Humphrey Procter Gregg 1895-1980 - C.B.E.

Here are some reviews of of P-G's music.

Source: The Musical Times , Dec. 1, 1932, Vol. 73, No. 1078 (Dec. 1, 1932), pp. 1091-1093


Two interesting songs by H. Procter-Gregg are issued by Boosey. The composer has been known hitherto as a talented producer of opera, and ‘In the Highlands’ shows him also as a talented composer. Not always is the music free from hesitation; yet it has a marked sense of style and atmosphere as well as real sensitiveness. It is a work of intimate and poetic feeling.Its words have naturally moved the composer more deeply than those of ‘Limehouse Reach,’ which has not the ring of spontaneity that is heard in the previous song. Very interesting work, these.

T. A.


CD review - October 2005


Procter-Gregg’s music was completely unknown to me. I knew of him only as one of Maxwell Davies’ teachers in Manchester. His Clarinet Concerto is traditional in structure and idiom. The first movement sometimes seems to hark back to Brahms, but the other two movements - a beautifully lyrical Andante and an animated Allegro molto - are obviously closer to the 20th Century mainstream, neither reactionary nor progressive, but certainly enjoyable.

Ian Scott plays beautifully throughout; and all concerned seem to enjoy themselves enormously. I cannot but recommend this attractive collection of unfamiliar, but rewarding works that all deserve much more than the occasional hearing.

Hubert Culot


Source: The Horn Player August 2006

Sonata for horn and piano

The Sonata is certainly not an easy piece to play as it makes use of the full range of the horn, …..requires stamina from both horn player and accompanist.  Nevertheless, it is clearly a worthwhile addition to the repertoire and a piece which deserves to be heard.

John Humphries


Source: The Horn Player

Humphrey Procter-Gregg
Sonata No.3 in F for violin and piano
Sonata for clarinet and piano (circa 1943)
Sonata in A for horn and piano (1975)
Westmoreland Sketches for piano (1968)

Richard Howarth (violin)
Nicholas Cox (clarinet)
Robert Ashworth (horn)
Ian Buckle (piano)
Epoch CD LX 7165

…..the works by Procter-Gregg on this CD are both varied and interesting and that I have listened to it a number of times with great pleasure.

Paul Sawbridge


Source: The Gramophone March 2006

I had not encountered three of the four composers here, so a bit of background detail first. Raised in Kirkby Lonsdale (not far from the Lake District), Humphrey Proctor-Gregg (1895-1980) studied at Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music before enjoying early success as a producer with Beecham’s British National Opera Company. During the 1930s he became professor of music at Manchester University and in 1962 was appointed director of the London Opera Centre. His Clarinet Concerto was in all probability written sometime around 1940 and proves an amiable, unashamedly lyrical discovery, with a touchingly bittersweet slow movement.

