Composer Profiles

These composers have been featured in the English Music Festival programmes — and so these profiles are augmented each year. For copies of the Festival Programmes, which also include detailed programme notes, please contact Em Marshall-Luck.

ALWYN, WILLIAM (1905 – 1985)

William Alwyn was born in Northampton on the 7th November 1905. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music where, at the age of 21, he was appointed Professor of Composition, a position which he held for nearly 30 years. Amongst his works are five symphonies, concerti for flute, oboe, violin, harp and piano, three concerti grossi, many descriptive orchestral pieces, four operas and much chamber, instrumental and vocal music. In addition to this Alwyn composed nearly 200 scores for the cinema. He began his career in this medium in 1936, writing music for documentaries. In 1941 he wrote his first feature length score for Penn of Pennsylvania. Other notable film scores include Desert Victory, The Way Ahead, The True Glory, Odd Man Out, The History Of Mr Polly, The Fallen Idol, The Rocking Horse Winner, The Crimson Pirate, The Million Pound Note, The Winslow Boy, The Card, A Night To Remember, and many others. In recognition of his services to the film medium he was made a Fellow of the British Film Academy, the only composer until very recently to have received this honour.

His other appointments include serving as chairman for the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain, in whose formation he was instrumental, in 1949, 1950 and 1954. He was a director of the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society, a vice-president of the Society for the Promotion of New Music (S.P.N.M.) and Director of the Performing Rights Society. For many years he was a member of the panel reading new scores for the BBC. The conductor, Sir John Barbirolli, championed the first four symphonies, and the first is dedicated to him.

Alwyn spent the last 25 years of his life in Blythburgh, Suffolk, where, in those tranquil surroundings, he found the necessary inspiration to compose two operas, Juan, or the Libertine in four acts to his own libretto and Miss Julie in two acts after the play by August Strindberg. In addition to chamber and vocal music, he composed his last major orchestral works there; the Concerto Grosso No.3, commissioned as a tribute to Sir Henry Wood on the centenary of his birth in 1964 and first performed at the Proms that year by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, the Sinfonietta for String Orchestra in 1970 and the Symphony No.5 ‘Hydriotaphia’ during 1972-73. In 1978 he was awarded a CBE in recognition of his services to music. When not writing music he spent his time painting and writing, including much poetry and a short autobiography entitled Winged Chariot. He died on the 11th September 1985 just two months before his eightieth birthday.

Andrew Knowlesuparrow
ARNE, THOMAS (1719 – 1778)

Thomas Augustine Arne was born to a well-off family in London in 1719. He adopted his middle name of Augustine as a child, showing allegiance to his mother’s Roman Catholic faith. Arne was sent to Eton, where he kept the other boys awake by playing the recorder and spinet at nights, despite attempting to muffle the spinet strings with a handkerchief. He also took violin lessons secretly, taught himself composition, and attended operas by borrowing a footman’s livery and listening to the music in the gallery provided for servants.

After Eton he was apprenticed to a London lawyer but when his father caught him playing the violin in a concert at a neighbour’s house, he allowed Arne to pursue his desired profession of music, and even let him teach his siblings singing. He obtained an accomplished violin teacher for his son, yet this was short-lived, the teacher falling victim to a practical joke (for which Arne had a great penchant — a trait that he did not lose with age).

The young Arne composed operas for his siblings to sing in and began to receive theatre commissions, including those for music to accompany Shakespeare’s plays (amongst others). When his sister married an actor and playwright, Arne became house composer at Drury Lane. Another advantageous partnership was that of his own marriage to perhaps the greatest English soprano of his time, Cecilia Young. He swiftly became one of the leading figures in English music of that time, and was a founder member of the Society of Musicians.

He left London for Dublin in 1740, whence his sister had fled after a scandal arose concerning her marriage. He remained there for four years, before returning to London, where he took on Handel’s friend Burney as an apprentice. He continued to write for Drury Lane, until his sister defected to Covent Garden, and he followed.

The latter years of Arne’s life were beset with difficulties and grief, including the death of his sister, financial problems, growing indifference to his music by the theatres, and the marriage of his mistress, and singer pupil, Charlotte Brent, to a violinist. He still produced an amount of excellent music, and in 1777 was reconciled with his wife after a long estrangement. A few months later, however, he died of a ‘spasmodic complaint’ and was buried in the graveyard of St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
ARNELL, RICHARD (1917 – 2009)

Richard Anthony Sayer Arnell, universally known as Tony, studied composition with John Ireland at the Royal College of Music, where in 1938 he received the Farrar Prize for composition. Later, Sir Thomas Beecham spoke of him as ‘one of the best orchestrators since Berlioz’. He composed prolifically, producing six symphonies, four concertos and six string quartets, as well as several major ballets and numerous other works in all musical genres. He also wrote many film scores, his broadly romantic style and flair for musical characterization making him ideally suited to the medium. He was Music Director of the London International Film School from 1975–1988. In 1939 he and his first wife (he was married eight times) travelled to New York to visit the World’s Fair. Whilst he was there, war broke out and he was advised by the British Consulate to remain in the United States for the time being. In fact he stayed until 1947, acquiring an increasing reputation as a composer whilst working as the BBC’s Music Consultant for its North American service. He quickly became part of New York’s artistic circle, forming close friendships with such prominent figures as the composer Virgil Thomson, the conductor and film composer Bernard Herrmann (famous in particular for his score for Hitchcock’s Psycho) and the artist Mark Rothko. It was in New York that he produced his first important works, including three symphonies and three string quartets. Arnell was still only 24 when Beecham, a staunch champion of his music, gave the première of the Sinfonia quasi variazioni at the Carnegie Hall. Several important commissions ensued, including The War God, a cantata to words by Stephen Spender for the opening of the United Nations, The Land, the first of his film scores, and Ceremonial and Flourish for brass, marking the visit to New York of Sir Winston Churchill in 1946.

One of Arnell’s most important works was Punch and the Child, commissioned for the New York City Ballet and first performed by them in 1947 with choreography by Balanchine. Arnell returned to England in 1947, becoming composition teacher at Trinity College of Music from 1948-1981. He continued to maintain a close connection with the USA, principally through his visits as a Fulbright lecturer. Although the craftsmanship and intrinsic worth of Arnell’s music was never in doubt, Beecham’s unstinting advocacy of his work, both here and overseas, undoubtedly played an important part in the establishment and maintenance of his reputation. With Beecham’s death in 1961, the status he had enjoyed throughout the 1940s and 50s received a severe blow, which unfortunately coincided with the rise of the British avant-garde and its uncompromising promotion by William Glock, the BBC’s Controller of Music from 1959 to 1972. In common with many other composers, Arnell found himself largely ignored, and his music received fewer and fewer performances. Only recently, thanks partly to the appearance of several important recordings, has his music enjoyed something of a revival.

John Bawdenuparrow
ARNOLD, (SIR) MALCOLM (1921 – 2006)

Malcolm Arnold stands as one of the greatest British composers of the 20th century, and one of the most tragic figures in 20th-century music. Born into a wealthy family, his musical gifts were nurtured from an early age, and he became one of the greatest British trumpeters of his time. As the financial fortunes of his family waned, Arnold spent much of his early career playing in orchestras, an activity that he often found tedious (particularly as he would have preferred to focus more completely on composition), but which also produced some of his most delightful early music — for instance the Three Shanties for wind quintet, which was written as a sort of diversion for some of his orchestral colleagues to play.

The late 40s were pivotal, seeing Arnold step up his efforts to be recognised primarily as a composer; he was awarded the RCM’s Mendelssohn Scholarship, and this period produced his first mature works of technical mastery, for instance the Viola Sonata and First Violin Sonata. He also began to write film scores, a vastly important source of income for Arnold for decades to come. First signs of his mental instability had also surfaced, in some erratic behaviour, a dissolute lifestyle, and his disastrous stint in the army (at the very end of the war), which ended when he deliberately shot himself in the foot.

If Arnold’s lively sense of humour is noticeable in many of his early works, more substantial forms tend to be characterised by a gritty determination to assert full technical control, which can lead to an occasional astringency of idiom (compare, for instance, the sonatas with the roughly contemporary sonatinas). Hindemith appears to have been a significant influence, although the more lasting influences (particularly important in the symphonies) were Sibelius and Mahler. Arnold’s use of stylistically/aesthetically disparate material to create contrast is reminiscent of Mahler, and as in Mahler’s case this should not be interpreted as a lack of good taste — it is a primarily technical procedure, with significant aesthetic implications (contrasts of various kinds are used to great effect in Arnold’s music — why not also contrasts of style and aesthetic); the resulting stylistic spectrum of Arnold’s music is extremely rich, but is held together by his overpoweringly individual musical personality. The influence of Sibelius is also particularly obvious in the symphonies, and there are few comparably profound and personal adaptations of Sibelian technique in British music.

Arnold’s output is enormous, encompassing nine symphonies (plus symphonies for strings and brass), many other substantial orchestral works and concertos, operas, ballet music, a substantial amount of chamber music (including many fine works for wind or brass groups), and a vast amount of music for film. There has been a tendency to search for traces of his mental instability in his works, but this approach rarely does justice to his level of technical control and artistic judgement. It is easy to see a reflection of his mental state in the tortured expanses of a masterpiece such as the Seventh Symphony (or the unnatural elation and mood swings of the manic depressive in lighter works), but this is too simplistic an approach to fully take in the quality of the music. Arnold was blessed with a remarkable fertility of imagination (ranging from the wealth of delightful melodies to wide-ranging but disciplined harmonic invention and an instinctive grasp of form and its potential as an expressive device), which was coupled with seemingly effortless craftsmanship.

In his later years, Arnold’s productivity declined, paying the price for years of hard living (and particularly hard drinking), numerous suicide attempts, and psychiatric treatment including several bouts of electro-shock treatment. In the music of the last decades there are occasional glimpses of Arnold’s individuality, but few of his previous grip. Judged by the bulk of his music, however, few British composers of the 20th century can compare to Arnold in terms of sheer technical brilliance, facility of invention and originality of voice.

F.G. Hussuparrow
ASHTON, ALGERNON (1859 – 1937)

Algernon Ashton was born in 1859. Though the son of a lay-clerk at Durham Cathedral, his family moved to Leipzig in 1863, and there he spent the rest of his childhood. After showing an early aptitude and enthusiasm for music, he studied at the Leipzig Conservatoire, winning the Helbig prize for composition, and only after further study in Frankfurt did he return to England on a permanent basis. Indeed, Harold Truscott wrote that Ashton made a greater impact in Germany than in England: ‘had a high reputation in that country as a rare phenomenon, an English composer of real note’.

Ashton was a prolific composer, particularly of chamber works. He also excelled as a pianist, (as proven by his Professorship of the instrument he received at the Royal College of Music in 1885), and wrote no fewer than eight piano sonatas — a form relatively neglected by English composers. Yet, sadly, many of his compositions are lost, including four symphonies and, impressively, a set of 24 string quartets in all major and minor keys. At least part of the reason for this is that his former house in London suffered from the bombings of World War Two, while still owned by his family after his death. Many of his remaining works are simply unpublished.

In addition to his fertile musical mind, Ashton was a passionately opinionated writer, submitting hundreds of letters to publications on a wide range of topics. One of his particular concerns was memorials, and he spearheaded many campaigns to restore gravestones, including those of such cultural luminaries as Thackeray, Dante Rossetti, and Clementi.

Some writers considered Ashton one of the most unjustly neglected English composers. Basil Hogarth wrote: ‘the time is certain to come when critics will be almost fighting to claim the honour of having “discovered” Ashton, just as, years ago, they “discovered” Brahms, Strauss, Wagner and others’. Furthermore, Rutland Boughton described the Piano Trio op. 88 as ‘a work for which I have no words of sufficient admiration’. His output contains 174 opus numbers, though as these were assigned by publication date they are by no means the total of his work, and, due to the unpredictable nature of finding a publisher for a piece, they do not even convey a correct chronology of composition. Indeed, though Ashton lived until 1937, the vast majority of his published music was that written towards the end of the nineteenth Century. It would seem that the time for “discovering” that which remains of this extraordinary composers music is long overdue.

Simon Brackenboroughuparrow
BAINTON, EDGAR (1880 – 1956)

‘An accomplished but minor figure in the gentler English traditions of the earlier twentieth century music’, is Helen Bainton’s assessment of her late father in the Australian Dictionary of Biography (1979). His career as a music educator, composer and conductor demonstrated many achievements.

Bainton was born in Hackney, London, the son of the Rev. George Bainton, a Congregational minister, and his wife, Mary Cave. As an accomplished solo pianist he was awarded a music scholarship to King Henry VIII Grammar School in Coventry in 1891, and in 1896, he won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music to study theory with Walford Davies. In 1899 he received a scholarship to study composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

In 1901 Bainton was appointed professor of pianoforte and composition at the Conservatoire of Music, Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1905, he married a former student, Ethel Eales, with whom he had two daughters. He became the Principal of the Conservatory in 1912, and acquired property for its expansion. The family lived at Stocksfield, near Hexham. Bainton would take long country walks, frequently accompanied by Wilfred Gibson, who introduced Bainton into the literary circle surrounding Gordon Bottomley. Bainton set many of Bottomley’s poems and wrote an opera to one of his lyric dramas. He introduced his local area to previously unknown works by Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Arnold Bax, among others.

Visiting Germany for the Bayreuth Music Festival in 1914, he was caught by the outbreak of war and interned in Ruhleben camp with other musicians. He organized a madrigal society known as ‘Bainton’s Magpies’, conducted an orchestra, played piano concertos, lectured on musical and literary subjects, and composed vigorously. In 1918 he was invalided to The Hague before resuming his position at Newcastle.

Bainton was a prolific composer of choral, symphonic and chamber works. He was often inspired to set poetry to music ‘with a masterly instinct for imagery’. The New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music was impressed by his display of skills in 1930, and offered him the directorship in the summer of 1933. Accordingly, in 1934 Bainton and his family started a new life in Australia. Bainton conducted the choral and orchestral classes at the Conservatorium, and founded the Opera School. He introduced music previously unheard in Australia, such as Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 2 in 1934 and The Dream of Gerontius in 1936; Arnold Bax’s Third Symphony; and works by Claude Debussy, Jean Sibelius, Frederick Delius, and William Walton, among others. At his peak in 1944, the premier production by the Conservatorium Opera School of Bainton’s opera The Pearl Tree received acclaim from the press and public alike. An additional night’s performance was given due to demand, at which a bust of Bainton was unveiled in the foyer.

Australia then had a mandatory retirement age of 65, but Bainton continued to conduct and gave lecture tours in Canada. In 1956, a heart attack severely affected his health — his wife had died not long beforehand — and on the morning of 8 December he died on the beach at Point Piper in Sydney after being mauled by a shark.

