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The Cobbett Phantasy Prize - 1905

On the 2nd May 1905 it was reported at a Court Meeting that Mr Walter Willson Cobbett CBE (1847-1937) (pictured right) had offered the sum of 50 Guineas as first prize in a Composition Competition and asked that it be organised under the auspices of the Company. This was agreed and an organising sub-Committee quickly established. At the meeting, Mr Cobbett was also elected a Member of the Company and took up the Livery.

The prize would be awarded to "...the competitor whose work afforded in the opinion of the judges the best example of an Art form suited for a short piece of Chamber music with strings". See MB8,p.209

Shown left is the leaflet distributed widely by the Company to advertise the Competition - it is dated 1st July 1905.

The rules stated that submissions be annonymous and include a sealed envelope with the name and address of the competitor - only to be opened once the Competition was resolved.

Here are two pages from the Musical News of 8th July 1905 announcing the Competition and requesting applications. The first page gives some background to the term Phantasy and the second provides all the rules and formats for submissions.


Click on the image for an enlarged view.

In his book, A Westminster Pilgrim (1918, Novello & Co., p.120), Sir Frederick Bridge congratulates Cobbett on "Perhaps the most notable step in encouraging native composers [and that this] marked the first appearance in the world of music of the word Phantasy - the modern analogue of the old English Fancy". 


A total of 67 manuscripts were eventually submitted for the competition, all based on the required format of a Chamber String Quartet. The competition was won by Mr William Hurlstone. Second Prize went to Mr Haydn Wood and a Special additional prize was presented to Mr Frank Bridge (further details on the prize categories, are in the leaflet shown above). Images of those three works are shown below. 3 consolation prizes (funded by members of the Company) were awarded to: Mr James Friskin; Mr H.Waldo Warner; and Mr Josef Holbrooke. Friskin's submission is shown below.

The William Hurlstone: Phantasie for String Quartet:


The winning entry received the 50 Guineas donated by W.W.Cobbett - it was presented to William Yeates Hurlstone (1876-1906) whose submission is presented here as the version published just after the Competition by Novello & Co. Ltd. It is presented in the four parts (Violins, Viola, Cello).

The Haydn Wood Phantasy Quartet:


Second Prize of £10 (donated by The Master, Mr C.T.D.Crews) was awarded to Mr Haydn Wood (1882-1959) for his Phantasy. The autograph manuscript is held by the Company in the Guildhall Library and is shown below:

The Frank Bridge Phantasie Quartet:

The 1905 submission by Frank Bridge for this competition was titled Phantasie String Quartet. It is in F minor and is identified as H.55 in Paul Hindmarsh's Thematic Catalogue of Bridge's work. It received a Special Third prize of £10 which was donated and presented by Mr Hermann Sternberg, a member of the Company.


The original manuscript of this work was held by the Company since its return from the publishers (Novello & Co Ltd) in the 1900s and is presented below.


Unfortunately, an error resulted in the words Animo et Fide being  written  on  the  front  cover  of the score. It would appear

that someone mistook this work as Bridge's entry to the 1911 Coronation March Competition (see further below). In the 1920s Bridge thought that he had lost the Quartet manuscript and commissioned Bernard Richards to make a copy from the parts (which had been published by Novello in 1906 - see an example below). It was only in 2016 when the original manuscript was being prepared by the Musicians' Company for photography and presentation on this Archive website that the score's true identity was realised; it was not lost at all but had been masquerading as a Coronation March!


So happily, after over 100 years, the original Bridge Phantasie Quartet manuscript was finally photographed and recognised for what it was.


1st Movement of the Phantasie Quartet in F minor (H.55) by Frank Bridge - Performed by: The Maggini Quartet
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This performance of the Phantasie Quartet was by the 'Maggini Quartet' and was recorded at All Saints in East Finchley, London in December 1994. The clip is of the First Movement of the piece:"Allegro Moderato".


Grateful thanks are extended to Naxos for permission to offer this section of their recording which is taken from a Disc called 'Works for String Quartet' (ref: 8.553718). The CD Cover is shown right and is available for purchase here:

The Musicians' Company Archive Project
The Musicians' Company Archive Project

Shown left is the front page of the 1st Violin Part as originally published by Novello & Company Ltd, London in 1906 (click to enlarge). The Musicians' Company Archive holds a full copy of all four parts.