Andrew Achenbach


CD review - May 2006


As the notes point out, Humphrey Procter-Gregg was among Stanford’s last pupils at the Royal College of Music. He was much associated with Beecham and opera as well as working for both the BNOC and the BBC. Dutton have already released his clarinet concerto on CDLX7153 (see review).
The 1947 sonata is a subtle Fauré-like piece of heart’s ease yet it remains distinctively English. There are some Delian turns along the way; the mature Delius rather than the Schumann-Grieg of the 1890s and early 1900s. Also notable is Procter-Gregg’s way of gently twisting the mood from dank to sunny. Notably lovely writing includes the sunny cantando of the third and final movement which sounds momentarily like the piano part of a Gurney song. There are four violin sonatas; I hope that we will hear more of these not to mention the sonatas for cello, viola and oboe.
The Clarinet Sonata plays to the instrument’s singing heart and voice. There are none of the dramatics of the Alwyn or Bax clarinet sonatas; instead we are in much the same territory as the Finzi Concerto and Bagatelles. Perhaps the odd dark cloud scuds by in the finale. This casts a spatter of chilly raindrops but it’s a transient shiver. The music is predominantly warming and ends, still and sun-drenched. Sheer magic.
The Horn Sonata was written 32 years after the one for clarinet. It at first hints at dissonance. This however is more of a chill as in the finale of the Clarinet Sonata but that shiver also returns in the second movement. The horn’s theme in the first movement touches on the brass band tradition as does the solo in the finale which is underpinned by some Bachian fugal fun.
For solo piano there are twenty-six Westmoreland Sketches. These were written during 1964-68. We are treated to four of them - the ones with named titles describe a perfect seasonal arc. The first and third are suitably impressionistic and shiver in the Northern chill. Summer Dreams recaptures the warmth - Chopin, Schumann and Gurney - of the two 1940s sonatas. The Winter Elegy is gaunt and stately - a touch of Grieg via early Rawsthorne perhaps.
Michael Almond’s notes are helpful but we really could have done with more about the circumstances of the writing of each of these sonatas.
I hope that Dutton will continue their questing and enterprising mission through the annals of British chamber music and not only with more Procter-Gregg - preferably from the 1940s and 1950s. My own recommendations to them include Cyril Rootham’s wonderful Violin Sonata (1925). Then there are the three violin sonatas of Joseph Holbrooke. The first is an early salon work. The other two are worth revival and include the Second which is a transcription of the Violin ConcertoThe Grasshopperand the Third a sinuous piece of Chinoiserie entitledOrientale.
Two irresistibly lyrical sonatas from the 1940s coupled with other works of a slightly chilly but still singing demeanour from the 1960s and 1970s.
Rob Barnett


Online CD review 15 May 2010 0 re Procter-Gregg Clarinet Concerto

I acquired this disc almost as an afterthought. I have a liking for English clarinet music, not least the great Howells sonata and the Malcolm Arnold or Stanford Concertos, and I thought one CD of the stuff more might do no harm. Also I had heard some most intriguing chamber music by Humphrey Procter-Gregg, which was notable for a very radical exploration of a post Stanford/post Faure idiom, which it was disconcerting to find still being used successfully in the Horn Sonata in 1975, but was still extremely impressive.

In spite of the odd way I came to buy it this has proved a most delightful CD, which has already had repeated listening. The standard of playing and recording is high and the music varies from the delightful in the Carmichael to the deeply serious in the Procter-Gregg concerto. This could be argued to be the natural successor to his teacher Stanford's fine concerto of about 1900. The idiom is just a little more modern, but the lyricism and the deep seriousness are definitely in that tradition. However, above all the Procter-Gregg is genuinely memorable. The Leighton Lucas concerto is closer perhaps to Weill than Stanford and has a sadder, edgier tone than the Procter-Gregg, but is nevertheless a powerful concerto that makes one hope for more of the music of this intriguing and little known composer. Finally I must mention the Vaughan Williams. These little studies are often done, but they are done unusually well here.

Altogether a quite outstanding CD.

Fred Beake


CD Review - October 2019


Humphrey PROCTER-GREGG (1895-1980)
Violin Sonata No.1 in A minor (c.1934) [21:36]
Violin Sonata No.2 in C major (c.1943) [28:07]
Violin Sonata No.4 in D major (1969) [28:48]
Andrew Long (violin)
Ian Buckle (piano)
rec. 2018, Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, Manchester University

Academic and administrator, Humphrey Procter-Gregg was known more as a writer and translator than as a composer. He founded the Music Department of the University of Manchester and was later Director of the Carl Rosa opera Company. Though retirement in 1964 enabled him to compose full-time he had by no means neglected composition as a younger man, as this disc demonstrates.

It presents three of his violin sonatas. The Third is missing from this cycle but was recorded by Richard Howarth and Ian Buckle on Dutton Epoch CDLX7165. The First Sonata dates from the early to mid-1930s and was published in 1936. It was dedicated to Albert Sammons but was probably first performed by Henry Holst and R.J. Forbes. The idiom is very much in the Delius-Ireland bracket – right up Sammons’s street, of course – and suffused with elegant nostalgia, lyricism and even a dash of salon charm. The slow movement is, in effect, a Romance sans paroles, its tenderness rightly not indulged by the players, whilst the finale’s flighty personality is engaging. The sparring virtuosity of the duo spurs on ever more exuberant and intense writing before a triumphant end.