Trevor Arrowsmithuparrow
BANTOCK, (SIR) GRANVILLE (1868 – 1946)

Both as a man and composer, Sir Granville Bantock was a wonderfully colourful and idiosyncratic character. He has been described as ’a curious mixture of affability and reserve’, and ’a generous, lovable nature, very free from artistic jealousy, and wonderfully ready to hold out a helping hand to others, [with] a sort of tropical profusion in his nature!’ Something of this affability, and certainly the profusion, came through into his music, as a long and interesting life led to a huge body of work, ranging from songs and chamber works through to symphonies, operas and choral epics. Although he has been occasionally censured for not being critical enough of his own compositions, his work is nonetheless richly imaginative, dramatic, moving, wonderfully lush and romantic. The subject of composition was often heavily influenced by Bantock’s particular — and peculiar — hobbies at that time. These were more like obsessions than mere interests, and tended to take over the current place of abode, so that, during a Japanese craze, one friend reported how ’Broad Meadow became a sort of Oriental museum. Shrines, gods, prints, drums, carvings, and curios were everywhere; and some horrible crapulous Japanese ghosts leered at you as you left the study so that you were glad to escape.’ Other fads included Napoleon, geology, myths and legends, religion, and anything pagan, Celtic, oriental, exotic or Eastern (Elgar secretly gave him the appellation of ‘Gran Ban the Skeikh’!).

Although his determination to follow a musical career burgeoned fairly late, he nonetheless studied at the Royal Academy of Music. His other, sometimes rather quirky, interests were already manifesting themselves, so that once, when, during a rehearsal of a Bantock overture portraying Satan, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the Principal of the Academy, asked the young composer where they were (the players had got rather lost), Bantock responded ‘In hell, sir!’

After the Academy, Bantock at once started making his mark as a musician, conducting for touring theatre companies, and editing a new musical journal that he had founded — the New Quarterly Musical Review. When he was offered the post of Musical Director of the New Brighton Pleasure Gardens, near Liverpool, he set about transforming the band into a professional orchestra with a series of regular concerts. He broadened the musical tastes of the audience to the extent of including a great amount of contemporary music, commencing a life-long task of championing his fellow composers. In his early thirties, he was given a difficult choice between two more prestigious positions — that of joining the staff at the Royal Academy of Music or becoming Principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute School of Music (largely on Elgar’s recommendation). He picked the latter, explaining with a quote from Milton that it was ’better to reign in hell than serve in heaven’. Several years later he took over from Elgar as professor of music at Birmingham University. He continued conducting and composing throughout his life, and at the age of sixty-five took up a new position at Trinity College, London. He died at the age of seventy-eight and his ashes were scattered in the Welsh mountain country that he had loved so well.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
BAX, (SIR) ARNOLD (1883 – 1953)

Arnold Bax was born in 1883 in Streatham. His family was cultured and wealthy, and his musical talent was first encouraged by his mother. In 1900 Bax enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music, studying piano with Tobias Matthay and composition with Frederick Corder, making Bax one of the few significant English composers of his generation not to have studied with Stanford (his fellow pupils Benjamin Dale and York Bowen rose to early prominence, but are only now emerging from decades of neglect).

Bax’s discovery, in 1902, of the poetry of W.B. Yeats was an event of considerable importance, leading to a lasting fascination with Ireland. Bax visited Ireland throughout the rest of his life, particularly the west coast, also settling in Dublin for a number of years. In the early years of this fascination, Bax produced poetry, short stories and even plays on Irish subjects, mainly under the pseudonym Dermot O’Byrne, but eventually Ireland provided the inspiration for a series of tone poems that marked his first maturity as a composer. These included Into the Twilight and In the Faery Hills and culminated eventually with The Garden of Fand. The performances of the Russian Ballet in London, meanwhile, had revealed new musical horizons and influences.

Bax remained largely untroubled by the First World War, being unfit for active service due to a heart condition. During the war period he produced a number of increasingly mature works including a piano quintet, two violin sonatas, the tone poems The Garden of Fand, Nympholept, November Woods, Tintagel, and the substantial Symphonic Variations for piano and orchestra. The latter was written for Harriet Cohen, with whom Bax had a passionate love affair during the war years (contributing to the disintegration of his unhappy marriage to Elsita Sobrino), leading to a lasting relationship.

The works mentioned above, along with the Second Piano Sonata, Viola Sonata and Mater, ora filium had enhanced Bax’s reputation considerably; the First Symphony, conceived originally as another piano sonata, confirmed his stature as a composer of significance. The symphony was premièred in December 1922, and in the next eighteen years Bax produced six more symphonies. Although they are extremely accomplished and attractive works, his reputation as a symphonist was gradually overshadowed by composers such as Vaughan Williams and Walton. That said, the Third Symphony did achieve considerable popularity, and the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies are among Bax’s greatest achievements. These, along with mature works such as the Winter Legends for piano and orchestra, and Bax’s mature tone poems and chamber music, mark him out as one of the most original composers of his generation and one of the greatest British musical impressionists.

After the beginning of the Second World War Bax composed very little. He had been knighted in 1937 and was appointed Master of the King’s Music in 1942, but interest in his music had decreased. Bax moved to Sussex, where he spent the last years of his life living above the White Horse Inn in Storrington. He produced an autobiographical volume, Farewell My Youth), in which he describes his youth and time spent in Ireland, but composition no longer came easy to him, complaining of ‘feel[ing] no impulse towards any sort of creation’. He produced no more major works and died in 1953 in Cork, on one of his regular visits as external examiner at the university.

F.G. Hussuparrow
BERKELEY, (SIR) LENNOX (1903 – 1989)

Sir Lennox Berkeley surely deserves acclaim as a particularly versatile and skilled composer. The fact that he wrote music in almost every genre testifies to his desire and ability to continuously re-focus his compositional mind. Berkeley studied music and French at Oxford prior to travelling abroad to Paris, where he lived between 1926 and 1932. Whilst there, he undertook extensive training in compositional technique (something he felt had been systemically lacking during his earlier Oxford years) with Nadia Boulanger and embarked on an intricate study of harmony and counterpoint. Boulanger’s thorough understanding of and reverence for the music of Stravinsky must have heightened Berkeley’s interest in that composer, from whom he also learnt much. Berkeley’s next seminal encounter was with the young Benjamin Britten at the 1936 ISCM Festival in Barcelona, and the two collaborated on the orchestral work Mont Juic, a symposium of Catalan folk tunes. Berkeley was appointed Professor of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in 1946, a position he held for a considerable period (until 1968). Here, he taught a number of well-known composers, including John Tavener, William Mathias and John Manduell. Berkeley married Freda Bernstein, whom he met whilst working for the BBC during the war years, and enjoyed a marriage often described as unusually contented. The eldest of their children, Michael Berkeley, is of course a famous composer himself.

Study of the music of Lennox Berkeley undeniably serves to reveal a rich plethora of influences. However, the multitude of styles that can be identified in the composer’s work alludes not so much to superfluous eclecticism as to an ability to assimilate differing styles and from them derive something unique and original. Berkeley’s music is never a concoction of diametrically opposed pastiche elements; continuity and coherence, features often marginalised in modernism, are paramount within his technical strategy. Berkeley had great respect for his French predecessors, notably Faur{’}e; and Ravel, from whom he derived great sensitivity to harmonic colour as well as his lyrical inclinations. Welded to the structural incorporation of thematic fragmentation and repetition gained largely but not solely from the Stravinsky influence, Berkeley emerged as a confident, mature and original composer by the end of the 1930s with works like the Serenade (1939) and the First Symphony (1940). From the late 1950s onwards, Berkeley frequently attempted to grapple with more ‘progressive’ styles of composition that he had previously eschewed, something seen in the use of twelve tone rows in the Violin Concerto (1961) as well as the Third Symphony (1969) and the Windsor Variations (1969). However, there is still much pungent lyricism and ebullience in these works that makes it possible to wonder whether the change in direction from the Serenade has been over-emphasized. Contrary to the popular belief that Berkeley’s music suffered a decline in quality after the rich productivity of the 1940s and 50s much of the composer’s best music dates from this period, including works like the Missa brevis (1960), the Mass for Five Voices (1964) and the Oboe Quartet (1967). It is worth remembering that Berkeley continued to compose throughout these years despite the constraints on his time arising from his professional appointment at the Academy. Berkeley remained active as a composer until the onset of dementia in the 1980s put an end to a remarkable creative life.

Douglas Stevensuparrow
BERNERS, LORD (14th BARON) (1883 – 1950)

The Right Honourable Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners in the peerage of England, and a baronet, was born on 18th September 1883 at Apley Park, near Bridgnorth, Shropshire, the son of Commodore the Hon. Hugh Tyrwhitt (third son of Emma Harriet, Baroness Berners in her own right) and Julia Mary Foster. (The title is one of few in the British peerage that can pass through the female, as well as the male line.) Educated at Eton, and later in Dresden, Vienna, France and Italy, mainly in pursuit of knowledge of languages to equip him for the diplomatic service, he succeeded his uncle in 1918, assuming the additional name of Wilson by Royal Charter a year later. He served as honorary attaché in Constantinople and later in Rome, but on his elevation, relinquished these posts, returning to England and his inheritance, several country estates, and lived the rest of his life ostensibly as a country gentleman. This, however, was only on the surface. He was a man whose music drew the highest praise from Stravinsky and whose not inconsiderable literary and painting skills were to make him ‘the versatile peer’ in the national press, but it was as a composer that he wished to be remembered.

The earliest music of Berners is the most avant-garde in style, being entirely made up of songs, in English, French and German, and piano pieces, many of which were published under his original name, Gerald Tyrwhitt. In 1924 his only opera, Le carosse du Saint-Sacrement, was given in Paris in a triple bill with works by Stravinsky and Henri Sauguet. Two years later, his first ballet, The Triumph of Neptune, to a scenario by Sacheverell Sitwell, was produced by Diagilev’s Ballets Russes. He was one of only two British composers, the other being Constant Lambert with Romeo and Juliet to be commissioned by the great impresario. From now on his music became more accessible but never lost its original flavour and distinctive style. It had shed its avant-garde ‘skin’ with the orchestral triptych, Trois morceaux, Fantasie espagnole, both first performed in 1919, and the Fugue in C minor of 1924. In fact, his music was deemed accessible enough to be considered for a C.B. Cochran revue, with the ballet Luna Park, in 1930. The last three balletic works were written in collaboration with Frederick Ashton as choreographer and Constant Lambert as musical director, A Wedding Bouquet, Cupid and Psyche and Les Sirenes. Lambert and the young William Walton were the only two British composers with whom Berners felt a sympathy. Not for him the pastoral school of Vaughan Williams and Holst. Both Walton and Lambert probably helped with the orchestration of Triumph of Neptune, and Walton certainly received regular amounts of financial assistance from Berners for many years, even up to the composition of Belshazzar’s Feast, which is dedicated to him, and it was Berners who had the idea of composing a musical illustration of the Rowlandson print, Portsmouth Point, and indeed wrote one. It now appears as the last movement of his chamber piece, L’uom dai Baffi, written for an Italian puppet play and comprising, otherwise, arrangements of some of the piano pieces mentioned earlier. That Walton made a more substantial and lasting work out of the idea would have pleased Berners almost as much as if he had done so himself.

During the 1940s Berners involved himself in one other medium, cinema, contributing a polka and a song, Come on Algernon, to the 1944 Baling production, Champagne Charlie: and writing two complete film scores for The Halfway House (1943) and Nicholas Nickleby (1946). For all three, Ealing’s musical director, Ernest Irving, provided the orchestrations, but again they are unmistakably Berners in language and style. After this film, he wrote nothing of note for the last four years of his life. He suffered bouts of depression, and, in the words of his friend John Betjeman, finally ‘turned his face to the wall and died’ on 19th April 1950.

This was a sad end to a life that not only produced much work of quality but that gave so much pleasure to others. The visitors’ book at Faringdon, his country house, lists the famous of three decades — Shaw, Wells, Huxley, Beerbohm, the Mitfords, the Sitwells and others. His eccentricities (all carefully calculated to amuse — or offend!) were legendary. From the clavichord in the back of his Rolls-Royce to his habit of dyeing the local pigeons exotic colours (this continues to the present day) — all had their individual _raison d’etre, at least for him. His dislike of pomposity revealed itself in a wealth of stories, like the one of the woman invited to luncheon to meet the P of W, being rather disappointed when the Provost of Worcester was presented in place of the Prince of Wales whom she had been expecting, or the woman who declared once too often that she ‘had been sticking up’ for him. Berners responded that he, in turn, had been sticking up for her; someone had said that she was not fit to live with pigs — and he said that she was. But all these fripperies were incidental to his art. When not composing music he would write short humorous novels (six in number), three volumes of autobiography (one unpublished) and stage two exhibitions of his paintings, in 1931 and 1936.

Berners’ musical output was small by most standards and the case is often made that if he had had to earn a living from the arts, he would have produced more. This is debatable. Less in doubt is that his art was well appreciated amongst his fellow artists — and aristocrats. Osbert Sitwell summed it up by writing that ‘in the years between the wars he did more to civilise the wealthy than anyone in England. Through London’s darkest drawing-rooms, as well as lightest, he moved a sort of missionary of the arts_.’

Not a bad epitaph — that is, if Berners had not written one of his own: Here lies Lord Berners, One of the learners. His great love of learning May earn him a burning. But Praise to the Lord! He seldom was bored.

Philip Laneuparrow
BLISS, (SIR) ARTHUR (1891 – 1975)

Arthur Bliss was born in London in 1891, the eldest son of Agnes Kennard Davis, a keen amateur pianist, and Francis Edward Bliss, a businessman who had come to England from Springfield, Massachusetts. From his father he inherited skills in administration; his talent in music came from his mother, who died suddenly in 1895. His transatlantic heritage would later be reflected by his firmly international cultural outlook, fostered, no doubt, by the encouragement to pursue a musical career he received from his widowed mother.

As a pupil at Rugby, Bliss was introduced to the music of Debussy and Ravel participated in performances of works by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and made his first tentative steps in composition. His conventionally middle-class education took him next to Pembroke College, Cambridge (where he came under the tutelage of Charles Wood and E. J. Dent), and thence to the Royal College of Music (under Stanford), before his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914.

Bliss served with distinction throughout the war, during which he was wounded at the Somme and gassed at Cambrai. After demobilisation in 1919, he felt a keen urge to make up for lost time. A technically-promising composition student before the war, Bliss now found himself one of a few survivors from a virtually-lost generation.

Inspired by visits to post-Armistice Paris (where he met Ravel and members of Les Six), he produced a series of experimental works for innovative instrumental combinations. Some of these — such as Rout and Rhapsody — employ the voice instrumentally (calling for wordless vocalisation and the rendition of nonsense syllables), while Conversations makes a clear nod towards the jazz idioms of Stravinsky and the ‘machine-music’ of Darius Milhaud. An indication of Bliss’s somewhat chauvinistically anti-German musical manifesto can be gleaned from his contemporaneous music criticism.

In 1922, Elgar — with whom Bliss enjoyed a close but sometimes fractious relationship — secured the younger composer a Three Choirs Festival commission, for which he produced A Colour Symphony. The work, which explores the extra-musical associations of four colours, demonstrates astonishing maturity in view of its standing as Bliss’s first significant effort at extended orchestral writing.

A two-year sabbatical in America followed, where Bliss met and married Trudy Hoffmann, before a return to England which heralded the completion of a journey to the very centre of musical life in Britain. During the remaining interwar years, he composed some of his most significant works in several genres, including the symphonic requiem Morning Heroes (1930), the Clarinet Quintet (1932), the first of several film scores in Things to Come (1934), the neo-romantic Music for Strings (1935) and his long-anticipated balletic debut Checkmate (1937).

