Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Trevor Duncan: The Girl from Corsica

Leaning over the rail of the ship with a glass of chilled vin blanc in my hand, I slipped past the beautiful Corsican town of Bonifacio. This wonderfully sited village, high up on the cliffs at the southern end of Corsica is justly famous as a tourist attraction. I thought of Trevor Duncan’s idyllic short tone poem -The Girl from Corsica and wondered if this was where she came from? Out of interest, Bonifacio is the setting of Guy de Maupassant's macabre short story, ‘A Vendetta’ which is well worth reading. It certainly does not reflect the beauties of the Corsican coast...

Anecdotally, Trevor Duncan (real name Leonard Charles Trebilco 1924-2005) met a certain Mademoiselle on holiday one year. The history books do not tell us if the tryst took place in Corsica, the Auvergne where she lived or maybe even the Isle of Wight. Apparently, she was half-French, half-Corsican, but may herself have been on holiday in England. The relationship between them, so Duncan insisted, was ‘spiritual’ but it is obvious from even the least attentive hearing of the music that she made a considerable impression on him! The same lady inspired another wonderful tone-picture from Duncan’s pen, St Boniface Down. This work ‘celebrates a silent walk along the ridge of St. Boniface Down; it was followed by a beautiful correspondence for some weeks.’ I posted about this in June 2008.

The Girl from Corsica was composed around 1959 and is wistful work packed full of sultry and sensual beauty. Wherever Trevor Duncan met her, he has transposed the setting to the ‘sunny south.’ In fact, there is even a hint of North Africa about this music. So maybe, like Webster’s Dictionary, Duncan was Morocco-Bound when he met this bewitching young lady? The work ends ‘suspended on an unresolved chord’ so who knows what the true story really was?
The tune was used in the serial The Scarf, by Francis Durbridge (1959) which was a murder mystery. 

The Girl from Corsica has been recorded several times. A shortened version was made popular by Ron Goodwin in his Adventure Album issued in 1966. Guild Light Music Classics has issued it on The Golden Age of Light Music, A Trip to the Library, with The New Concert Orchestra conducted by Cedric Dumont (GLCD5164). The full version, a full minute and a half longer is available on Hyperion CA 67148 with Ronald Corp conducting The New London Orchestra. Another great recording is on the retrospective of Trevor Duncan’s music, performed by Andrew Penny and the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on Marco Polo 8.223517. Once again this is the long version. 

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