it. There is something distinctly English about these pieces, as befits somebody who studied at the Royal College of Music at that time and was an enthusiast for Elgar. In his few decades, Miles became widely praised (he had played from a very early age in Kent, son of a builder and baker, both of them music lovers).


Needs must, he travelled widely to teach and examine, even reaching Australia - and returning to teach in South Kensington. One of his pupils was Rebecca Clarke. As Philip Hall records in his very good liner notes, he proposed in 1905 - over rhubarb and custard in a Baker Street café - to a seventeen-year-old pupil, Rebecca Clarke. She was not averse to the idea; her father most certainly was.


Life went on, in the growing shadow of War, for which he enlisted, only to be turned down owing to poor eyes and lungs. With 1922, he went blind in one eye, and was felled by pneumonia. Why has it taken so long for him to reappear? After all, the invention of the CD put the disc into rediscovery. Be that as it may, he is back, in the footsteps of his lost love Rebecca Clarke whose work is again to the fore. Did she ever speak of him? He bequeathed a Stadivarius to her. This could be the stuff of a novel to rival Falkner's The Lost Stradivarius.


The MPR labels plans more discs, and its sleeve now bids me to listen to Leonard Salzedo.

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