When Haydn was not around, there was always Charles Dibdin (1740-1814) who regaled London with his songs at the same period. Davies's arrangement of four of them makes an amused but also affectionate picture of the man. The vocal lines are essentially unchanged, but the accompaniment is sometimes teased towards new metres and harmonies.
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One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather’s party rendition of Dibdin’s stirring lament, “Tom Bowling”, so I was interested to further my acquaintance with the poet and composer when I found “The Lyric Remembrance” (1799), the volume from which the present songs are taken, in a second-hand bookshop.
I have taken a few liberties with the music, and two with the text, to make a continuos work, which perhaps offers a footnote on Mr Dibdin both as a poet and as a theatrical entrepreneur.
The Fires Of London with Mary Thomas (soprano) conducted by Nicholas Cleobury gave the first performance on 25 February 1986 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.
© Peter Maxwell Davies