The first performance of Bliss’s Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall in 1939 coincided with Britain’s entry into the Second World War, causing the composer and his family to be stranded in America. Eventually, after a period spent teaching at Berkeley, he returned to England (leaving behind, with enormous difficulty, his wife and two daughters) to take up a position with the BBC, for whom he was later Director of Music.

Following an unenthusiastically received opera, The Olympians, staged at Covent Garden in 1949, Bliss was knighted in 1950 and appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953. It was in this capacity that he led a delegation of British musicians to the USSR in 1956. Bliss continued to compose prolifically — he produced more film and operatic scores and his fascination with formal innovation and thematic manipulation found outlets in works such as Meditations on a Theme by John Blow (1955) and Metamorphic Variations (1972). He remained a central figure in British music until his death, after a short illness, in March 1975.

Sam Ellisuparrow
BOND, CAPEL (1730 – 1790)

Capel Bond was born in Gloucester in 1730, being baptised on 14 December. His father, William Bond, was a bookseller in the town. His brother was the landscape artist Daniel Bond (1725–1803). The young composer was probably educated at the Crypt School run by his uncle, the Reverend Daniel Bond and at the age of 12 was apprenticed to Martin Smith, Gloucester’s Cathedral organist.

At the age of 19 he moved to Coventry to take up a post as organist of St. Michael and All Angels, and three years later in Easter 1752 became organist of Holy Trinity, Coventry. St. Michael and All Angels was the second largest parish church in England and was later to become the city’s cathedral. He held both these posts until his death in 1790.

Bond did a great deal for music in Coventry by organising subscription concerts and expanding the local Musical Society to become instrumental as well as choral. He organised a music festival there at which it is known that he conducted Handel’s Messiah and Samson and was responsible for founding a music festival in Birmingham — conducting the first festival in 1768.

Bond’s only surviving music is his Six Concertos in Seven Parts (London, 1766) and his Six Anthems in Score (London,1769). They must have been well received as the Anthems ran to six editions and the Concertos to two editions. Subscriptions for the latter included the composer John Valentine, Handel’slibrettist Charles Jennens (who requested six sets) and many musical societies from all over the country.

In 1770 in recognition of his ‘superior merit and regular attendance’ as organist at Holy Trinity he was awarded a £10 per annum increase to his £30 annual salary. It was about this time that, presumably due to some deterioration in health, his musical activities lessened and he made his will. However, he survived another nine years and died on 14 February 1790. He was buried at St. Bartholomew’s Church, Binley, Coventry — his tombstone reads: {line} H[ic] J[acet {line} CAPEL BOND {line} 40 years organist of the Churches {line} of St Michael and Holy Trinity in {line} COVENTRY {line} He [wa]s an eminent musician {line} [and] indulgent husband {line} [an]d steady in his friendships {line} [exempl]ary in the constant practice {line} [of his Ch]ristian and social duties {line} he died February 14th 1790 / aged 59.

Roger Sladeuparrow
BOWEN, (EDWIN) YORK (1884 – 1961)

York Bowen is surely one of the most absurdly forgotten English composers. Described by Saint-Saens as “the most remarkable of the young British composers”, and nick-named “The English Rachmaninov”, he was immensely popular and celebrated in his hey-day. He later faded completely into obscurity, and his genius is only now being re-discovered. Born in London, the youngest son of a whisky distiller, he showed musical promise from very early on — even humming scales as a baby, and relishing his mother’s piano playing. The promise soon manifested a precocious talent — aged 8, he was the soloist in Dussek’s piano concerto! He won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music aged 14, where he studied the piano, organ, viola and horn, and proved himself a composer of great ability and originality. His college years were happy and high-spirited — he wore his way through several pianos, won countless prizes, sang duets, composed playful works such as the Waltz for Two Hands, and attended Wagner operas with his friend Benjamin Dale, walking the streets in an emotional daze for hours afterwards.

After graduating, he launched a successful career as pianist and composer, often performing his own music — including, at the age of 19, his first piano concerto at the Proms under Henry Wood, and later, his first and third piano concertos under Richter. His compositions received rave reviews: “ … reveals for so young a composer a quite exceptional degree of artistic perception”, “Bowen has something to say and knows how to say it”, “shows … so dextrous a command of orchestral effect that scarcely any praise can be too high”) — as did his playing (one critic wrote “when I say that Mr Bowen is the finest pianist I have heard since Rubinstein, I give him the highest praise I have to give”, and went on to comment that if Bowen grew his hair long, wore foreign apparel and called himself Boweniski, he would be famed throughout the world!.

He was acclaimed abroad as well — his brilliant performance in Berlin with Lionel Tertis (the famed violist for whom Bowen wrote many works) led German newspapers to state that such  playing was ldquo;unfortunately only too rare in this placerdquo;. When 23, he was made a Fellow of his alma mater, and elevated to Professor two years later. During the First World War, he saw service in France with the Scots Guards, playing the horn in the regimental band, before being invalided home with pneumonia. His life then continued to revolve around teaching, adjudicating, examining, lecturing, editing, sitting on BBC audition panels, broadcasting, touring, composing and performing. He also made the first ever recording of Beethoven’s Fourth piano concerto. He won numerous prizes for his compositions, all of which were critically acclaimed, and included a violin concerto (the Times called this his “best composition”), songs for his wife to sing, four symphonies (the Times devoted an entire column to commending his second symphony), a tone poem The Lament of Tasso, a Mass, four piano concertos, horn and viola concertos, much scintillating chamber music, and many piano pieces, such as the 24 Preludes for Piano, described as “the finest  pieces for solo piano ever written by an Englishman”. It is said that he could play every instrument in the orchestra and thus had superb knowledge of each instrument’s capabilities — it is certainly true that his music shows not just an ineffably gorgeous romanticism, but also technical brilliance and assurance.

He continued composing and playing at major London venues until his final years (writing his Fourth Symphony in his seventies and performing his Fourth Piano Concerto in an Albert Hall Prom aged 75). Unfortunately, by then his style was too romantic for contemporary trends and fell out of fashion — Sorabji sagely noted that Bowen was one of the very few contemporary composers to have “both spiritual and moral guts to stand aloof from fashionable conventions”.

By all accounts he was, despite his fame, a polite, loving and gentle man, with a strong sense of humour. He loved machinery (inventing a set of brakes for the garden roller as a young boy!), and used to relax before a concert by taking a bicycle to pieces! Rare moments of leisure saw him tending his roses or enjoying opera in London and Bayreuth. He had a spiritual side, believing in reincarnation, and even running a spiritual and musical healing clinic at his house in Finchley Road, where his son held prayer circles and lectures, guided by an Indian doctor. Bowen died suddenly, at the age of 77, leaving behind a staggering legacy of music of the utmost beauty, lyricism, originality and power.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
BOYCE, WILLIAM (1711 – 1779)

According to the musical historian Charles Burney (1726–1814) the Trio Sonatas of William Boyce were, ‘more generally purchased, performed and admired, than any productions of the kind in this kingdom, except those of Corelli’ and were ‘in constant use, as chamber music in private concerts’ and ‘in our theatres … public gardens, as favourite pieces, during many years’. Such was the high esteem in which he was held during his lifetime. William Boyce was born in September 1711 in Maiden Lane (now Skinners Lane) in the City of London. The son of a cabinet-maker, his musical education began at the age of 12 when he became a chorister of St. Paul’s Cathedral under the musical direction of Charles King. When William’s voice broke he was accepted as a pupil to the composer Maurice Greene (1696–1755).

He was later taught composition by John Pepusch (1667–1752), who gave him his great love of church music of the past. Boyce became organist at several London churches and augmented his income by teaching the harpsichord at schools. In 1736 he was appointed conductor at the Three Choirs Festival of Gloucester, Worcester and Hereford.

In 1740 he had enormous success with his Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day and in 1743 with his music for the play ’Solomon’. Following a performance in 1762, the music critic John Potter wrote ‘a fine piece of composition! It has a number of beautiful strokes of genius, it is fine, it is elegant and sublime … how delicate the airs in it, how charming the melody! Can anything be more so? Really it is almost impossible.’

His trio sonatas, published in 1747, attracted a huge number of subscribers (those who paid for and ordered a copy in advance). Against an average of 75 to 100, the trios attracted 631, including the composers Handel, Arne, Pepusch and Greene. In 1748 he married Hannah Nixon. They lived in Quality Court, Chancery Lane and had a daughter and a son, William, who became a famous double-bass player in the London orchestras. Boyce composed for the theatre, including, for the 1749/50 season at The Drury Lane Theatre Company under David Garrick, the music to The Chaplet and, more famously, for Romeo & Juliet.

After the death of Dr. Greene in 1755 Boyce was made his successor as Master of the King’s band and also as conductor of the annual festival of ‘Sons of the Clergy’ at St. Paul’s Cathedral. In 1758 he became one of the three organists of the Chapel Royal. To commemorate the British victories against the French in ‘this wonderful year’ (1759) Boyce wrote what was to become one of his most famous songs: ‘Hearts of Oak’. In the 1760s Boyce’s increasing deafness forced him to resign his organist positions and to give up teaching. He then retired to Kensington Gore where he edited his now famous collection of Cathedral Music.

Boyce died at the age of 67 on 7th February 1779 and was buried under the centre of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, the combined choirs of St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal singing his anthem ‘If we believe that Jesus died’. The composer Charles Wesley (1757-1834) said of him: ‘a more modest man than Dr. Boyce I have never known. I never heard him speak a vain or ill-natured word, either to exalt himself or deprecate another.’

Roger Sladeuparrow
BRIAN, HAVERGAL (1876 – 1972)

William Havergal Brian was born on 29 January 1876 into a working-class Potteries family in Dresden, Staffordshire. His early musical experience was in church choirs and as a church organist. He also learned violin and cello, playing in local bands and orchestras. Although given a thorough theoretical grounding, he was virtually self-taught in composition. Nevertheless, he rapidly acquired an invincible desire to be a composer and began to make a name for himself. Works of his were admired by Elgar, some were performed by such as Henry Wood and Thomas Beecham and, for a number of years, he was supported by a wealthy patron, leaving him free to compose. This ended abruptly, however, just before World War I, when various personal crises forced him to leave his home and family. For many years he struggled to support a growing second family.

By the late 1920s Brian was assistant editor on the journal Musical Opinion, which kept him well informed on the latest continental developments. However, his own mature works remained almost entirely unknown and unperformed, despite Sir Donald Tovey being moved to write in 1934 that ‘even for the recognition of his smaller works he is being made to wait … far longer than is good for any country whose musical reputation is worth praying for’. After his great friend Bantock died in 1946, advocates were virtually non-existent until the early 1950s, when Robert Simpson, then a young BBC music producer, began to champion his music. Starting with Brian’s Eighth Symphony in 1954 (the first of his symphonies that the 78-year old Brian heard), Simpson mounted a growing number of performances, mostly for broadcasts, stirring wider recognition of Brian’s achievement. Perhaps inspired by this renewed interest, his remaining years were something of an Indian summer of composition, including 20 further symphonies. His last work, completed in October 1968 was his 32nd Symphony.

He died on 28 November 1972 after a fall, two months before his 97th birthday. Though he knew that the BBC had committed to broadcasting all of his symphonies, he died never having heard many of his finest works.

John Grimshawuparrow
BRIDGE, FRANK (1879 – 1941)

Long remembered principally for being the young Benjamin Britten’s mentor, Frank Bridge is coming to be recognised as one of the outstanding British composers of the twentieth century. Born in 1879 into a musical family, he was given early opportunities to play in and conduct his father’s orchestra in Brighton. He entered the Royal College of Music as a violin student in 1896, winning a composition scholarship in 1899, and also taking up the viola, the instrument with which he was to become most closely associated as a performer. He played for many years in the English String Quartet, among others, and appeared with the Joachim Quartet in 1906. Although he failed to secure a regular appointment, he was also regarded as a conductor of considerable ability, deputising for Henry Wood at the Proms, earning him a reputation as a reliable ‘ambulance conductor’.

Bridge’s enthusiasm as a chamber music player is reflected in the student compositions completed under Stanford at the RCM; indeed, most of the substantial works produced in the early years of his career are chamber music. After the impressive technical command displayed in his student works, Bridge soon began to forge a personal style in works such as his submissions for the Cobbett chamber music competitions and other increasingly mature chamber and orchestral works. His symphonic suite The Sea was a particular success, although Bridge came to resent its lasting popularity compared to the hostile critical reactions to his later, more modern music.

Subsequent works such as the Dance Poem, Summer, the Second String Quartet and the Cello Sonata reveal increasing technical maturity and an apparent urge to break away from the superficially conservative style of his earlier works. The implications of this tendency are fulfilled in the Piano Sonata of 1924 and Bridge’s subsequent works, which represent a combination of Bridge’s earlier musical priorities with an uncompromising modernist aesthetic. Unlike the witty modernism of contemporary composers such as Bliss and Walton, Bridge’s serious engagement with contemporary developments found little popular or critical favour, and only in recent times have his late masterpieces come to be recognised as such. Essential to Bridge’s perseverance in the face of such hostility was the support of the American patroness Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge, allowing Bridge to produce a series of works of consistent mastery, including the orchestral works Enter Spring, Oration, Phantasm, There is a willow grows aslant a brook and Rebus, and the late chamber works (two string quartets, a piano trio, a violin sonata, the Rhapsody Trio for viola and violins, and the Divertimenti for wind quartet), which are among the supreme achievements of British chamber music in the twentieth century.

Various explanations for Bridge’s remarkable stylistic evolution have been offered, including a reaction of his fervent pacifism to the First World War, his childlessness and his rejection by the musical establishment, and these are valid considerations. In purely musical terms, however, the stages of Bridge’s stylistic development are not as divergent as they might at first appear, and at no time does his quest for a personal and relevant musical language interfere with his exacting technical standards. These ideals, of seeking to realise one’s musical potential while maintaining complete technical mastery, pervade Bridge’s output and account for its outstanding quality.

F.G. Hussuparrow

Concertgoers could be forgiven for thinking that Sir John Frederick Bridge occupied a negligible position in the annals of British music. For example, out of his large catalogue of works, only two are at present available on CD. Yet habitués of Westminster Abbey will know that he was one of the most interesting and versatile, if not virtuosic, characters to hold the post of organist in that great place of worship.

John Frederick Bridge was born in Oldbury, Worcestershire on December 5 1844. When he was six years old he became a chorister or ’practising boy’ at Rochester Cathedral, where he was taught by his father who was a lay-clerk there. Later he studied with Sir John Goss, organist of Holy Trinity Church, Windsor. It was here that he met Hubert Parry and other important figures in the Victorian musical scene. Bridge’s first major professional appointment was as organist at Manchester Cathedral. He held this post with distinction for six years. During this time he was also Professor of Harmony at Owen’s College, which was to later become part of Manchester University. Bridge received his doctorate from Oxford in 1874. Upon the retirement of James Turle from the post of organist at Westminster Abbey, Bridge was appointed as ‘Permanent Deputy Organist/; after Turle’s death in 1882 he succeeded to the full title.

