Valentine’s Day Special: MusiCB3’s Guide to Dating

Dating can be difficult: everyone knows that. In the mad whirl that is the ‘dating game’, it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for, and often you end up making do with a situation that is a lot less than ideal. So when it was suggested to me that I might write a MusiCB3 post of helpful ‘dating tips’, it seemed a good idea – especially as, these days, I’m getting an average of five or six dates an hour.

Not romantic dates, obviously. What I’m talking about are the dates that need to be assigned to a large number of the radio scripts in the Deryck Cooke Archive. When I first saw these scripts – tied in bundles in a suitcase at the home of Cooke’s former partner Hazel Hyde – it was apparent that a true picture of this great broadcaster’s work between 1948 and 1976 could only emerge if the dozens and dozens of undated typescripts were put into some kind of chronological sequence. And since then, a good deal of time has been spent in the search for clues as to when these mysterious items might have been written, recorded or broadcast.

Cooke Mahler script

Ex 1: Cooke Mahler script ©CUL

Of course, not every script is lacking a date. Many were typed or re-typed by one or other BBC secretary, with duplicates run off for producers, studio engineers, and that sinister-seeming BBC department known only as ‘Scrutiny’. And often these scripts include everything one needs to know to fit them into the appropriate points in the Archive’s accumulating Multi-Media Bibliography: see Ex. 1.

On other occasions, however, the script lacks any date information at all – perhaps because of someone’s oversight; or perhaps because no specific date of broadcast had yet been decided. Two of the undated scripts are shown in Ex. 2:

Ex 2: Cooke Wolf scripts

Ex 2: Cooke Wolf scripts, ©CUL

The first thing to say is that we seem to be missing the entire first page of the item that Cooke himself has labelled by hand as ‘Hugo Wolf – 1’; in fact, one would guess that the top sheet has been deliberately discarded, as the opening of the first extant page makes a perfectly acceptable start for a talk that would have been introduced – as the top of the second script reveals – by some words from an announcer or presenter. This is, in fact, our first real clue – as the layout of that top page is unusual, and characteristic of the scripts of the programme ‘Music Magazine’, which was broadcast live on Sunday mornings on the BBC Home Service and (later) Music Programme, and which Julian Herbage presented between 1952 and 1973.

Knowing this – and being aware that the programme (like the long-running ‘Music Weekly’ that eventually replaced it) was essentially topical in nature – we may assume that Wolf’s songs were being discussed on a Sunday morning that fell upon, or close to, an anniversary date. Since Hugo Wolf was born on 13 March 1860, an obvious thing to do is to go to the UL’s bound copies of Radio Times and look at the ‘Music Magazine’ listing for Sunday 13 March 1960 – where, pleasingly but surprisingly, one finds reference to ‘“The Songs of Hugo Wolf – 2” by Deryck Cooke’. A moment’s thought allows one to guess what has happened: in order to have two bites at the cherry, the programme had chosen to broadcast the first of its two items on 21 February – close to the anniversary of Wolf’s death (22 February) – and to put the second on the anniversary of his birth (13 March), a few weeks later.

Here’s another undated script relating to a composer with whose work Cooke was closely associated: Anton Bruckner.


Ex 3: Cooke Bruckner script ©CUL

The item is a very poor photocopy, with many words barely legible, but can be seen to bear the title ‘Introduction to the 1887 Version of Bruckner Eight’. A couple of clues as to its date come in the third paragraph of text: ‘. . . last April the International Bruckner Society issued the score and parts, edited by Nowak, and in a little while we shall hear the first world [sic] performance of it.’ As any devoted Brucknerian knows, the score of the symphony’s original 1887 version edited by Leopold Nowak first appeared in 1972; and the first performance of this edition took place on 2 September 1973. But would its broadcast have been ‘live’ – or a ‘deferred relay’, heard on some later date? Not knowing the answer to such a question can lead to a lot of Radio Times pages being fruitlessly searched! Fortunately, however, there is one other piece of information to consider. Cooke’s correspondence is not yet fully listed, but it is known to contain a brief exchange of letters with the composer and pianist Harold Truscott – in which we learn of the two musicians’ failure to agree on the tonal implications at the start of Bruckner’s first movement (for the record: Truscott heard the tonality of the opening as ‘a Neapolitan D flat major, impingeing [sic] upon the tonic, C minor’ – while Cooke was in agreement with Robert Simpson in hearing the key as B flat minor and the note D flat as the minor third of that key). And since the date on Truscott’s letter is ‘2 Sept 1973’, we can go straight to that ‘Third Programme’ page of the Radio Times – and find the programme listed there.

