In amongst "wins" from three successive "Post Bid Enterprise" London
roll auctions, when I went to collect them yesterday from Michael and
Frances Broadway's house in Stoke Newington, NE London, were two very
rare rolls of music by the British composer Josef Holbrooke, 1878-1958.
(He was baptised Joseph but lived most of his life in Germany until
Hitler came to power, when he swiftly moved to London and re-adopted
One of them was Roll 1 of the Hupfeld Animatic reduction of his 1900
orchestral tone poem "The Raven". It has additional markings in pencil
from the score.
"That's probably Holbrooke's own writing," remarked Michael conver-
sationally. "It's very like his signature, at least."
And how did he know that? He had been offered, and accepted, what
remained of the composer's own roll collection by his son, Michael
Brooke. (Brooke is evidently the family name; I was at school with
Josef's great-nephew "Chas" Brooke. They're a fairly eccentric lot,
I might add, but then that's normal for musicians.)
Michael already had a considerable Holbrooke collection, so many of
the rolls were duplicates and went straight into Frances's auction.
Not all, though.
In with the Animatic (Holbrooke had a big following in Germany) and
Themodist rolls was an unissued Duo-Art roll with a handwritten label,
"Improvisation", and faintly inscribed on the box the words "Mr Woods".
The roll leader is signed by Holbrooke with the date 1915. Evidently
he had sat down at the New York recording piano (H. Creary Woods was
Aeolian Company's chief editor there) and rattled off this piece on the
spur of the moment.
Michael played it for me on his Steck DA upright. "I think it's
boring," he said, "but so what, it's an unknown piece of Holbrooke,
played by him."
I would give it better than "boring" - more like "pleasant, casual piano
playing, trying out a few ideas for later."
And not at all unlike Holbrooke, I might have added, if I'd been asked
the composer without knowing. The dynamics sounded pretty true to life
but it was obvious the pedalling needed attention. Someone had marked
in some additional pedalling in red crayon, in what looked like a
workmanlike fashion - probably JH.
This is not a new Jelly Roll Morton roll, but for Holbrooke addicts,
it ranks !