The Second Sonata followed around a decade later and was again probably premièred by the Manchester-based duo of Holst and Forbes. Toccata notes all these three works as being heard in first ever recordings and I’m sure that’s true for commercial purposes but I’d add a small footnote that it was privately recorded by Clifford Knowles, leader of the Liverpool orchestra, and Maurice Aitchison; both of them are mentioned by name as exponents of this work by Michael Almond and Robert Ashworth in their excellent booklet essay. I know because I once bid on this set in an auction catalogue but didn’t get it.

The opening shows a particular quality possessed by the composer for spinning especially lovely melodies, full of aerial grace. The blurb talks of a stylistic proximity to Fauré and this isn’t wide of the mark here, with a Delian admixture too. The central movement is a flighty scherzo, charmingly done, and the finale, the longest movement, allows both a long expressive panel and some faster writing. But Procter-Gregg has the courage to end his sonata quietly. The Fourth sonata of 1969 dates from his Lakeland retirement. There’s that companionable Delian ‘swing’ to the musical argument, and its partner, Fauréan piano writing – to put things crudely. The composer is unabashed at his profuse lyric generosity, or the sheer romantic reverie of the Andante, his songful liquidity. But he springs a surprise at the start of the finale, introducing a fugal element – not common practice in his sonatas, though he does so elsewhere – before a genial component enters the writing and sweeps all stern care aside.

Andrew Long was Assistant Leader of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic but is now Acting Co-Leader of the Orchestra of Opera North. He is a subtle and deft player with a persuasively stylish approach to the repertoire and a fine tone. Ian Buckle is a concerto and ensemble player and clearly as attuned to the Francophile tendencies of some of Procter-Gregg’s writing as to its sturdier British qualities. This isn’t music to move mountains, but it does encapsulate a profound belief in the primacy of melodic beauty and in furthering the lineage of music both approachable and satisfying.

Jonathan Woolf


CD Review - July 2020


Humphrey Procter-Gregg: Violin Sonatas 1, 2 and 4 Andrew Long (violin), Ian Buckle (piano)(Toccata Classics)

Humphrey Procter-Gregg founded Manchester University’s Music Department, becoming its first Professor of Music in 1954. He studied at the RCM and at La Scala, was a close friend of Sir Thomas Beecham. While his conservative tastes didn’t endear him to all his students, he was a hugely influential figure in Manchester, designing the university’s concert hall and founding the Ad Solem Ensemble. There’s a nice anecdote in this disc’s booklet about Procter-Gregg’s chance meeting with Rachmaninov in 1930, the two men sharing their dislike of contemporary music and bonding over a mutual love of tunes. Three of Procter-Gregg’s Violin Sonatas are collected here, each one an expansive three-movement work. They’re deceptively rich pieces, their salon-like surfaces concealing a wealth of harmonic and melodic ingenuity. You hear this at the outset of the Sonata No. 1 in A minor, the initially calm violin melody imperceptibly darkening within seconds. The finale’s changes of metre are effortlessly managed by violinist Andrew Long and pianist Ian Buckle, their conviction bringing the music to life. Sonata No. 2 is longer and more distinctive, the first movement's structural intricacies belied by the serene opening theme. There's a scherzando middle movement, the weighty finale carrying most of the sonata's emotional weight.

No. 4 dates from 1969 during Procter-Gregg's retirement in Windermere. The language is more chromatic and exploratory, the transitions between themes more subtly managed. There's a sublime Andante and a complex finale, the quiet closing bars highly affecting. This music deserves to be heard, and you can't imagine a more persuasive case being made for it. We get good notes, and it's fitting that the disc was recorded in the concert hall which the composer helped to create.

Graham Rickson










Humphrey Procter-Gregg in 1918

Procter-Gregg in 1918