The Abbey organist, then as now, had to organise and officiate at a large number of official and special services. For Bridge this was to include twenty-four years of musical spectaculars — from the Jubilee service of Queen Victoria in 1887 until the Coronation of King George and Queen Mary in 1911. Musical anniversaries were celebrated as well as state occasions, including the important bi-centenary of the death of Henry Purcell in 1895. Bridge edited that composer’s great Te Deum and managed to return the score to its original musical condition, emoving many accretions added by other hands over the years.

On the last day of 1918 Bridge retired from his post. He retained the title of ‘Emeritus Organist’ and kept his house at Little Cloisters. On a personal note, Bridge was married three times and had one son and two daughters. Finally, John Frederick Bridge died in London on 18th March 1924.

Bridge was also noted as a writer and a lecturer. His research formed the basis of a number of Gresham Lectures. He wrote a number of books including Samuel Pepys, Lover of Musique, Twelve Good Musicians from John Bull to Henry Purcell and an exploration of the ‘Cryes of London’ which makes fascinating, if slightly dated, reading today. However, his greatest literary triumph is his autobiographical A Westminster Pilgrim, which was published in 1919. It is a book that is as amusing as it is informative about late nineteenth century music making!

Explorers of second-hand bookshops will often come across copies of the Novello edition of Bridge’s The Flag of England — a choral setting of words by Rudyard Kipling — who did not then suffer the intellectual disapprobation that he does today. However, there were many oratorios, cantatas, part songs, choral ballads and organ pieces that are all by and large forgotten about. Perhaps a rediscovery of some of his shorter works may well provide a glimpse at this interesting and largely ignored man.

John Franceuparrow
BRITTEN, BENJAMIN (1913 – 1976)

Edward Benjamin Britten was born in Lowestoft, Suffolk, on 22nd November 1913, the feast day of Cecilia, patron saint of music. His mother Edith was an enthusiastic amateur pianist and singer, and although she encouraged all of her children (Britten had three siblings) to play the piano it was Benjamin whom she regarded as specially gifted. He began piano lessons at five, and at the age of 10 studied the viola. His viola teacher Audrey Alston arranged a meeting with Frank Bridge, whose orchestral suite The Sea had by Britten’s own admission ‘knocked [him] sideways’ and proved influential in his decision to become a composer. Following lessons with Bridge he entered the Royal College of Music, having won an open scholarship in 1930. On graduation he supported himself by writing music for theatre, radio and film.

During the mid-1930s Britten met the tenor Peter Pears, who was to become his life partner. They travelled to the United States in 1939, but returned to England two and a half years later to register as conscientious objectors, taking work for CEMA (the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts). Both men were committed pacifists and believed that they could best serve their fellow human beings through their music. Pears introduced audiences to many of Britten’s major operatic roles, beginning in 1945 with Peter Grimes, the first work staged at Sadler’s Wells theatre after the War. The following year Britten and Pears helped form the English Opera Group, for which Britten wrote a number of works such as The Rape of Lucretia (1946) and Albert Herring (1947). His prolific operatic output also included Billy Budd, which was composed for the Festival of Britain in 1951, Gloriana written for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953, and The Turn of the Screw which was premiegrave;red in Venice in 1954.

Britten had by this time settled on the seafront of Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast, where in 1948, with Pears and Eric Crozier, he established the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts. This annual event witnessed the first performances of many key Britten works, such as the cantata St Nicolas (1948), Noye’s Fludde (1958) — an opera for amateur and professional alike — and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1960. During the early years many performances took place in local churches and Aldeburgh’s Jubilee Hall, but the operation expanded considerably in 1967 with the opening of the Maltings Concert Hall in Snape.  

Britten’s composition encompassed ballet, chamber works, symphony and concerto, but his primary interest was in the voice. He wrote a great deal of music for vocal and choral performance, and usually had particular musicians in mind when he was composing. Several of his song cycles for piano and orchestral accompaniment were written for Pears. Pears, with baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, formed the trio for whom the composer specifically wrote solo parts in his War Requiem of 1962. Britten also established close working relationships with instrumentalists Julian Bream, Osian Ellis and Mstislav Rostropovich, consequently enriching the repertoire for guitar, harp and cello respectively. War Requiem was written at The Red House, a large eighteenth-century farmhouse approximately a mile from the centre of Aldeburgh where Britten and Pears had moved in 1957, and it was here and at a cottage in Horham near the border between Norfolk and Suffolk that Britten continued to work for the rest of his life. He completed three Parables for Church performance during the 1960s and, amid the onslaught of ill health brought on by a severe heart condition, wrote his final two operas Owen Wingrave for television in 1971 and Death in Venice, which was premieèred at the 1973 Aldeburgh Festival. In June 1976 he was awarded a life peerage in recognition of his work as a musician. He completed a number of pieces during his last three years including the orchestral Suite on English Folk Tunes, A Birthday Hansel (a set of Burns songs written especially for the 75th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother), the cantata Phaedra (written for Janet Baker) and the Third String Quartet. This last work was rehearsed privately for Britten by the Amadeus String Quartet in the Library at The Red House three months before his death, which occurred on 4th December 1976.

Nicholas Clarkuparrow

Of all the young composers slaughtered in the carnage of the First World War, none have posthumously gained a more significant reputation than George Butterworth, whose music immutably evokes the atmosphere of pre-1914 Britain. His background was privileged: the son of Sir Alexander Butterworth, General Manager of the North Eastern Railway, he was educated at Eton, Trinity College, Oxford and, later, at the Royal College of Music. Butterworth made an indelible impression on all who knew him. His Yorkshire roots were reflected in his abrupt manner, but his enthusiasm and steadfast loyalty to friends and, in his last days, inspiring cheerfulness in the trenches, endeared him to all.

After a spell of school-teaching at Radley, Butterworth worked as a critic for the Times and produced a small, but original, series of works including the orchestral pieces, The Banks of Green Willow (1913) and the Rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad (1912), which shares its name with his cycle of six songs (1911). Butterworth formed a close friendship with Vaughan Williams, sowed the seeds for what later became A London Symphony (1913) and, when the score was lost in Germany after August 1914, supervised its reconstruction from the orchestral parts. Vaughan Williams later recalled that, ‘he possessed, in common with very few composers, a wonderful power of criticism of other men’s work, and insight into their ideas and motives.’

Butterworth was an enthusiastic collector of folksongs and collected Morris dances in Oxfordshire and folksongs in Sussex. There were, though, shadows in Butterworth’s life. He was often tormented by a sense of purposelessness and his enthusiastic enlistment in the Durham Light Infantry on the outbreak of the First World War may have offered an escape, not only from his inner demons, but also from music itself. Although often seen as the most tragic musical loss of the war, it is, for all his tremendous promise difficult to imagine how, if at all, his music might have developed in the more ironic world of the 20s and 30s. Such a problem was not to arise though for, on the 5 August 1916, at Pozières, he was killed in action. He was thirty-one years of age.

Peter Reynoldsuparrow
CAMPION, THOMAS (1567 – 1620)

In his early days Thomas Campion might easily have been described as an amateur or a dilettante musician. More to the point he could be considered a fine example of a perfect Renaissance man, multi-talented, intellectual and virtuous rather as Sir Philip Sidney had been a generation earlier. He was also a professional scientist.

His mother had him trained in the law to which he had little interest; he then studied Classics as most middle-class men did at that time, at Peterhouse, Cambridge.

As early as 1586 he can be found at Grey’s Inn developing a taste for theatrical performances and masques, the sort that students would put on there, often in Latin.

As a poet he developed quickly, and by 1601 Philip Rosseter self published a book of Ayres to texts by Campion, significantly, if tentatively half of this collection includes settings by Campion himself. There is a nod towards his classical training in My sweetest Lesbia, and some of his most typical pieces I care not for these ladies, featuring Amaryllis ‘the wanton country maid’ and the rather coy It fell on a Summer’s day. These seem to be archetypal examples of the period, as does What then is love but mourning set beautifully by Rosseter. Elizabethan love poetry to pretty little tunes.

The following year he published Observations in the Art of English Poesie which sees him deliberately moving on from the era of Sidney yet developing the latter’s thoughts as found in his ‘Defense of Poesy’(c.1578) towards a the reform of English poetry linking it with music and giving it a more moral dimension. Campion must have sensed that this was ideal for a composer.

His 2nd Book came out some year’s later after he had studied Medicine at the University of Caen. By 1607 he was licensed to practise in London. This same year saw his Songs for a Masque to celebrate the marriage of Sir James Hay There is a published description of this event and one song from it is certainly the well known ‘Shows and nightly revels’.

But by now Campion must have had many songs still in manuscript. Perhaps he was persuaded to gather them into a collection, or rather three. That is, the 1st Book of Ayres and also of 1613 his Songs of mourning for the death of Prince Henry. His 2nd book of c.1615 and the last one of 1617. But by then Campion had fallen out of grace and passed the summit of his achievements. Some of this was due to a scandal involving a plot to kill of Sir Thomas Overbury and his eventual imprisonment. Campion was somewhat implicated and he never quite ‘saved face’ afterwards.

These last books, more than any other by his contemporaries show us in their texts a nostalgia for past, lost England but the music oddly enough points to a modern style of song writing. The nostalgia is exemplified by for example Jack and Joan who ‘skip it on the green’ and ‘do their week-days work and pray’ in the same 1613 collection Never weather beaten sail and Author of Light, a resolution of passion spent and a need for a kind of reconciliation with the final judge.

But in Campion’s emphasis on a clear melody accompanied by a bass line and functional harmonies he was man of the times or indeed slightly ahead of them, as in Italy Monteverdi himself was in the process of developing such a music with his 6th Book of Madrigals published in 1614, where a recitativic line of melody with chordal accompaniment is brought to its finest fruition.

Campion is a fine poet and a delightful and moving composer whose work is not only worth preserving but also cherishing.

Gary Higginsonuparrow
CARR, PAUL (1961)

Paul Carr was born in Cornwall, England in 1961 to Anglo-Australian nationality and has been writing music since the age of 15. From 1984 to 1998 his main career was in opera stage management and he has worked with some of the world’s leading companies including English National Opera, The Australian Opera, The New Israeli Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera and Garsington Opera, as well as various free-lance contracts including the annual Raymond Gubbay Opera at The Royal Albert Hall. In 2004 he retired from stage management, and in April of that year moved to Mallorca to concentrate more fully on composition as well as developing his interest in abstract painting. He has exhibited work in three exhibitions in Mallorca.

Paul has written scores for several British films including Janice Beard 4wpm, Being Considered, and Lady Audley’s Secret. TV work includes the popular Children’s series Girls in Love for Granada.

Paul’s concert work is varied, and over the past few years performances include a Viola Concerto, a Piano Concerto, a Sonatina for Flute & Piano, a 2nd Flute Concerto, Chasing Aunt Sally (a concert overture premiered by the Worthing Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Gibbons), a wind quintet Diverting Sundays (premièred at the 2003 Brighton Festival by The Galliard Ensemble), and Jazz Cardigans (a suite of 5 guitar pieces premiered by Craig Ogden at the 2006 Brighton Festival).

More recent works include A Very English Music for string orchestra, an Oboe Concerto (for Nicholas Daniel), a Bassoon Concerto, a Piano Quartet, a Sinfonietta for Orchestra, Concertos for Trombone, and for Trumpet, and three versions of the same work: Air for Strings, Air for Orchestra, and Viola Air. His Requiem For An Angel, for 2 soloists, choir & orchestra, was premièred in June 2006 in Warminster and received its 2nd performance in Brighton in November 2007 given by the East Sussex Bach Choir and the Sussex Symphony Orchestra.

A review of Paul’s music on the Classical Music Web reads: ‘Paul Carr writes music that is without pretence, fluent and fluid, singing, concise and joyous’. A disc of Paul’s orchestral music, Crowded Streets, s available on Claudio Records performed by the Sussex Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mark Andrew James. His string suite A Very English Music was recorded for vol.6 of English String Miniatures by The Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland, and was released on the NAXOS label in September 2006. Also in 2006 two flute works, Summer was in August and Three Pieces Blue were released by Campion Cameo Records on a CD of British flute music. In 2007 his Air for Strings was recorded for CD by Barry Wordsworth and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and the Oboe Concerto recorded in January, 2008, by Nicholas Daniel and the RBS conducted by Gavin Sutherland.

CLIFFE, FREDERIC (1857 – 1931)

Frederic Cliffe was born in Lowmoor, near Bradford, on 2 May 1857, the same year as Elgar and in the same town as Delius, although Cliffe was not to achieve the enduring fame and prominence of his two near contemporaries. However, in his day, he was one of the best known of the younger generation of British musical hopefuls. He was something of a prodigy, becoming a church organist at 11 and eventually being the organist to the Leeds Triennial Music Festival where, in 1886, he assisted Sir Arthur Sullivan at the first performance of his dramatic cantata, The Golden Legend. He went on to write two symphonies, a violin concerto (to be heard at this year’s EMF), a scena for contralto and orchestra, The Triumph of Alcestis, for Clara Butt, as well as a major work for chorus and orchestra, Ode to the North-East Wind. No piano or chamber music survives. He went on to become Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music (RCM) where his pupils included John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin.

Cliffe was hailed as one of the great hopes of British music when his Symphony, op. 1, received its first performance at Crystal Palace in 1889, conducted by none other than August Manns. On 22 April 1889, The Daily Telegraph published the following remarkable review of what was then the work of an unknown composer:

–> ‘It may be doubted whether musical history can show on any of its pages the record of such an Opus 1. The symphony is a masterpiece, and the composer, one might think, feels terrified at his own success. For our own part, noting the imaginative power displayed in the work, the easy command of all resources, the beauty and freshness of the themes, and their brilliant development, we feel inclined to ask a question, propounded concerning another phenomenon “Whence has this man these things?” Mr Cliffe has by one effort passed from obscurity to fame, and must be regarded as a bright and shining star on the horizon of our English art.’

–> Indeed this work is a masterpiece and stands comparison with any late 19th century symphony. Yet, when he died in 1931 he was a totally forgotten figure. Indeed, a contemporary composer of Cliffe’s who was a fellow student at the RCM, Algernon Ashton (also now a forgotten composer, but who can forget the wonderful performance of his Viola Sonata at the first EMF!), was stimulated to write to the Musical Times complaining about the lack of a proper obituary in that journal and pointing out the great enthusiasm with which his works were received in their time.

Indeed in 1905, the Musical Times itself had carried an extensive three-page review of the first performance at Sheffield of his choral and orchestral work Ode to the North-East Wind, based on Charles Kingsley’s poem of the same name. The first performances of his Second Symphony (Leeds 1892) and the Violin Concerto (Norwich 1896) had received favourable reviews. Earlier editions of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians allocated as much space to Cliffe (several pages) as to Elgar and Delius. He only warrants a single paragraph today. However, despite further performances of both his First and Second Symphonies, especially in Bournemouth, and of his Violin Concerto, his name would soon be forgotten to the musical public. Arthur Benjamin, the Australian composer, who along with John Ireland was one of his piano pupils at the RCM, gives us a clue as to why his music fell into disfavour and he stopped composing. Benjamin had come to Cliffe for piano lessons, perhaps because Cliffe’s wife Zillah was a cousin of his father. He had heard a performance of a Cliffe Symphony and was extremely impressed, as he was by the score of the Ode. However, it appeared that Cliffe and his wife had strayed into a rather elite circle and this perhaps had removed the stimulus for Cliffe to compose. More likely, though, was the increasing indifference by the musical establishment to this generation of composers in Britain (including Elgar and Delius), especially after the First World War. Cliffe felt that indifference and was, like York Bowen, not inclined to write music in an artificially contemporary style. Modern music was anathema to him and as a result his name was ‘air brushed’ out of our musical consciousness.

