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Memories of the Northern Philharmonic

Leeds violinist Edward Maude (1880-1967) was associated with the Leeds Symphony/Northern Philharmonic Orchestra from 1908-1947. For most of that time he was leader and also secretary, entirely responsible for the management of the orchestra's annual output of some 25 concerts.  Edward Maude's children; Barbara, Stephen and Colin, are all now sprightly octogenarians who retain vivid memories of their father's orchestra.  Colin recalls late musical evenings at the family's Victorian home at 70 Springfield Place, cleared during the 1960's for expansion to the University campus.

A House Of Music
His father and a group of friends from the orchestra would return after an evening concert and fill the house with chamber music until the early hours.  Most of the 60 Leeds-based professional musicians who made up the orchestra also played in orchestras or bands in the City's theatres and restaurants. Many lived in the University, Hyde Park and Headingley areas, as did the bulk of the subscribers.  These concerts must have been wonderfully warm social and musical occasions. The Maude home was also the orchestra's registered office. With just one typewriter Edward Maude arranged the engagements, negotiated with London agents for guest soloists, saw to payment of wages, fees and so on.

Drawing Names from a Biscuit Tin
Ticket sales for the Leeds Subscription series were handled by Ramsdens Music Shop in Park Row. Subscriber's seats were allocated by drawing names from a biscuit tin. Some of the subscribers were also guarantors who would be called upon to make a small payment in the event of a loss-making concert. Significantly, Leeds Corporation, from 1930, offered a guarantee of 500 but as far as is known this was never called upon.

A Less Mobile Society
Colin fondly remembers many happy hours listening to the concerts from the Town Hall's orchestra rises. He thought the hall was wonderful for music but admits they had little with which to compare it. Society was less mobile in those days, recorded music reproduction was fairly primitive and most other northern cities had similar, if less imposing, 19th century municipal concert halls. Leeds music lovers were thankful for the fare that was offered.

Barbirolli Arrives
Stephen Maude vividly remembers when as a boy of 13 in 1932, he rushed home to Springfield Place and was introduced to 33-year-old John Barbirolli. The conductor was discussing with Maude senior the offer of the post of the orchestra's principal conductor. Barbirolli, a diminutive figure with thick black hair and a bent nose, turned to the boy: "Would YOU like me to conduct the orchestra?"  Replied the boy, "Ooh yes please Sir!"  Barbirolli insisted on orchestral rehearsals for the whole day of a concert, previously they had taken place only in the afternoon. He also insisted on auditions for players.  Musical standards improved during Barbirolli's four-year tenure and so did ticket sales.

Novelties
Edward Maude and his committee did endeavour to include "novelties" in the programmes. Barbirolli conducted Elgar's Violin Concerto (soloist Albert Sammons) in 1934-the year of the composer's death - and the Second Symphony in 1935. In 1937 Barbirolli conducted his own Concerto for Oboe and Strings based on themes of Pergolesi, with soloist Evelyn Rothwell - the future Lady Barbirolli. The 1938/39 season brochure advised subscribers: "A concert of purely orchestral works with no soloist has been arranged. The programme is of a particularly interesting nature". Conducted by Malcolm Sargent, it included a Bach Passacaglia arr. Respighi, Haydn's "Military" Symphony No 100, R.Strauss' Don Juan, Ravel's Mother Goose Suite and Borodin's Second Symphony.

A 'Cheeky' Request
The Northern Philharmonic had to wait until 1937 to play at the famous Triennial Musical Festivals. Six years earlier, Edward Maude had agreed to the festival committee's cheeky request -as he regarded it - to supply extra players for the off-stage brass bands in the Festival premiere of Walton's Belshazzer's Feast. The orchestra was ultimately rewarded with the invitation to give the closing concert of the 1937 Triennial Festival, the last one to be held before the Second World War. Thomas Beecham and Malcolm Sargent were the conductors and the concert included the monumental Coronation Scene from Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov, with Keith Falkner as Tsar Boris, to mark the Coronation of King George V1.

Wartime Concerts
Second World War programmes conducted by Heinz Unger and Leslie Heward featured Liadov's symphonic poem Kikimora and Liszt's symphonic poem Tasso. Heward's concert juxtaposed Delius' La Calinda, and the prelude to Irmelin with Liszt's First Piano Concerto and Schubert's "Great C Major" Symphony No 9. Significantly, Unger introduced Leeds to the symphonies of Gustav Mahler: he conducted the andante movement from the Second "Resurrection" Symphony at a concert on Feb 21st 1942.

