John Cope and Madame Marie Reymond, a musical partnership
|John Cope and Madame Marie Reymond in a formal pose|
Reginald Nettel, Triad Press 1977, ISBN 0-902070-19-3
"Just at the time when the North Staffs District Choral Society began to prove of value to Elgar there
emerged a local conductor in Burslem with the ambition to establish a permanent symphony orchestra. John Cope was the son of a coal miner who had been adopted after the manner of an apprentice by a remarkably gifted Danish lady named Madam Reymond. She was an excellent teacher who gave Cope his preliminary training in organ and piano playing, harmony and counterpoint, and sent him to Munich to study under Rheinberger.
On his return from Germany Madame Reymond organised a concert in Hanley to be conducted by her protégé, with Lady Hallé (née Mme Norman Neruda) as soloist in the Mendelssohn Concerto for Violin.
This event caught the attention of Ernest Newman who reported it in the following terms:
“In Hanley they are making a praiseworthy attempt to establish a new permanent orchestra.... Tonight, at the first concert, the programme consisted of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with Lady Halle‘ as soloist, two vocal solos by Madam de Vere. of the Moody-Manners Company, Sibelius‘s Finlandia, Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor and the overture to Cherubini's Abencerages. The performances were highly creditable to the members of the orchestra and to Mr John Cope, the conductor. Mr Cope showed that he possessed a genuine ability as a conductor. His beat is decisive. He has a good sense of rhythm, and he clearly understands the music he is playing... Altogether my impression of the evening's work is that in the present amateur society the Hanley people have the nucleus of a very good permanent orchestra, and in Mr Cope a very promising young conductor.”
The driving force was Madam Reymond. Without her John Cope could not have been trained; without her money the orchestra could not be established; without her vision and organising ability it could not go on, for Cope was no business man. He was a very good conductor, able to carry out the ideals taught to him by the Danish lady, whose outlook was (like Ernest Newman‘s) German.
Within the environment of the Potteries towns the symphony orchestra was still an exotic element, making claims for superiority above the choirs. But the choirs had other views; they had proved themselves invincible (except by each other) in competitive festivals, and one of them had made a friend of Elgar, the greatest of English composers, who had spoken highly of its merits. Moreover, the two big choirs with their prestige had attracted numerous vice-presidents from among the moneyed people of the district to whom Madam Reymond appealed in vain for support for an orchestra. To many of the singers the orchestra was still, as it had been in Victorian days 'the accompaniment’, frequently criticised for being too loud. They could not yet think of choir and orchestra as being one combined musical force."