Dr David Greenuparrow
COPLEY, IAN (1926 – 1988)

an Copley was born in Dartford in 1926 and died in Brighton in 1988. His studies at the Royal College of Music, interrupted by war service, included composition lessons with David Moule Evans and Herbert Howells, and he subsequently published about 100 original works and arrangements, mostly solo songs, choral and educational music, with Chappell, Curwen, Roberton, Thames Publishing and other firms, some of which is still in print.

For much of his working life, he was Head of the Music Department at Brighton College of Education, now part of the University of Brighton. He was also a lecturer for the Open University. As a musicologist, his interests were wide-ranging and he published many articles on hymnology and folk music but his main interest was in English composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He published books on the music of Peter Warlock, Charles Wood, George Butterworth and Robin Milford besides many articles on associated subjects.

Peter Copleyuparrow

Ronald Corp is a composer and conductor, and Founder and Artistic Director of the New London Orchestra and New London Children’s Choir and Musical Director of the London Chorus and Highgate Choral Society.

He began conducting full-time in 1988 when he founded the New London Orchestra which celebrated its 20th birthday on 19th March at Cadogan Hall in a concert featuring his Piano Concerto performed by Leon McCawley, and the rarely heard Music for Strings, Trumpets and Percussion by Grazyna Bacewicz. With the Orchestra he has appeared in all the main London venues and at major festivals around the country. Ronald Corp has made it his mission to breathe new life into a wealth of little known music from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the orchestra’s excellent reputation in this area has led to numerous BBC broadcasts and 20 recordings on Hyperion, the latest of which, released in Spring 2008, features the theatre music of Lione Monckton. Ronald Corp’s lively introductions from the stage are a key part of his mission to make music accessible, an aim also underlining the orchestra’s education work in which he is often involved as a composer and workshop-leader.

Ronald Corp’s engagements have included concerts and recordings with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Ulster Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Orchestra, the Leipzig Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels Radio and Television Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Bournemouth Sinfonietta. He has appeared many times at the BBC Proms and also works regularly with the BBC Singers, for whom he wrote a substantial choral work, Dover Beach, in 2005.

The New London Children’s Choir is one of the busiest and most successful children’s ensembles in the country. It also performs frequently abroad, throughout Europe and in the USA. Ronald Corp has conducted the choir in many concerts, recordings and a television workshop as part of the Young Musician of the Year. The choir has commissioned more than 40 new pieces and has premieacute;red numerous other works by the world’s leading composers including its patrons Louis Andriessen and Michael Nyman. It has performed frequently at the Proms, made a number of film soundtrack and TV recordings, and been engaged for concerts and recordings with all the major London orchestras and opera companies.

Ronald Corp’s first major choral work And all the Trumpets Sounded was premièred in 1989 by Highgate Choral Society, who commissioned it, and published by Stainer and Bell. His cantata Laudamus was premièred at St. John’s Smith Square in 1994 by the London Choral Society to great critical acclaim; its third performance was given at a Gala concert in the Royal Festival Hall. Sainsbury’s commissioned him to compose a piece for the Farnham Youth Choir, winners in their section of the Sainsbury Choir of the Year Competition. Corp has written extensively for children and upper voices, and a number of his works are published by OUP. His String Quartet No. 1 ’The Bustard’ received its première by the Maggini Quartet in February 2008 at the Wigmore Hall.

Other large-scale compositions include Cornucopia for children’s choir and orchestra, commissioned by the National Association of Head Teachers and premieacute;red in Leicester in 1997. The première of the Piano Concerto was given by Julian Evans in a New London Orchestra concert in 1997 as part of its ‘British Concertos’ series, and the cantata A New Song was premièred in May 1999. Mary’s Song was commissioned for the Beckenham Chorale, and Adonai Echad (The Lord is One) for the Highgate Choral Society’s concert in the 2001 Hampstead and Highgate Festival. In May 2003 the Highgate Choral Society premièred the Missa San Marco in St Mark’s, Venice. Corp also writes many works for community projects, such as the New London Orchestra’s Urban Voices in Gospel Oak in 2003-04; and Waters of Time for Wells, Somerset in 2005-06. A CD of his choral music on the Dutton label (‘Forever Child’) was released to great critical acclaim in 2006, performed by Voces Cantabiles directed by the composer, and in concert at the Wigmore Hall in September 2007.

An expert in choral training and choral repertory, Ronald Corp’s comprehensive reference book entitled ‘The Choral Singer’s Companion’ has been recently republished in a third edition.


Matthew Curtis was born in Embleton, Cumbria in 1959. He began composing actively at about the age of fifteen, but it was as a student at Worcester College, Oxford (where he read classics) that his work first began to receive public performance. An introduction in 1981 to fellow composer Alan Langford, then a BBC radio staff producer, led to numerous broadcasts of Matthew’s work from 1982 onwards both in the UK and overseas. His music has also been played in concert by the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Musici de Montréal and the National Children’s Orchestra of Great Britain.

Matthew has become best known for his short orchestral pieces in the British ‘light music’ tradition, such as the new work to be heard at this year’s festival, but his output also includes more substantial works for orchestra, together with chamber music, songs and choral works. Campion Cameo has released four discs of his orchestral and chamber music, and he has contributed to the ASV White Line series of discs of British light music.

DALE, BENJAMIN (1885 – 1943)

Was Benjamin Dale a failed prodigy or a forgotten master of 20th century British music? In the view of Frederick Corder, his teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London, Dale wrote ‘fewer and better works than any English composer of his generation’ Born in London in 1885, he had an orchestral overture performed while he was still only 14, and wrote several further orchestral scores before he really burst upon the scene with his official Opus 1, an ambitious and grandiloquent Piano Sonata in D minor, composed between 1902 and 1905 when he was still a student, which won a competition sponsored by the pianist Mark Hambourg. Much praised at the time, it has remained his best-known work, at least by reputation. After its publication great things were expected of Dale, and in the years before World War I he produced an impressive succession of instrumental works; few in number but large in scale, romantic in feeling and of superb craftsmanship.

When the Great War broke out Dale was in Germany, and he spent the duration in an internment camp in Ruheleben, where his health suffered severely. (He wrote the music for a play entitled Prunella, staged by the inmates of the camp.) Afterwards, most of his time was consumed in educational work as an examiner and teaching at the Royal Academy of Music, of which he eventually became Warden. He had many pupils, of whom the last was Patrick Piggott. He composed comparatively little; but during World War II he was inspired to write a large symphonic poem, The Flowing Tide, for Sir Henry Wood, who scheduled it for the 1943 Promenade Concerts. Dale died suddenly during the rehearsals, at the age of 58.

The fact that Dale’s principal works are chamber music and are extremely taxing for their performers has denied them high visibility in a country which prides itself on its choral and orchestral traditions, and its musicians’ skill in sight-reading. While eloquent and deeply-felt, his compositions are the reverse of sensational and require profound musicianship to achieve their full effect. Nevertheless, one might have expected that his substantial works for viola, to name only one category (the great English viola virtuoso Lionel Tertis took particular interest in the young Benjamin Dale’s development), would have become standard classics of the instrument’s repertoire by now.

Calum MacDonalduparrow

John Danyel was baptised in Wellow, Somerset, in November 1564. Nothing else is known of his early life: he is next noted as receiving his Music Degree from Christ Church Oxford in 1603 by which point he was almost forty years old. Hereafter he is known to have been employed by the Grene family in the nearby village of Great Milton, in whose service he tutored their daughter, Anne. In 1606 he published a book of lute-songs which was dedicated to her. Since all of his music is for lute or lute and voice, Danyel was surely a lutenist himself, and probably a singer as well. A suggestion of the esteem in which he was held during his lifetime is given by the fact that in 1622 Thomas Tomkins dedicated the two parts of his madrigal O let me die for true love to Dowland and Danyel, respectively.

In 1615 Danyel was recorded as manager of the Children of the Queen’s Royal Chamber of Bristol. In 1617 he became the Musician to Prince Charles for £40 a year, and in 1623 he published the works of his deceased brother Samuel, who had been a poet, in dedication to the Prince.

Danyel was listed among the ‘Musicians for the lute and voices’ of the household of King Charles in 1625, and had even been present at the funeral of James I earlier that year. However, his name was absent from two other lists of the musicians from 1626. It is therefore likely that the composer, by then a septuagenarian, had died during the intervening time.

Simon Brackenboroughuparrow
DELIUS, FREDERICK (1862 – 1934)

Frederick Delius is interesting for having made a name for himself as one of the main twentieth century English composers despite the fact that his music is totally infused with continental colours. He was born in Yorkshire, the second son of a wealthy wool merchant who desperately wanted young Frederick to follow in his footsteps. However Delius proved himself as unreliable as his father’s agent abroad, and at the age of 22, persuaded his father to buy him an orange plantation in Florida instead.

In the peace and quiet of his orange plantation, he took up composing seriously and decided to pursue it as his career. Self-taught up to that point, he managed to procure himself a proper composition teacher in a most unusual manner. On a trip to Jacksonsville to buy medicine for a poorly friend, he was unable to resist the allure of a piano shop, and went in to try the instruments out. A passing organist of a Jesuit church in Brooklyn, Thomas Ward, was arrested by the unusual chords he heard emanating from the shop, and when he went in to investigate, Delius persuaded him to return to his orange plantation as his teacher.

When Delius’ father discovered that his son was not really that bothered with growing oranges, he handed the plantation over to Frederick’s elder brother, and Frederick, fearing his father’s fury, fled. The father, although enraged, was nevertheless concerned about his youngest son and sent a private detective to track him down. He was impressed to hear from the successful detective that his son had made himself a good reputation as a musician and teacher in Danville, and eventually agreed to give in to his son’s greatest wish and request, sending Delius on an 18-month course at the Leipzig Konservatorium.

However, Delius did not take to the strict formal lessons he received in Leipzig, and continued to rely far more on his own musical intuition than what his teachers told him. On leaving the Konservatorium, he spent a number of years number of years travelling, assimilating various styles and influences, and visiting Grieg in Norway and Ravel in Paris, where he lived for several years. In France he met his wife-to-be, Jelka, and later settled with her in their ‘dream home’, a picturesque but fairly substantial cottage in the village Grez-sur-Loing, near Fontainbleu, where Delius continued work on his compositions — some of which Beecham then premièred in London.

During the war, the couple returned to England, although Delius was soon confined to a wheelchair, in which he remained for the last fourteen years of his life. By the time they got back to their beloved Grez at the end of the war, Delius was becoming blind and paralysed. When he was on longer able to compose, the young music enthusiast Eric Fenby helped Delius to complete numerous pieces by working on sketches together and taking down music dictated to him by the ailing composer.

In 1929 Delius was made a Companion of Honour, and Beecham and Philip Heseltine — another Delius fan and supporter from an early age, and later to become known as the brilliant English song composer Peter Warlock — put on a Delius Festival in England, which was a huge success. Like two of the other great twentieth century composers, Holst and Elgar, Delius died in 1934, only shortly before his wife also passed away.

For a major name in English music, curiously few of Delius’s works are actually well-known. Many may recognise the opening of Hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring, Brigg Fair, or Summer — or even La Calinda from Koanga, but few are aware of his gorgeous violin concerto, his numerous operas, or his Mass of Life. Delius is one of many English composers — along with Holst, Britten, Vaughan Williams, Quilter and Warlock — who truly has a voice of his own, one that could not possibly be mistaken for any other composer. His harmonies are incredibly rich — luscious, opulent and exotic, with brilliantly original and colourfully sliding, shifting chords. Often full of joy, it is exhilarating, vivacious, and always deeply moving music.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
DOWLAND, JOHN (1563 – 1626)

That John Dowland is the greatest English song composer of his period no one would surely doubt. His five books of songs testify to a greater variety of compositions than he is often given credit for.

He was born in London but during his service in Paris to the English Ambassador in the 1580s he converted to Roman Catholicism. This helped him as he traveled throughout Europe especially to Catholic lands but certainly did not help him in his home country. He even worked in Denmark for eight years for that amazingly musical monarch King Christian IV, before being forced to move on in 1606. He did not return to London until 1612, and by then he seems to have lost the impetus and inspiration to compose. His compositions were published within a span of only fifteen years but many will no doubt date back to the sunnier times of 1580s.

The 1597 First Book of Songes or Ayres contains twenty-one pieces most of which have now made their way into most singers’ repertories and examination syllabuses, for example Come again sweet Love doth now invite and Can she excuse, also turned into instrumental pieces or originally composed as such. everal are of a lighter nature more typical of the golden age of Oriana, the great Queen Elizabeth.

The 2nd Book of 1600 has twenty-two songs some of them dating probably from the early 1590s. There are more than in the 1st book which are in a thoughtful and indeed almost suicidal mood. True, the light-hearted Fine Knacks for ladies makes an appearance but there is also the opening song of the collection, the passionate I saw my lady weep and that is followed by the now iconic Dowland melody Flow my tears. This proved so popular that Dowland turned into a set of Pavans published in 1604, called Lachrymae or Seven Teares variations for viol consort on this most beautiful of songs.

From now on the motto which Dowland attaches to himself Semper Dowland semper Dolens (always Dowland always sad) seems to hold sway. In between these publications by 1603 a sober period had fallen over the country after the death of the Queen and in addition that most Elizabethan of composers Thomas Morley.

The 3rd Book is almost mellow, with songs like the unaffected Time stands still and Flow not so fast ye Fountains. Dowland was to follow it up much later with two autumnal collections A Musical Banquet of 1610 and A Pilgrims Solace, his last publication of 1612.

Did Dowland write his own words? I think so. We know that some songs like Faction that ever dwells in Book 2 are not, as this is a long poem by a fellow Catholic Fulke (Greville) Lord Brooke, but it does seem that normally the music and text fit so perfectly together both in scansion and in mood that they were quite possibly composed together.

Dowland is not only a great song composer but one of our greatest English composers and his work like Shakespeare who I suspect he had met is standing the test of time.

Gary Higginsonuparrow
DUNHILL, THOMAS F. (1877 – 1946)

Thomas F. Dunhill spent his childhood in North London, the fourth of five children born to a “purveyor of tarpaulins, canvas and other requisites for horse-drawn vehicles”. His brothers, Alfred and Herbert, inherited their father’s interest in business, successfully taking the company into the age of the motor car and then opening a pipe shop which they later developed into the Dunhill tobacco empire.

