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Alas Parting

ApIvor's Op. 2 cycle, Alas Parting (1936-37), by contrast shows an inclination towards the music and poetry of the English Renaissance. It is likely that ApIvor's initial enthusiasm for the music of this period was triggered by contact with Diana Poulton, whom he met sometime in 1936. Poulton was an expert on the seventeenth century lutenist, John Dowland (1563-1626) as well as a performer on the Spanish vilhuela at the early music festivals held at Haslemere by the Dolmetsch family. Her influence is most directly felt in the Fantasia for Strings Op.4, which utilises a theme from a song by the sixteenth-century Spanish composer, Diego Pisador. She was also responsible for awakening ApIvor's interest in Spanish folk music, although this did not begin to come to fruition until immediately after the war.

ApIvor's interest in Renaissance music and literature was not unusual during the earlier part of the twentieth century. A number of British composers produced settings of Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry before 1939, including Roger Quilter (To Julia, Herrick, 1905; several Shakespeare sets; Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, 1907), Ivor Gurney (Five Elizabethan Songs, 1913-14), E. J. Moeran ('Come Away Death', Shakespeare, 1925) and John Ireland (Five XVIth Century Poems, 1938). In ApIvor's case the influence was certainly Peter Warlock. By the mid-1930s, ApIvor's interest in the composer had widened to include his transcriptions for piano of sixteenth and seventeenth-century lute song. In 1937, he was given Warlock's French Ayres - transcriptions from the Gabriel Bataille tablature of early seventeenth-century pieces - and also became familiar at about this time with the Warlock-Wilson editions of Elizabethan and Jacobean English Ayres. ApIvor would also been encouraged by examples from Warlock's own oeuvre: songs he is known to have seen by this time which display an obvious debt to Elizabethan music include 'And wilt thou leave me thus', 'Sleep' and 'The Lovers Maze'.

The Op.2 set uses exclusively sixteenth-century texts: two are attributed to King Henry VIII: 'Alas parting' and 'As the holly groweth green'; two are anonymous: 'Brown is my love' and 'In a glorious garden grene'; and the last is by Sir Thomas Wyatt (1503-42): 'Ah, my heart, ah, what aileth thee'. Like the Chaucer cycle, the texts of the songs are linked by common thematic material - in this case, devotion to a woman and the suffering caused by love.

While it is clear that the chosen texts exhibit common properties, in that they are stylistically of the same period and share similar thematic material, it is more difficult to establish links between their musical settings that would suggest that they were conceived as a group. In general terms however the songs certainly exhibit a number of characteristics that are suggestive of older music. For example, in all the songs the construction of the vocal melody has an affinity with that found in lute song, while often polyphonic textures of ApIvor's accompaniments are indicative of the influence of Elizabethan consort music.