Have you heard of the composer Freda Swain? I sure hadn’t. But William Wiegus has now introduced her to me. These are so sweet!

From the YouTube Page (and you might want to subscribe to his channel!):

Freda Swain (1902-1985)
Three Whimsies for unaccompanied Oboe (1969)
1. Jig-Jog (0:00-0:45)
2. Lament (0:46-2:11)
3. Reel (2:12-3:14)

William Wielgus, oboe
Home Recording, July 4, 2022

Illustrations of Paddington Bear by Peggy Fortnum

Freda Swain was born in Portsmouth, England on 31 October 1902, the daughter of Thomas and Gertrude (nee Allen) Swain. Her first piano lessons (from age 11) were at the Tobias Matthay Piano School in London, given by Matthay’s sister Dora.] Three years later she went to study composition with Charles Villiers Stanford and piano with Arthur Alexander (1891-1969) at the Royal College of Music] earning awards including the Sullivan Prize in 1921.

In 1924 Swain began teaching at the Royal College and in 1936 she founded the British Music Movement to help promote the efforts of young composers and artists. Swain married Arthur Alexander in 1921, and before World War II the couple toured South Africa and Australia, lecturing, broadcasting and performing recitals. They were both on the founding board of the Surrey College of Music from the mid-1940s. From 1942 they lived in a bungalow on Chinnor Hill in Oxfordshire. Freda Swain died on 29 January 1985.

Swain wrote some 450 pieces, piano and chamber music as well as many songs, but also opera and orchestral works, including two piano concertos and a clarinet concerto. Few were performed aside from a series featured in the NEMO Series of concerts that Swain herself founded after the wa Her first major success was The Harp of Aengus for violin and orchestra (after the Yeats poem), with soloist Achille Rivarde at the Queen’s Hall in January 1925. The solo Violin Sonata was premiered by May Harrison at the Wigmore Hall on 8 December, 1933. Her ‘Airmail’ Piano Concerto, mailed in instalments to her husband Arthur Alexander while he was stuck in South Africa during World War II, was performed by Alexander in Cape Town. She composed a one-act opera Second Chance, but left two other operas incomplete.

Piano compositions include three large scale piano sonatas and 40 or so other works for solo piano, including many educational pieces. There is also a substantial cello sonata, two violin sonatas (one with piano, the other unaccompanied), two string quartets, a piano quartet, a sextet with horn and clarinet, a Suite for Six Trumpets and many other chamber and instrumental pieces.

Swain’s surviving manuscripts were handed down to her pupil and friend David Stevens, founder of the Swain-Alexander Trust. In turn they were passed on to Swiss pianist Timon Altwegg in 2005, who has begun recording the piano works for Toccata Classics.

(Information from the Wikipedia article on Freda Swain)

4 Comments

  1. William Wielgus

    Thank you for posting this and I wanted to let you know that I had technical problems with the first video of this piece so I had to delete that first version and put up a second improved video at:. https://youtu.be/olruOcWsxXI
    I sent you an email didn’t know if it got to the right address.
    I came across your posting when I did a Google search to see if anyone was still selling the music and it looks like it’s out of print. If you like I can find a way to get you a copy just please respond to my email and then delete this posting.

  2. I’ve updated the post. Thank you for the heads up!

  3. Petra Goodband

    Is it possible to buy the sheet music for the Three Whimsies?

  4. I have no idea … from what William Wields wrote it might very well be out of print.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.