Tovey’s came out just in time to beat the crushing deadline of the First World War; while Mackenzie’s Scottish Concerto had been published in Leipzig seventeen years earlier, but was very nearly a casualty of the war—as he wrote to the pianist Frederick Dawson on 12 October 1914: By the way, your (and existing copies in England) copy may well become very valuable!I see that the Germans are melting down all music plates for bullets: and as these are in Leipzig, no doubt by this time the concerto has been re-cast in another form, less musical, but more effective perhaps.
More seriously, he contributed to the art of writing programme notes with great distinction, publishing some of them under the title Essays in Musical Analysis.
Perhaps he was inspired by his predecessor in the Edinburgh Reid Chair of Music, John Thomson (1805–1841), who is reliably credited with having introduced programme notes to the world.
He could count amongst his honorary degrees music doctorates from St Andrews, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Mc Gill and Oxford Universities.
Mackenzie was knighted in 1895, Tovey in 1935 (the year of Mackenzie’s death) and both men have suffered subsequently from being associated with the Establishment, though both were, in their own ways, quite radical.
Stanford has been amazingly kind & has twice made the Royal College orchestra play it with me.
Thus Tovey, writing to Edward Speyer in November 1903.The Mackenzie is openly virtuosic, its Scottish bravura balanced by sentiment and wit.The Tovey is no less technically demanding and is unconcerned with display, though its rhetoric has both grandeur and vivacity.You see how this ghastly business touches us all in many queer forms.Although composed within six years of each other, the two concertos are superficially strongly contrasted.Besides these, there is a Symphony (1913), the opera The Bride of Dionysus (1907–1918) and a number of fine chamber pieces, notably the Elegiac Variations and the Sonata Eroica, both for cello and piano.Sir Donald Francis Tovey Piano Concerto in A major Op 15 (1903) My concerto went very well: Wood [Sir Henry] proved a really wonderful interpreter & there wasn’t a single point in which he didn’t anticipate my most detailed and least obvious intentions, besides getting all the swing and balance of the whole.And what a lovely work it was (& is) & how you startled & dominated us all & how proud we were (and are) of you & none more than your old friend, Edward Elgar Tovey’s education was a different matter altogether.Under the benign and intelligent direction of his patroness, Miss Weisse, he was initially trained as a virtuoso pianist and composer.As precocious as Mackenzie, at the age of twelve on a journey to Wales he lost his luggage, his hat and his return ticket; but not the twenty-four miniature scores with which he has padded his jacket ‘for reading in the train’.Despite small hands, Tovey reached a high level of accomplishment, and premiered his own concerto.