Thomas, however, had other ideas, and later recalled that when he was only five he had been overwhelmed by hearing the family’s piano tuner play a particularly grand version of the March from Handel’s Scipio. Convinced that this was the most wonderful piece ever written, he learned to play a simpler version of it himself, and before long had begun to develop a deep interest in musical theatre in general. During his teens he spent most of his pocket money going to performances of Gilbert and Sullivan and to the Saturday “Pops” concerts at St. James’s Hall, and in 1893, when he began to study at the Royal College of Music, he had written about a dozen short operas. This was an exciting time to be studying music — Ireland, Hoist and Vaughan Williams were also at the RCM — and in 1897 Dunhill was ecstatic to learn that he was to share with Ireland an open scholarship in composition. “Mad with excitement and joy,” he wrote in a telegram to his parents, and his diary records his relief at the prospect of three more years’ composition lessons with Charles Villiers Stanford.

John Humphriesuparrow
DYSON, (SIR) GEORGE (1883 – 1964)

Dyson was born in Halifax, where his father was a blacksmith and his mother was a weaver. His father also acted as organist and choirmaster in a local church, and his parents fostered the young Dyson’s outstanding musical talent, which soon became evident. Dyson himself became a church organist at thirteen, becoming a fellow of the Royal College of Organists only three years later. He studied composition under Stanford at the RCM on an open scholarship from 1900, being awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1904, enabling him to visit Italy, Austria and Germany for further studies.

Dyson’s humble origins and the professional engagements he was obliged to take on after his studies, at the Royal Naval College, Osborne, and Marlborough College, imparted to Dyson a keen sense of the importance of professionalism in his activities as a musician (and as an educator) After a stint as brigade grenadier officer and active service in the war (during which he drew up a training manual on grenade warfare, illustrating his inclination towards methodical investigation and instruction), Dyson was sent home with shell-shock. Appointments as director of music, first at Wellington College, then at Winchester, followed a brief period with the RAF, consolidating his standing as an administrator. In 1924 Dyson produced a book, “The New Music”, a landmark study of musical modernism. While Dyson was unable to recognise the merits of the more extreme features and implications of modernism, a highly personal adaptation of progressive aspects of favourite impressionist and expressionist composers soon led to a strikingly characteristic musical language. A further book, “The Progress of Music”, followed in 1932, signalling his awareness and understanding of musical tradition and its workings. However, Dyson had produced little music of consequence since his student days, and it was not until 1928 that he began to produce the large-scale choral and orchestral works for which he is chiefly remembered, beginning with In Honour of the City. The delightful Canterbury Pilgrims followed in 1931, and Dyson produced works for the Three Choirs festivals of 1933 (St Paul’s Voyage to Melita), 1934 (The Blacksmiths), 1935 (Nebuchadnezzar), and 1936 (Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne for cello and orchestra).

Dyson’s reputation as a composer of attractive and approachable music was now firmly established. His appointment in 1937 as director of the RCM tested his abilities as an administrator, and Dyson steered the college successfully through the war years. During his time there (he retired in 1952), he produced a number of important works, including his masterpiece, the vast choral suite Quo Vadis, as well as a symphony, a violin concerto, an overture for The Canterbury Pilgrims (At the Tabard Inn) and three concertos for strings (the Concerto da Camera, Concerto da Chiesa and the Concerto Leggiero) for piano and strings). Despite his advanced years, Dyson’s produced another series of substantial choral works after his retirement, including Sweet Thames, run softly (1955), Agincourt and Hierusalem (both 1956), as well as various shorter works.

If Dyson’s accessible style and various academic and administrative appointments earned him a reputation as a musical conservative, this view distracts from the intensely personal aspects of his musical language while making light of his considerable technical accomplishment and flair for vivid word setting. These elements unite to define the output of a composer whose worth is only gradually being realised, accounting for the growing audience that the profoundly joyful beauty of Dyson’s music has attracted over the past decade.

F.G. Hussuparrow
ECCLES, JOHN (1668 – 1735)

John Eccles is thought to have been born in London around 1668, the only son of Henry Eccles, a court violinist. The first definite fact known about him is that several of his songs were published in 1691. Shortly after this he became a regular composer at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. There he composed music for the singing debut of the popular actress Anne Bracegirdle (1671-1748); in her very successful ensuing musical career she would allow only Eccles to write for her. This led to other musical engagements and he soon became one of London’s most popular theatre composers, writing music for over 60 plays.

In 1694 Eccles became a musician-in-ordinary without fee in the King’s Band — which two years later became a salaried position. In 1695 actors from Drury Lane set up a new company at Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Eccles followed Mrs. Bracegirdle to the new theatre and he became its musical director. Here he continued to supply a steady stream of songs for various plays, as well as two masques The Loves of Mars and Venus and Acis and Galatea plus a dramatic opera Rinaldo and Armida.

In 1700 he became master of the King’s Music earning £300 a year and providing music for each New Year, birthday and for other royal occasions. In the same year he entered a competition for the best musical setting of William Congreve’s masque The Judgment of Paris, coming second to John Weldon (1676–1736). Eccles’s setting, however, was easily the most popular, and so he and Congreve decided to continue their collaboration and created the St. Cecilia’s Day Ode for 1701.

Eccles went on to write two operas: The British Enchanters and Semele. The architect and dramatist John Vanbrugh (1664–1726) built a theatre in the Haymarket as a new home for the Lincoln’s Inn Fields company — in all probability, Congreve (librettist) and Eccles planned Semele to be performed at the opening of the new theatre in 1705. Unfortunately, Eccles did not finish his masterpiece until 1707, by which time the fashion for Italian opera had taken over in London and so Semele was never staged. Probably due to this disappointment as well as the deaths of colleagues and friends in the music world, Eccles decided to retire. He moved to Hampton Wick where he keenly pursued his favourite hobby of fishing. He remained a court composer and produced annual New Year’s Day and birthday odes until his death in 1735.

Roger Sladeuparrow
ELGAR, (SIR) EDWARD (1857 – 1934)

Elgar was born on 2nd June 1857 at Broadheath, near Worcester. His father had a music shop and tuned pianos, and the young Elgar taught himself to play a wide variety of instruments; in fact, he was very largely self-taught as a composer. e gained experience through conducting and composing for local musical organisations. He also taught the violin and played the organ at St. George’s Roman Catholic Church in Worcester. In 1889 he married his pupil Caroline Alice Roberts. Her family considered that in marrying the son of a mere tradesman — a music teacher without prospects — she was marrying beneath herself. Yet Alice’s dogged faith in Edward’s emerging genius played a vital part in the development of his career.

Through such early works as Froissart (1890), the Imperial March (1897) and the cantatas King Olaf (1896) and Caractacus (1898) his reputation began to spread beyond the Worcestershire area. His first big success came with the Variations on an Original Theme (‘Enigma Variations’) in 1899 — dedicated to ‘my friends pictured within’, this masterpiece showed Elgar’s technical accomplishment and sheer force of musical personality. After Sea Pictures — a song cycle for contralto and orchestra (1899) — came The Dream of Gerontius, based on Cardinal Newman’s poem about a soul’s journey through to its judgement and beyond. An inadequately-prepared first performance in 1900 was a failure, but the majority of the critics recognised the work’s greatness.

Elgar overcame the initial disappointment of Gerontius with the successful première of the concert overture Cockaigne (‘In London Town’) in 1901. In the same year came the first two Pomp and Circumstance marches. An all-Elgar festival at Covent Garden was held in 1904, including the new overture In the South. He was knighted in July of that year, his works at this stage being performed both in Europe and the USA.

In 1905 came the Introduction and Allegro for Strings, and in 1906 he was working on his oratorio The Kingdom, a sequel to The Apostles of 1903. A planned third oratorio to make a trilogy was never completed. Elgar next began to concentrate on symphonic work. The Symphony No. 1 in A flat was first performed in Manchester in 1908. Its dedicatee and conductor Hans Richter described it as the ‘greatest symphony of modern times’. It received tremendous enthusiasm and over a hundred performances in Britain, Europe, America, Australia and Russia in just over a year.

The Violin Concerto in B minor followed in 1910 and then, in 1911, another symphony. The concerto is a virtuoso piece — similar in scale to the Brahms concerto but more richly orchestrated. The Symphony No. 2 in E flat is prefaced with Shelley’s words: ‘Rarely, rarely comest thou, Spirit of Delight’. Elgar dedicated the work to the memory of the late King Edward VII, but it is much more than an expression of national mourning. He admitted to friends that it symbolised everything that had happened to him between April 1909 and February 1911.

From the Second Symphony to the First World War in 1914 only two major works appeared — The Music Makers, an ode for contralto, chorus and orchestra (1912), and a symphonic study based on Shakespeare’s Falstaff (1913). The war depressed Elgar deeply, and it was not until 1918–9 that his final great period produced the Violin Sonata and the String Quartet, both in E minor, the Piano Quintet in A minor and the Cello Concerto in E minor — his last great masterpiece. Audiences were quick to note the loss of the pomp and swagger of earlier days.

In 1920 Lady Elgar died, and throughout the 1920s Elgar lived in virtual retirement, outwardly content as a country gentleman in his beloved Worcestershire, but saddened by his bereavement and by the social and musical changes of the war. Honours continued to be conferred on him: in 1928 he was created Knight Commander of the Victorian Order. However, at about this time he began work on a number of large projects including an opera The Spanish Lady and a Third Symphony. In 1933 he conducted his Violin Concerto with the young Yehudi Menuhin. However, in October Elgar was found to be suffering from a malignant tumour which pressed on the sciatic nerve. Further composition became impossible and he died on 23rd February, 1934.

Ian Laceuparrow
FERGUSON, HOWARD (1908 – 1999)

Howard Ferguson was born in Belfast, where he received his first musical training. At the age of thirteen his talents had developed to the point that Harold Samuel, visiting Belfast, was impressed enough to spontaneously offer to supervise the boy’s musical education. Ferguson’s family agreed, and Howard moved to London, where he eventually entered the RCM, where he studied with Vaughan Williams.

His first major success came with the beautiful First Violin Sonata of 1932, his op. 2. In the course of his career, Ferguson would produce another 17 works with opus numbers (and a few other minor works), before giving up composition in 1959, feeling that he had achieved all he wanted as a composer. He continued his work as a scholar, primarily as an editor.

After the First Violin Sonata, an octet and the Two Ballads for baritone and orchestra reinforced his growing reputation, the latter being performed at the 1935 Three Choirs Festival. A fine orchestral Partita and a Piano Sonata in F minor followed in the next few years, and a Second Violin Sonata composed in 1946 is another highlight. His last works were substantial choral works produced for Three Choirs Festivals: Amore langueo (1956) and The Dream of the Rood (1959).

Ferguson was also a pianist of some repute and he taught at the RCM until 1963. His music is meticulously crafted, but also warmly expressive, espousing an unapologetically Romantic aesthetic with William Sterndale Bennett, then with Edward Dannreuther.

F.G. Hussuparrow
FINZI, GERALD (1901 – 1956)

Gerald Raphael Finzi was born into a fairly prosperous family of Italian Jewish descent on 14th July 1901. He was educated privately. However during the First World War his mother moved the family to Yorkshire. There Finzi studied with the young composer Ernest Farrar and later with Dr. Edward Bairstow at York Minster. It was during his early years that Finzi first became aware of the transience of life — one of the major themes of his music. In the space of a few years his father and three brothers died and Ernest Farrar was killed on the Western Front. This sudden realisation of the harshness of the world recommended to him the poetry of Thomas Traherne — the great Platonist poet who dwelt on the innocence of the soul of a child — and of course William Wordsworth’s ‘Intimations of Immortality’.

In 1922 he moved to the Cotswolds and lived in the village of Painswick. This was part of the landscape beloved by Elgar, Howells, Gurney and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was to have a profound effect on his life and music. The works of this early period include the withdrawn song cycle By Footpath and Style, a somewhat neoclassical Violin Concerto, and the Severn Rhapsody. He also worked on a Requiem da Camera that was dedicated to Farrar, his deceased composition teacher. In 1925 he was advised by the conductor Adrian Boult to move to London and take counterpoint lessons with R.O. Morris. It would also put Finzi in the centre of musical activities. He taught for a period in the Royal Academy of Music. He became friends with many of the leading composers of the day, including Edmund Rubbra, Gustav Holst, Arthur Bliss and Ralph Vaughan Williams. It was during this period that Finzi began to compose some of his best song cycles.

There was the literary side to Finzi’s life. He loved much of the heritage of English literature, especially Thomas Hardy, Thomas Traherne and William Wordsworth. These interests are well represented in his settings for choir and songs, including a number of important song cycles. Certainly more than half of his songs are to words by Hardy; however he did show a liking for Robert Bridges and Edmund Blunden. The fine choral works In Terra Pax and For St Cecilia are settings of words by these two great English poets.

After the Second World War Gerald Finzi wrote some of his most adventurous orchestral works, including the ever-popular Clarinet Concerto of 1948/9 and the Grand Fantasia and Toccata for Piano and Orchestra based on earlier sketches for a piano concerto. The last major work was the Cello Concerto in which Finzi was pushing the barriers: not only was it considerably longer thn anything he had previously written (apart from the Intimations), it was more passionate and intense. There were new harmonies and part writing not yet heard in his music.

Gerald Finzi was diagnosed as having Hodgkinson’s Disease in 1951. In 1956 he and Ralph Vaughan Williams went on a walking trip up Chosen Hill in Gloucester. They visited the local sexton’s cottage for tea. Unfortunately there was a child with chickenpox in the house, and Finzi contracted the disease. Due to his weakened state it caused severe brain inflammation. He died on 27 September 1956, aged 55 years.

It is difficult to sum up Finzi’s achievement in a few words. He seems to have been at his best writing small-scale works. However, his two masterpieces are in fact his two longest. He certainly had no problem in developing ideas. His general style is elegiac. His music is frankly sad and autumnal: there is little that is light hearted or joyous. He was not afraid to write in a basically tonal style, however, in later works there is a considerable use of mild and occasionally even harsh dissonance — especially in the Cello Concerto. But perhaps his greatest legacy is his ability to set words to music. Few composers have equaled his achievement in any century. It is perhaps his songs that remain the most perfect of his creations.

John Franceuparrow

Born in Derby, Fletcher was a pianist, organist and violinist, who moved to London, where he became a much sought-after West End musical director. He directed music at a number of leading theatres, including the Prince of Wales, The Savoy and Drury Lane and from 1915, until his death, His Majesty’s Theatre. However, his creative activity was by no means confined to the theatre.

A highly proficient orchestral composer and arranger, he was rather conservative in style, with little of his work which could be said to be groundbreaking. His obituary in The Musical Times described him as ‘a theatre conductor and composer of popular music’ and Fletcher’s music has all now but sunk without a trace.

He wrote the score for a successful exotic musical entitled Cairo, which although forgotten today, ran for an impressive 216 performances in 1921. He followed this up in 1925 with another musical called The Good Old Days.

Fletcher wrote a large number of suites for light orchestras, including Six Cameos for a Costume Comedy (1926), Rustic Revels (1918), Woodland Pictures (1920), two bagatelles, Valsette and Pizzicato, Parisian Sketches (1914) and the once popular Bal Masqué. He also wrote a number of Elgarian-style marches, such as The Crown of Chivalry and Spirit of Pageantry; other published marches were the V.C. March, apparently based on Frank Bridge’s song Michael O’Leary V.C., a toy soldiers’ march, The Toy Review, and a Sultan’s March extracted from his musical Cairo.

