9781843838982I was completely surprised this morning by an article in the Wall Street Journal reviewing a new book: Constant Lambert: Beyond the Rio Grande, by Stephen Lloyd. Although I was aware Lloyd had been researching Lambert, I didn’t realize that the book was due out. I ordered a copy immediately.

This isn’t the only book on Lambert. Richard Shead wrote the first biography in 1973 – it was good, but rather brief, and probably constrained as to what he could say, as many of those featured in it were still alive. Poet Andrew Motion published a much larger tome – The Lamberts – in 1986, but in that book Constant had to share the limelight with his painter father George and his son Kit (best known as manager of The Who). I haven’t seen Lloyd’s book yet, but the page count (622!), the table of contents and the author’s musical credentials suggest that this will be the most thorough account yet.

My own interest in Lambert dates from a tour I took part in of his Concerto for Piano and Nine Instruments (1931) at the University of Keele in the early 1980s – Peter Dickinson was the pianist. I played percussion. The Concerto is a jazz-influenced chamber work that’s savage rather than smooth and with instrumentation influenced as much by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire than by jazz bands – although Lambert was also a huge enthusiast of the music of Duke Ellington. From there I wrote a thesis on Lambert and reconstructed the score of his final ballet Tiresias, which was missing at the time. That work eventually resulted in a performance (in 1996, I think) of Tiresias on Radio 3, organized by Piers Burton Page (the first performance since the early 1950s), and in turn that piqued the interest of David Lloyd Jones, who went on to record the work for Hyperion in 1999. I was lucky enough to be at the recording session in Leeds Town Hall. So I’m really looking forward to reading the new book.

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