Well, we seem to be doing pretty well – which, of course, means that it is all about to grind to a halt. And so it does. Here we have four items lacking dates: ‘Centenary Talk on Frederick Delius for CBC’; ‘Strauss Centennial talk for CBC’; ‘CBC Centennial Talk on Sibelius’, and ‘CBC Script on Sibelius and Nielsen.’

Cooke scripts

Ex 4: Cooke scripts ©CUL

Since Delius was born in 1862, Richard Strauss in 1864, and Sibelius in 1865, we may confidently date the first three broadcasts to 1962, 1964 and 1965 respectively; and since the third script refers in its text to the centenary of both composers, it too must come from 1965. More specific than that, however, one cannot be at present. ‘CBC’ is, of course, the ‘Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’, which had close ties with the BBC;  alas, no online source seems to exist that gives historic CBC schedules, and the relevant listings magazine – the CBC Times – is not held in Cambridge or in the library of any other UK university.

All the same, it does sometimes happen that a script of a foreign broadcast can help to solve a problem, rather than create one. This was the case with the long and detailed script for ‘Making a Score of the Mahler 10’ – which bears no broadcast date, nor any indication of its year, but does detail the date of its scheduled recording as ‘Wednesday 5 April’.

Ex 5: Cooke Mahler script

Ex 5: Cooke Mahler script ©CUL

Cooke’s editorial work on the draft of Mahler’s unfinished final symphony occupied him intermittently from 1960 until the end of his life; but since one easily discovers that, within that period, 5 April fell on a Wednesday only in 1961, 1967 and 1972, we can quickly reduce the number of possible years to three. And we can trim this list still further by noting that the script cannot have been written in 1961, as the text refers at one point to a publication that only appeared in 1964. What is more, we also observe that the script was for the ‘Third Programme’ – which the BBC shut down and replaced by ‘Radio 3’ in September 1967, thereby ruling out 1972 as a possibility and perhaps reducing our 1967 ‘window’ somewhat. And apparently confirming 1967 as the year is that helpful foreign broadcast: a script in German (‘von Deryck Cooke’), labelled ‘Eine Partitur fuer Mahlers 10. Symphonie’ [‘A Score for Mahler’s 10th Symphony’], and whose content follows our undated item so closely that it even appears designed to use the same musical examples. Since this German version was to be recorded on ‘Thursday, 23 Nov. 67’, and broadcast (the actual organisation is not stated) on ‘Sunday, 26th November 1967’, we may be pretty sure that the English original was recorded in April 1967 and broadcast some time before September of that year. And without that confirmation one might have given up searching – as one has to go all the way from 5 April to 19 June 1967 to find a Radio Times listing for the 75-minute broadcast of what it actually calls ‘Mahler’s Sketch for the Tenth Symphony’.

After which exertions, a trip to the tea-room would seem to be in order: time to get a cup of coffee – and start drafting that long-overdue ‘internet dating’ ad. After all, this is Valentine’s Day, and it’s probably worth a try. There are bound to be internet sites for making contact with suitable individuals of the kind I’m thinking of – and, with a bit of luck, I might just find the right person. You know the sort I’m looking for: ‘must have GSOH – enjoy music and reading – and have access to *a complete run of CBC Times (Eastern Edition), 1948-1969*’. As everyone tells me: if you want to be lucky at dating, you have to be prepared to work at it…


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1 Response to Valentine’s Day Special: MusiCB3’s Guide to Dating

  1. Pingback: Love is all around | European languages across borders

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