Greene, Harry Plunket. (1865-1936). Irish baritone singer, most famous in the formal concert and oratorio repertoire. He also wrote a classic book on fly-fishing. FOUR AUTOGRAPH LETTERS SIGNED BY THE FAMOUS IRISH BARITONE SINGER HARRY PLUNKET GREENE.
London, U.K.: March 17, 1924-Oct. 27, 1927. 1927. Very good Signed
- sc Small octavo [approximately 7 inches high by 4-3/8 inches wide]. The 4 letters dated "March 17, 1924", "July 27, 1924", "Jan. 17, 1926" and "Oct. 27, 1927" are penned in black ink on his personalized letterhead with his Kensington address printed in the top right corner. Three of the letters fill 1-1/2 to 1-2/3 sides of the letterhead. The 7/27/24 letter fills 2 sheets of letterhead [4 sides]. All four are signed "Yours ever, H. P. Greene". The letters are lightly bumped & soiled with small stains to the 1st side of the 1st letter & a few light ink stains to the 3rd letter. The letters have been folded once for mailing with a tiny tear to the right side of the fold & to the top edge of the 1st letter. Very good.
Irish baritone Harry Plunket Greene made a notable contribution to British musical life not only through his concerts and recitals but also by writing and lecturing on his art, and in the field of competitions and examinations. He studied for two years at the Stuttgart Conservatory under Hromada, made his debut in "The Messiah" in 1888, and his operatic debut at Covent Garden in 1890. Thereafter he chose to make his career in recital. During the 1890s he became one of the foremost British interpreters of the German lieder, giving the first complete public performance of Schumann's "Dichterliebe" to be heard in London in 1895. He was much admired for his style, musicianship and intelligence. He created the title part in Hubert Parry's "Job" and was the original exponent or dedicatee of many of Parry's lyrical works. Charles Villiers Stanford wrote "Songs of the Sea" for him. He was a friend of Elgar and was the original baritone in the first performance of Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius" under Hans Richter in 1900.
This is a wonderful selection of the singer's correspondence, with many musical references. The letters, written in a somewhat difficult handwriting, are friendly, informal and at times teasingly affectionate. They are addressed to "Dear Griffin", and from the content it is clear that Griffin was a singer and Plunket Greene was his teacher or mentor: "I have just heard from Bowman [Paget Bowman of British National Opera Company] that a letter will arrive for you next Wednesday asking you to go down and play 'Pagliacci'....Let's run through it again before you go" [3/17/24]; "As soon as you have mastered time and can have a picture in your mind of the shape of phrases [you] will be able to go where you like and carry all before you..." [7/27/24]; "Don't forget that it is the word and not the note which pulls you out of your difficulties & that in the word it is the consonant & not the vowel which links up with the engine..." [7/27/24].
There are a number of references to other musicians. Plunket Greene writes of the British National Opera Company: "The B.N.O. wound up opening here. He [Bowman?] evicted Percy Pitt and got back Fred Austin & the change is little short of miraculous. The whole company shot up in style like a flower..." [7/27/24]. Conductor Percy Pitt left the BNOC in 1924 and became Principal Conductor at Covent Garden. There is a somewhat illegible reference here to Vaughan Williams' "Hugh the Drover" which was in the BNOC's repertoire and was first performed at His Majesty's Theatre on 7/14/24. In the same letter Plunket Greene writes of the death of cellist Victor Herbert, whom he would presumably have known from his time studying in Stuttgart: "Poor old Victor Herbert; I remember him so well. It is queer to look back on the time when he was principal cello in the Stuttgart orchestra in the '80s...". On October 27, 1927, he writes of the all-girl harmony singing trio formed in 1924 by Pearl [Hamilton] Santos, Violet Hamilton and Jessie Fordyce: "The Hamilton Sisters & Fordyce are just A1 as they are. I wouldn't interfere with them for anything. It's just perfect in its way. I do trust they leave things alone, not try to change."
Interestingly, in the 7/27/24 letter Plunket Greene makes a passing reference to proofreading his classic book on fly-fishing, "Where the Bright Waters Meet", which was published that year: "My fishing book will be out first week in September ". Taken together, these letters offer a delightful insight into the mind and personality of an important musical figure. First Edition.