He wrote popular ballads like The Bells of Youth, Kitty and What a Pity, considerable output for chorus, including The Shafts of Cupid, a sacred Elgarian cantata for small church choir called The Passion of Christ (1922) and carols like Now Once Again, Ring Out and Wild Bells. However, perhaps his greatest legacy has been his contribution to the brass band repertoire, and in that respect, he was a true pioneer, albeit unknowingly. In 1913, Fletcher’s Labour & Love was the first original work for band to be chosen as the music for the annual National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. Up until that point, music for the medium had largely been made up of arrangements rather than original works. This opened the floodgates for other British and international composers to write for the genre. Fletcher’s musical successors for the brass band now includes Gustav Holst, Edward Elgar, John Ireland, Granville Bantock, Herbert Howells, Sir Arthur Bliss, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Edmund Rubbra, Elgar Howarth and Hans Werner Henze.

FOULDS, JOHN (1881 – 1939)

The son of a bassoonist in the Hallé Orchestra, John Herbert Foulds was born in Hulme, Manchester in 1880. Largely self-taught as a composer, he was one of the most remarkable and unjustly forgotten figures of the ‘British Musical Renaissance’. Though prolific from childhood, Foulds himself joined the Hallé; as a cellist in 1900, having run away from home and already served an apprenticeship in theatre and promenade orchestras in England and abroad. Hans Richter gave him conducting experience; Henry Wood took MISSING-TEXT

In some respects ahead of his time (he started using quarter-tones as early as the 1890s, while some of his later works anticipate Messiaen and Minimalism) Foulds was in others an intensely practical musician. He became a successful composer of light music (his Keltic Lament was once a popular favourite) and wrote many effective theatre scores, notably for his friends Lewis Casson and Sybil Thorndike. Perhaps the best known was the music for the first production of Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (Foulds conducted a Suite from it at the Proms in 1925). However his principal creative energies went into more ambitious and exploratory works, often coloured by his interest in the music of the East, especially India.

Foulds moved to London before World War I, during which he met the violinist and singer Maud McCarthy, one of the leading Western authorities on Indian music, who became his second wife. Foulds’s gigantic World Requiem (1919–21), in memory of the dead of all nations, was performed annually on Armistice Night in the Royal Albert Hall from 1923 to 1926 under the auspices of the British Legion by up to 1,200 singers and instrumentalists: performances which constituted the first Festivals of Remembrance. When interest in the work lapsed Foulds spent the later 1920s in Paris, working as an accompanist for silent films, and in the early 1930s published an immensely stimulating book on contemporary musical developments, ‘Music Today’. n 1935 he travelled to India, where he collected folk music, became Director of European Music for All-India Radio in Delhi, created an orchestra from scratch, and began to work towards his dream of a musical synthesis of East and West, actually composing pieces for ensembles of traditional Indian instruments. He died suddenly of cholera in Calcutta in 1939.

Foulds’s most substantial compositions include symphonic poems, concertos, orchestral suites, string quartets, piano pieces and a huge ’concert opera’ on Dante’s Divine Comedy (1905–08), as well as a series of Music-Pictures exploring the affinities between music and styles of painting. (Henry Wood introduced one of them at the 1913 Proms.) Few of these works were performed and fewer published in his lifetime, and several — especially from his last period in India — are lost. It is difficult to assess his achievement, or even to classify a composer who was master of a bewildering variety of styles. But he was clearly an adventurous figure of great innate musicality and superb technical skill. Such pieces as the astonishing Three Mantras for large orchestra, the Essays in the Modes for piano (1920–27), his ninth string quartet Quartetto Intimo (1931–2) and the piano concerto Dynamic Triptych (1927–29) represent a powerful and individual contribution to the music of their time.

Malcolm MacDonalduparrow
GARDNER, JOHN (1917 – 2011)

John Gardner was born during the Great War and was still actively involved with music-making until his death, some 94 years later. His music is not as well-known as it might be, although there are a fair number of works available on CD or as downloads. He is largely recognised for his choral music, with a large part of his considerable catalogue devoted to this genre; nevertheless, he has composed in virtually every musical form including operas, concertos, symphonies, chamber works and song.

John Linton Gardner was born in Manchester on 2 March 1917, however he was brought up in the North Devon seaside resort of Ifracombe. He came from a musical family: both his father and his paternal grandfather were local GPs and amateur composers. After an education at Eagle House, Sandhurst and Wellington College, he went up to Exeter College in Oxford (BMus) where he was the Sir Hubert Parry Organ Scholar. His teachers at this time included Thomas Armstrong, Ernest Walker and R.O. Morris.

During the Second World War, Gardner held a number of musical postings with the R.A.F., but concluded his war service as a navigator with Transport Command. After being demobbed he was the repetiteur at the Royal Opera House, a post he held for six years. In 1952 he joined the staff at Morley College, eventually becoming Director of Music there in 1965. He was Professor of Harmony & Counterpoint at the Royal Academy of Music for thirty years and also held a part-time teaching post at St Paul’s Girls School, Brook Green. Between 1965 and 1992 he was Director of the Performing Right Society. In 1976 John Gardner was made a CBE. Throughout most of these years he enjoyed multiple careers as composer, academic, pianist and conductor.

The compositional career of John Gardner can be divided into two halves. Before the Second World War he had a number of early successes with chamber and choral works being heard at recitals and on the radio. However, after the war he ‘set aside’ his early works and began his ‘opus numbers’ from scratch. His op. 2 was in fact the Symphony No.1 (1947), which caused a minor sensation at the 1951 Cheltenham Festival. It was a perfect example of an impressive, well-scored work written by a composer who was (then) largely unknown.

The 1950s were a time of considerable achievement; including a number of major works such as the Piano Concerto No.1, the Variations on a Waltz of Carl Nielsen and the ballet score Reflection. The large amount of academic activity did not inhibit Gardner’s composition. In succeeding years he contributed a wide-range of music to his catalogue, including the operas TheMoon and Sixpence, The Visitors and Tobermory, a number of concertos for organ, trumpet, flute, oboe and recorder and bassoon and an impressive range of orchestral works.

In the early 1950s Gardner contributed the scores of two films, Coronation Ceremony and The Tower. He has also written incidental music for television, stage and theatre. Choral music is represented by a number of attractive cantatas, including The Ballad of the White Horse, Five Hymnsin Popular Style, and A Burns Sequence. He has written many important liturgical works including the Cantiones Sacrae and a fine Jubilate Deo. However, he is probably best known for his Christmas carols, especially Tomorrow shall be my dancing day and a setting of The Holly and the Ivy.

John Gardner’s musical aesthetic crosses a number of boundaries. His style is nearly always approachable, with nothing designed to alienate the listener. He has often made use of established forms and structures and has not eschewed traditional harmonies and melodic invention. This does not mean that his music lacks depth or fails to provide a challenge to the listener; however he has embraced jazz, light music, polyphony and a profound understanding of the human voice to produce a range of durable and impressive works that deserve to be more widely known.

John Franceuparrow
GIBBS, CECIL (1889 – 1960)

Cecil Armstrong Gibbs was born in 1889 at ‘The Vineyards’, Great Baddow, the first child of Ida Gibbs (née Whitehead) and David Cecil Gibbs, soap and chemicals manufacturer. His mother died when he was only two years old, so he was brought up by five maiden aunts who took it in turns to stay at Great Baddow and run the household. So apparent were his musical gifts at a young age, that the aunts begged the boy’s father to send him abroad to receive a musical education. However David Cecil, who had himself been educated in Germany, was determined to give his son the benefit of an English public school education. Consequently the young Armstrong was sent first to a preparatory school on the Hove / Brighton borders and then on to Winchester College.

From Winchester, Armstrong Gibbs gained an exhibition and a sizarship to Trinity College Cambridge to read history. After completing his History Tripos in 1911 he stayed on at Cambridge to take his Mus. B. During that period he received composition and harmony lessons from E. J. Dent and Charles Wood and studied the organ briefly under Cyril Rootham. Realising that he could not make a living from composition alone, he decided to take up teaching. He spent just over a year at Copthorne School, East Grinstead, before returning to his old preparatory school, ‘The Wick’. Although he was not able to compose as much as he had hoped, he did write some songs to poems of Walter de la Mare. On being asked to produce a play for the headmaster’s retirement in 1919, Gibbs approached de la Mare directly and was delighted when the author produced the play ‘Crossings’ for him to set to music.

The producer of the play, Gibbs’s old composition teacher E.J. Dent, brought the young Adrian Boult down to conduct ‘Crossings’. He was so impressed with the music that he generously offered to fund Gibbs for a year as a mature student at the Royal College of Music. Encouraged by his wife, Honor, to take up the challenge, Armstrong Gibbs resigned from his post and moved back to Essex. After a year at the RCM studying conducting under Boult and composition under Vaughan Williams, he accepted a part-time teaching post at the college.

Soon after moving to Danbury in 1919, Gibbs set up a choral society which then participated in the Essex Musical Association festivals in Chelmsford. The setting of one of his own compositions, for a festival class in Bath, led to his becoming an adjudicator and eventually Vice-President of the National Federation of Music Festivals. Thereafter followed a busy life of touring the country adjudicating festivals, conducting and composing. As well as conducting the Choral Society in Danbury and singing with the Church Choir, Gibbs played cricket and bowls and lent active support to many local organisations.

His house, ‘Crossings’, being requisitioned as a hospital during the Second World War, Gibbs moved to Windermere, where he continued composing and conducting. After his son David was killed on active service in Italy he wrote his third symphony, The Westmorland. On his return to Essex in 1945 he re-formed Danbury Choral Society and renewed his association with the Festivals Movement, playing a key role in the organisation of the music for the Mothers’ Union World Wide Conference of 1948 and the Festival of Britain in 1951.

Known principally for his solo songs, Gibbs also wrote music for the stage, sacred works, three symphonies and a substantial amount of chamber music, much of which remains unpublished. He gained wide recognition during the early part of his life, but until recently, like many of his contemporaries, has been little known. Although he retired from adjudicating, he continued conducting and composing right to the end of his life. He died in Chelmsford on 12 May 1960 and is buried with his wife in Danbury churchyard

GRAINGER, PERCY (1882 – 1961)

George Percy Grainger was born on 8 July 1882 at Brighton, Melbourne, only child of John Harry Grainger, architect, and his wife Rosa (Rose) Annie, née Aldridge, of Adelaide. At the age of 12 he gave his first public recital and a year later, following a benefit concert in the Melbourne Town Hall, Grainger left with his mother to study at Dr Hoch’s Conservatorium in Frankfurt-am-Main. Over the next four and a half years he studied piano with James Kwast, taking counterpoint and composition classes with Iwan Knorr. A solo recital given in Frankfurt on 6 December 1900 marked the end of Grainger’s student years and the beginning of a long and arduous concert career which took him first to London, where he lived with his mother from May 1901 to August 1914.

Various landmarks highlight the growth of his pianistic career through these London years, including many tours of the English provinces, Australasia and South Africa as well as his studies in Berlin with Ferruccio Busoni in 1903. His career as a virtuoso was enhanced by the admiration of Grieg, who selected Grainger to play his concerto under his baton at the Leeds Festival in 1907. Though Grieg died before the festival, Grainger’s reputation as ’‘the greatest living exponent’ of Grieg’s piano music was established. That year, he also began a close friendship with Frederick Delius.

In October 1911 he took the professional name of ’Percy Aldridge Grainger’ after securing a publishing agreement with Schott & Co. His music was performed to great acclaim at the 1912 and 1913 Balfour Gardiner Concerts. The Graingers’ sudden departure for the United States of America in 1914 cost them the goodwill of many of their British friends. This hostility was to some extent ameliorated when Grainger joined the U.S. Army as a bandsman in June 1917. He became a naturalized American citizen on 3 June 1918.

On being discharged from the army on 7 January 1919, Grainger embarked on what was perhaps the most flamboyant decade of his career. Lionized as a pianist and fêted as a composer, he was acclaimed as ‘a latter-day Siegfried’ and a worthy successor to Paderewski. Financial security came gradually: in 1921 he bought the house at White Plains, New York, in which he lived until he died. His record-breaking piano piece Country Gardens was published by Schirmer’s in 1919.

In 1926, returning home from Australia to the United States he met on board ship a Swedish-born poet and painter, Ella Viola Ström. They were married on 9 August 1928 at a public ceremony at the conclusion of a concert in the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles. In 1934–35 he established the ’Grainger Museum’ in the grounds of the University of Melbourne.

In the latter part of his life, Grainger’s surplus energy and time were directed into two large-scale projects: the completion and arrangement of his museum in Melbourne, and his White Plains-based experiments in what he called ‘free music’. The last decade of Grainger’s life was shadowed by illness, but despite this he continued his work, visiting Australia and his museum for the last time in 1955–56 and giving his last public concert performance on 29 April 1960. He died of cancer in the White Plains hospital on 20 February 1961.

The Percy Grainger Societyuparrow
GURNEY, IVOR (1890 – 1937)

Ivor Bertie Gurney was born at 3 Queen Street, Gloucester on 28 August 1890. He was educated at the King’s School and was also a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral. He became an articled pupil of Herbert Brewer, the cathedral organist: fellow students at this time included Herbert Howells and Ivor Novello. In 1911 Gurney gained a scholarship which enabled him to go to the Royal College of Music to study composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

In 1914 he was rejected for army service due to his bad eyesight. However a year later he was able to join up and served with the 2/5th Gloucesters in France. Whilst on active service he was wounded, gassed and began to suffer from increasing mental instability. After spending time in a variety of military hospitals and institutions he was finally discharged from the army in October 1918.

After the war, Gurney was able to continue his studies at the Royal College of Music under the aegis of Ralph Vaughan Williams. His music was regularly performed and published, and he was an important part of the London musical and literary circles. He was regarded as one of the most promising composers of his generation. However, in spite of all this success, he began to fall into depression. After leaving the College in 1921 he returned to his native Gloucestershire, where he tried and failed to find work as a musician or a poet. Apart from a few menial jobs, he lived on his army disability pension and depended to a large extent on charity from friends.

Ivor Gurney suffered from bi-polar disorder. It was a condition that had revealed itself in the years before the war. There was a family history of bi-polar illness and depression: Gurney’s mother also suffered from it. At this time he was prolific in writing both music and poetry, however his mental instability was becoming more severe. He threatened suicide and was finally committed to Barnwood House Asylum in September 1922. Three months later he was transferred to The City of London Mental Hospital, near Dartford in Kent. He was to remain there until his death on 26 December 1937.

Ivor Gurney’s poetic reputation initially rested on the two volumes of poetry published in his lifetime — ‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’. In these two books Gurney was searching for his poetic voice. However, his asylum poetry is now better regarded by critics than the two volumes from the war years. In these later works the poet had finally found what he wanted to say.

