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The Hollow Men 1

ApIvor's setting of T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men is the most significant achievement of his early musical career and marks an important point of transition in his development as a composer. In its ambitious scale, the work signalled a major break with his earlier compositional output, which up until that point had consisted almost entirely of solo songs. Furthermore, as the preliminary attempt at the integration of contemporary styles into his idiom, it provided the basis from which his more radical experiments were to grow. The work is scored for baritone solo, chorus and an orchestra of the following specifications: flute, piccolo, clarinet, bassoon, double bassoon, two E-flat alto saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones, strings, piano, timpani and percussion. It was performed to considerable acclaim in a BBC broadcast concert on 21 February 1950, by the BBC Male Voice Chorus with Redvers Llewellyn (baritone) and the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Constant Lambert.

It is likely that the initial idea of setting The Hollow Men, and indeed Eliot's poetry in general, was suggested by Constant Lambert's book Music Ho! (1934). As noted in Chapter 1, ApIvor had read this work during the early years of his residence in London and admits to having been strongly influenced by it. In an essay entitled 'The Spirit of Jazz', Lambert discusses the successful fusion of highbrow and lowbrow art in Eliot's poetry, identifying the last lines of The Hollow Men 'This is the way the world ends' with the jingle and sentiment of the jazz song.