Demand For Tickets
Other famous artists appearing during the wartime years included conductors Sir Hamiton Harty, Albert Coates and Eugene Goossens; pianists Myra Hess, Cyril Smith, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Clifford Curzon, Eileen Joyce and Louis Kentner; violinists Jelly d'Aranyi, Alfredo Campoli, Max Rostal, Isolde Menges, and renowned Halifax-born tenor Walter Widdup. The Saturday concerts continued with great success during the war. Such was the demand for tickets that five additional Sunday concerts, conducted by Heinz Unger, were arranged for the 1944/45 season in association with C.E.M.A - Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, wartime predecessor of today's Arts Council. The 1944/45 brochure announcing an increase from 10 to 12 Saturday concerts, confidently asserted: "The attendances and the financial success of these concerts last season proves that, in spite of wartime difficulties, they are able to provide an answer to the public demand for a permanent series of orchestral concerts in the City of Leeds". Maurice Miles was engaged to conduct 3 concerts in 1945/46 and 4 in 1946/47. He introduced "novelties" by Julius Harrison, E.J Moeran and Edmund Rubbra. Miles was subsequently appointed principal conductor of Leeds Corporation's brand new Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra.

Yorkshire String Players Formed
In 1942 some of the strings formed themselves into the Yorkshire String players under Edward Maude's conductorship. This ensemble flourished until the orchestra's demise in 1952 and was engaged by music societies in many of Yorkshire's smaller communities.

Northern Philharmonic 'Displaced' by YSO
When Edward Maude went to the Town Hall to book the customary Saturday slots for the Northern Philharmonic's 1947/48 season, he was informed that they were not available. A 'new orchestra' (the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra) would be taking over all of the Saturday concerts.  Maude was deeply hurt by what he saw as the clandestine manner in which the YSO had been established. He thought that the Northern Philharmonic could have been enhanced to full-time status instead of starting a new orchestra from scratch at enormous expense. Maude acknowledged that an infusion of new blood would be required as some of his players (original shareholders from the Leeds Symphony Orchestra years) were approaching retirement.  Members of the Northern Philharmonic felt betrayed when they discovered that the chairman of the orchestra's Saturday Concerts Committee had been secretly attending YSO steering group meetings.

The End of an Era
The Northern Philharmonic, now displaced from their time-honoured Saturday evenings, bravely attempted to compete for audiences. In conjunction with West Riding Opera Circle the orchestra promoted some Wednesday concerts in the Town Hall.  They also maintained some choral engagements, notably with the Bradford Festival Choral Society. The Northern Philharmonic finally disbanded in 1952. Just three years later, the orchestra, which had displaced it, the YSO, was consigned to history. Thus ended on a note of bitterness a truly remarkable era of Leeds music making.




Click images to enlarge
Edward Maude, c.1954
Edward Maude, c.1954
Northern Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Barbirolli, pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch
Northern Philharmonic Orchestra, conductor Barbirolli, pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch
Saturday afternoon concerts, 1940
Saturday afternoon concerts, 1940
Saturday afternoon concerts, 1945
Saturday afternoon concerts, 1945
Yorkshire String Players programme
Yorkshire String Players programme
Programme from the Saturday orchestral concerts, 1925
Programme from the Saturday orchestral concerts, 1925
Edward Maude leaving home, 70 Springfield Place, c.1945
Edward Maude leaving home, 70 Springfield Place, c.1945
Heinz Unger and Edward Maude, 1940
Heinz Unger and Edward Maude, 1940
Edward Maude String Orchestra, 1937, from the Radio Times
Edward Maude String Orchestra, 1937, from the Radio Times
Members of the orchestra with Holbeck Church Choir outside Holbeck church c1920
Members of the orchestra with Holbeck Church Choir outside Holbeck church c1920
Leeds Philharmonic Chorus with the Northern Philharmonic, conductor Sir Edward Bairstow at Leeds Town Hall 22nd November 1938.
Leeds Philharmonic Chorus with the Northern Philharmonic, conductor Sir Edward Bairstow at Leeds Town Hall 22nd November 1938.




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© 2003 Leeds City Council | Site created by: LCC electronic information team | 25 March 2003