As can be seen, the Musicians' Company is properly credited as the commissioning party.

Shown right is a printed version of the Quartet's combined score published by Stainer & Bell Ltd. in 1920. Click on the image to expand and scroll through.


One must assume that this combined score was created from the 'parts' as published in 1906 by Novello (although this is not stipulated).

The Musicians' Company Archive Project

The James Friskin: Phantasy in D Major for String Quartet:


A consolation prize of 5 Guineas was awarded to Mr James Friskin. The Company holds the autograph manuscript of this competition entry and it is shown below. Friskin subsequently entered the 2nd Cobbett Competition in 1907 and was awarded 2nd place, Click Here to see that entry.


5 Guinea prizes also went Mr H.Waldo Warner and Mr Josef Holbrooke.

Performances and Results


The winning three compositions were performed by The Saunders Quartet at the Court Dinner on 24th April 1906 (see press cutting below left - click on it to expand). All six compositions that received a prize, were then given a public performance at a concert in Bechstein Hall (now Wigmore Hall) on 22nd June 1906 - also by The Saunders.


This event was reported by a number of magazines and journals that attended (see two examples: below centre and right). They state correctly that Hurlstone had been awarded first place. However, while listing all the other entrants, they do not state who won the lower prizes.


Page 242 (1906) of Minute Book No. 8 (Click Here) shows the result as recorded by the Musicians' Company's Court of Assistants at the completion of the competition.

A Doctoral thesis entitled, W.W.Cobbett's Phantasy: A Legacy of Chamber Music in the British Musical Renaissance (Click Here to see it), was submitted by Betsi Hodges in 2008 to the University of North Carolina. It contains much excellent information about Cobbett, his life and work in Chamber Music and indeed, the Annual Musicians' Company Cobbett Award. It also discusses (inter alia) the Phantasy Competition of 1905, but there is a discrepancy in the results - putting Frank Bridge in second place and muddling the other winners as well. A number of other articles and discussions on this competition make a similar mistake, presuming perhaps that the lower place winners were mentioned in strict order (whereas, alphabetic order, or order of fame seems more likely).


The 1905 competition result specified in the Musicians' Company Court Minutes (and as presented above) is fully corroborated by Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music, London, OUP, 1929, Vol.1, p.188 although (sadly) Cobbett then contradicts himself in the same volume on page 261 (and again on page 217 of Vol.2) by returning to the often repeated error that Bridge's Quartet had been placed second.

Frank Bridge and the Coronation March Competitions


On 12 July 1910, following the death of King Edward VII, the Junior Warden, Mr A F Hill, suggested to the Court that a prize be offered for a Coronation March on the accession of King George V, as it had been nine years earlier on his father’s accession. A prize of 50 guineas and the Freedom of the Company were to be granted to the successful composer.


This suggestion was accepted by the Court with enthusiasm; on 25 April 1911 it was noted that 202 full orchestral scores had been submitted. However, after lengthy consideration, the adjudicators of the award reported:


‘That no work of sufficient merit and distinction has been presented and therefore they cannot recommend that the prize offered be awarded’.


All of the submissions were returned to their composers - one of them was Animo et Fide, an orchestral score by Frank Bridge. In Paul Hindmarsh’s Thematic Catalogue of Bridge's work, the March is listed as Coronation March for Large Orchestra H.97. It was, Hindmarsh writes, first performed in this version in September 1977 by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leslie Head.


Bridge had also submitted a March Simplex Munditus for the 1902 Competition, which is his earliest surviving work for large orchestra, but the competition on that occasion was won by Percy Godfrey. Full details - Click Here.


Bridge enjoyed a successful career as a composer but is perhaps best remembered as a teacher of Benjamin Britten. When Britten left for the United States with Peter Pears in 1939, Bridge handed Britten his Giussani viola and wished him 'bon voyage and bon retour'; Bridge died in 1941 without ever seeing Britten again.


See also Frank Bridge's winning entry to the 2nd Cobbett Phantasy competition.





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