This charming little suite for strings, dating from the early 1900s is the forerunner of the Ballet Suite Pierrot, Op.36b. The original Pantomime Suite is content simply to be judged as a piece of light music divorced from the stage, portraying four stock characters out of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. It was performed in Bournemouth in March 1908, conducted by the composer, and won for him the Charles Lucas Medal.
La Belle Dame sans Merci, was commissioned by the Philharmonic Society for their 1883 season. The inspiration for this tone poem is wholly literary – Keats’ ballad poem of the same name. Mackenzie’s Ballad was well-received at its first performance and subsequent critics have drawn attention to its qualities. It is a distinguished contribution to symphonic programme music, and deserves to be heard more often.
Thalassa is Somervell’s only symphony. It received its first performance in February 1913, by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by none other than Arthur Nikisch. The symphony is in the tradition of the Brahms symphonies, with two large-scale outer movements flanking an extended slow movement, which may be regarded as the emotional fulcrum of the whole work, and a short, scherzo-like third movement.