In 1982 (2004) P.J. Kavanagh edited a ‘Collected Poems’, which is now the standard edition. However, Philip Lancaster and Tim Kendall are working on a three-volume collection of all Gurney’s poems for Oxford University Press. Although a ‘complete poems’ may be a desideratum, considerations of his poetry’s consistency and even coherence makes this project a matter of debate. Gurney’s reputation as a composer is equally problematic. His major achievement includes a large number of songs. His Housman cycle Ludlow and Teme, the Five Elizabethan Songs (‘The Elizas’), By a Bierside and In Flanders are generally regarded as his masterpieces. There were a number of volumes of single songs published under the auspices of Gurney’s lifelong friend, the composer and musicologist Marion Scott who was aided by Gerald Finzi. These reflect a wide range of musical importance and feeling. In recent years Ivor Gurney’s piano pieces, chamber music and orchestral works have been exhumed and explored by performers. However, there are varying views on the intrinsic worth of some of these pieces. It is a project that has to be sensitively handled, else it could damage his reputation.

John Franceuparrow
HARRIS, WILLIAM (1883 – 1973)

Although he was never to gain the popular reputation of some of his better-known contemporaries, William Harris was a central figure in English choral music during the first half of the twentieth century. His output of anthems, organ works and hymn tunes have a quiet craftsmanly dignity and, as a choral trainer, he worked with some of the finest choirs in the land and was central to the organisation of some of the great ceremonial festivals and services at Windsor. Amongst his works, his masterpiece is undoubtedly the double choir motet Faire is the Heaven (1925) which stands out as a high point in English choral music, on a par with comparable works.

Harris was born in Fulham and, by the age of fourteen, his musical gifts were sufficiently recognized for him to be sent to St David’s Cathedral in west Wales where he was both a chorister and deputized for its organist. At sixteen he entered the Royal College of Music, before taking up his first post as assistant at Lichfield Cathedral in 1911. In 1919 he succeeded the irascible Hugh Allen at New College Oxford (later moving to Christ Church Cathedral) where, with Jack Westrup, he was responsible for the first British performance of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in 1925. He took over the London Bach Choir in 1926, but the appointment by which he is best remembered came in 1933 when he became organist at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. During his time there he acted as sub-conductor at both the 1937 and 1953 coronations and tutored both the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. He held the post at Windsor until 1961 and his period there undoubtedly formed the happiest years of his career. He retired to Petersfield where he passed away at the age of ninety in September 1973.

Peter Reynoldsuparrow
HOLBROOKE, JOSEPH (1878 – 1958)

Joseph Holbrooke was born in Croydon in 1878. He came from a poor family background and had to struggle to make his living as a composer and pianist, despite making his debut at the age of 12. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music under Corder. It took a while for him to make his mark as a composer, noted perspicaciously by the Daily Telegraph in 1903, which said: ‘That acknowledgement of his talent has only come thus far from the few is quite in accordance with the established rule in this country. But Mr Holbrooke need not despair. If England is also to appreciate her musical sons when their purpose is an earnest one, appreciation may be all the warmer when it does come.’

Holbrooke gradually established himself as one of the most prolific and popular composers of the day, and became known as the ‘Cockney Wagner’. He wrote at least 8 operas, including the trilogy The Cauldron of Annwn, as well as scores of other works ranging from solo song through to chamber works and symphonic poems. As the titles of his works suggest (The Raven, The Viking, Apollo and the Seaman, The Children of Don, Ulalume, The Bells, Queen Mab), he was an ardent admirer of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as all things Celtic, epic, mystical or mysterious, and he invested his works with great romanticism, lushness, magic and imagination. A fairly controversial and very anti-establishment figure, he was a great supporter of his contemporary composers and began a series of chamber concerts to promote his music and theirs. Yet towards the conclusion of his life he began to fade from public recognition and ended up an embittered eccentric. There is no doubt whatsoever about the quality of a great deal of his output, however. The composer and conductor Sir Hamilton Harty put his finger on this perfectly when he pointed out in a letter about The Raven that ‘there is beautiful and impressive music in that work, and, as I told the orchestra, it is so infinitely superior to the foreign muck with which we are deluged nowadays’

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
HOLST, GUSTAV (1874 – 1934)

Ralph Vaughan Williams once said of his friend Gustav Holst, ‘Holst was a visionary but, at the same time, in all essentials, a very practical man … It is the blend of the visionary with the realist that gives Holst’s music its distinctive character’.

Holst is one of the most delightfully original and idiosyncratic of British composers, with an immediately recognisable characteristic voice. Following his own advice that one should ‘never compose anything unless the not-composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you’, all his mature works have something valuable to say. Mystical, often austere, brilliantly orchestrated with exquisite economy of instrumentation, his works combine clarity of vision with hauntingly beautiful and sometimes desolate lyricism. Extremely strong driving rhythms permeate his music, and he was fond of the use of ostinato patterns. Always discerning and erudite, his breadth of knowledge shines ever through, from poetry and literature to Sanskrit spiritual classics and even gnosticism (in the Hymn of Jesus). Yet he had a fantastic sense of humour, too, as seen in his comic ballet A Golden Goose and operas The Perfect Fool, and At the Boar’s Head. Indeed, his friends said he ‘set a terrifically high standard of being companionable and always surpassed it’.

Born in Cheltenham in 1874, Holst began composing whilst still at school. His father, a piano teacher, disapproved, wanting his son to become a pianist. This was rendered impossible due to neuritis in Holst’s arm, and at the age of 17 Holst was sent to study counterpoint at Oxford, although this was short-lived, and he ended up at the Royal of College of Music (RCM) with a composition scholarship under Stanford two years later. Holst’s first forays into professional life were as the organist and choral director in his local Cotswolds villages. Throughout his life he related strongly to amateur musicians and valued their musical input greatly.

Whilst still a student Holst was invited to conduct the socialist choir at William Morris’ house, where he both met his future wife, and discovered the treasures of Ancient Indian literature. Dissatisfied with the stilted translations available at the time, he set himself the formidable task of learning Sanskrit to produce better translations. Later on he learnt Ancient Greek to enable himself to read the Apocryphal Acts of St John in the original, which he was setting in the Hymn of Jesus.

Attempting to make ends meet, first as a trombone player in various bands, then later solely as a composer, Holst took up various teaching jobs, primarily at St. Paul’s Girls’ School in 1905 (the only teaching post he held until his death). Unable to sign up in the war due to his neuritis and poor sight, he was sent to Macedonia in 1918 to organise music for the troops in the Middle East, conducting British music in Salonica and Constantinople.

Returning to England, Holst found himself faced with fame and success, which he hated. Performances of the Hymn of Jesus and Planets Suite (which he had been inspired to write following astrological discussions with the composer Arnold Bax and his brother Clifford whilst on holiday in Spain with their musical patron, Balfour Gardiner), had provoked great excitement and interest in the musical world. (The only time the Queens Hall was sold out twice in one week was when Holst conducted his own works there.) Naturally a fairly shy, quiet man, he deeply disliked the attention of the press and longed instead for a quiet recognition amongst musicians alone. He was pleased when his popularity later declined because his works were too obscure, esoteric and exacting for the audiences of the time. He died in the same year as Elgar and Delius, 1934, two days after a major operation.

Holst’s huge output includes everything from solo song to opera, and short piano pieces to choral symphonies. One might imagine that the music of such a major composer as Holst would be in the repertoire or at least recorded. Not so. A number of his works remain unpublished, unperformed and unrecorded, including major orchestral pieces and opera. Furthermore, the only piece that has achieved recognition world-wide is his Planets Suite, which Holst himself considered far from his best work — and when one knows the rest of his accomplished corpus music, one can see why.

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HOWELLS, HERBERT (1892 – 1983)

In 1910, at the impressionable age of 18, Herbert Howells and his friend Ivor Gurney heard a performance of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis at the Gloucester Three Choirs Festival. They were so deeply struck by what they heard that, unable to sleep that night, they wandered the streets of Gloucester in excitement and awe. Howells later commented that ‘If I had to isolate from the rest any one impression of a purely musical sort that mattered more to me in the whole of my life as a musician, it would be the hearing of that work.’ At the time, Howells was an articled pupil of Herbert Brewer at Gloucester Cathedral, and had been thoroughly immersed in the English church music tradition throughout his childhood.

He went on to study at the Royal College of Music (RCM) under Stanford, where he swiftly established himself as a leading pupil despite being an impoverished, fairly reticent and inexperienced country lad. Indeed in 1917 he was the youngest of the first set of composers to be chosen for publication by the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, along with Vaughan Williams (A London Symphony), Rutland Boughton (The Immortal Hour) and Granville Bantock (Hebridean Symphony). Stanford certainly favoured Howells, calling him ‘my Son in Music’ and even trying to ensure that Howells was exempted from military service, but Howells was subsequently diagnosed with Graves disease and given only six months to live. In the event, Howells thankfully lasted into his nineties. He led a busy life as a composer, adjudicator and teacher — primarily at St Paul’s Girls’ School, where from 1936–1962 he succeeded Ralph Vaughan Williams as Director of Music (Vaughan Williams had taken over briefly after Gustav Holst’s death in 1934), and as a teacher of composition at the RCM for over fifty years.

It remains a mystery as to why Howells is so little known or regarded. His musical output is large and varied — from solo songs to works for full orchestra, concerti and great choral masterpieces. Vaughan Williams, Elgar and Stanford were perhaps the seminal influences on him, but he swiftly established his own very individual, often deeply moving and brilliant, voice. Contributing factors may include a crisis of confidence after a mixed reception to his second Piano Concerto, the fact that he was perhaps too ambivalent towards his own music — especially the orchestral pieces, and his son Michael’s sudden death at the tender age of 9, from which tragedy Howells never fully recovered. After a period of reduced productivity, Howells went on to produce such mature works as the Concerto for Strings, Hymnus Paradisi (using material from his earlier unaccompanied Requiem), which is widely considered to be his masterpiece, and further choral works of particular distinction. Howells continued to work and teach into old age, dying in 1983.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
IRELAND, JOHN (1879 – 1962)

John Ireland was once asked if he was a great composer. Ireland considered for a moment, then replied: ‘No, but I think I’m a significant one.’ This typically self-deprecating comment belies the fact that, in a composing career spanning nearly half a century, he produced a body of work which for many years was ranked second only to that of Vaughan Williams.

Ireland was born in Bowden, Cheshire, in 1879 (in the same year as Bridge, Scott, Norman O’Neill, Harty and Beecham). In later life, he spoke little of his childhood: born to an elderly father and a semi-invalid mother, his upbringing was largely undertaken by his elder brother and sisters, who, according to the composer’s guarded comments, carried out their duties in loco parentis in an extraordinarily harsh and severe manner, leaving permanent emotional scars. At the age of 14 he entered the Royal College of Music, to study the piano under Frederick Cliffe, the organ under Sir Walter Parratt, and later composition with Stanford. After leaving the College, he divided his time between composing and teaching (he returned to the College as professor of composition: future composers who studied with him included E.J. Moeran and Alan Bush); he also occasionally conducted, and performed on the piano. He spent some years living in the Channel Islands, particularly Guernsey (his escape in the nick of time, just before the German occupation, is probably the most outwardly exciting incident of his life). Later, he bought a converted windmill in Sussex and lived there until his death in 1962.

Although he maintained a number of close friendships throughout his life (mainly with other musicians), Ireland evidently found relationships with women difficult. An unlikely marriage to a teenage piano pupil proved disastrous, and was quickly annulled. Later, a better-starred relationship developed with Helen Perkin, a student at the RCM, and a fine pianist and composer in her own right. The Piano Concerto was inspired by this relationship, and Helen gave the first performance. However, she eventually married George Adie, a disciple of the Russian mystic Gurdjieff: Ireland was bereft, and eventually refused to have any further communication with her.

Ireland composed slowly, fastidiously, and with inflexible self-criticism (he destroyed virtually everything he wrote before 1900). Like his contemporaries, his musical grounding was in the German tradition, particularly Brahms. However, he was enormously influenced by the French impressionists, and by the energy and harmonic acerbity of Stravinsky and Bartok. The peculiar glory of Ireland’s mature idiom is his haunting harmonic style, rich in bitter-sweet false relations; once known, it is as instantly recognizable as that of Delius. His melodies often have a modal flavour, hinting at folksong derivation (but less literally than in Vaughan Williams). Much of his music (particularly in the shorter works) has a delicate, introspective refinement, recalling that of Ravel; however, there is also frequently a rugged, exhilarating energy, rising to powerful climaxes.

His piano music forms the core of his output, forming a vital contribution to the repertoire for the instrument: it ranges from exquisite miniatures such as Soliloquy to large-scale virtuoso works such as the Rhapsody, the Sonata, and the suite Sarnia. He also produced a large number of songs, including fine settings of Hardy and other contemporary English poets; several orchestral works which showed him a skilful orchestrator and fully capable of working convincingly on a large canvas (his Piano Concerto was a fixture at the Proms for many years); and a number of chamber works, including two sonatas for violin and piano, one for cello and piano, three piano trios, and a Fantasy-Sonata for clarinet and piano.

Aspects of the English countryside formed a major source of his inspiration, as did the seascapes around Guernsey and Jersey (The Island Spell, one of his most popular piano pieces, flashed into his mind whilst bathing at a beach there). He also had an intense, almost mystical, awareness of the ancient past (‘things long hidden’, as he himself put it) and a fascination with barrows, stone circles and other archaeological sites. This surfaces in many of his works, including the orchestral rhapsody Mai-Dun (inspired by Maiden Castle in Dorset) and the Legend for piano and orchestra.

Peter Duffyuparrow
LAMBERT, CONSTANT (1903 – 1951)

Constant Lambert contrived to pack an extraordinary amount of creative activity into his short life, as composer, conductor and critic. Born in London, the son of an Australian painter, he was precociously gifted, and at the age of nineteen was the first British composer from whom Diaghilev commissioned a ballet. A striking and combative personality, with an unusually wide taste in the arts, he was at the centre of a social circle that included William Walton, Frederick Ashton, the Sitwells, Anthony Powell, Cecil Beaton, Lord Berners and Peter Warlock. He became one of the hardest-working British conductors of ballet, a principal founder of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet (now the Royal Ballet), and one of the BBC’s most valued exponents of contemporary music — and this despite almost continuous ill-health. He died at the age of forty-five from a combination of overwork and alcoholism, aggravated by the anticlimactic reception of his last ballet, Tiresias.

Nowadays Lambert may be best remembered by his brilliant and stimulating survey of the musical world of the thirties, Music Ho! — a highly influential book in its time, which engagingly enshrines the virtues and shortcomings of its era with true journalistic flair. But he was a highly gifted composer, and his output — though comparatively small — has a strongly defined personality, often characterised by austerely black humour and Dionysiac energy, which set it apart from that of his contemporaries such as Walton, with whom he shared an interest in musical satire and in jazz idioms. His mature works included four original ballet scores including the astrologically-based Horoscope (as well as many arrangements), the film score for the 1947 Anna Karenina with Vivien Leigh, the boldly constructivist Music for Orchestra, a concerto for piano and small orchestra, and two major choral works: the perennially popular The Rio Grande and the huge choral-orchestral fresco of Elizabethan plague-time, Summer’s Last Will and Testament.

Malcolm MacDonalduparrow

Philip Lane was born in Cheltenham. He read Music with John Joubert and Peter Dickinson at Birmingham University, although he was excused orchestration class when it was discovered he was already having his orchestral works played by the BBC Midland Light Orchestra just half a mile away at the BBC Studios at Pebble Mill!< < After Philip graduated, he worked freelance for London publishers and taught. From 1975, for the next 23 years, he was on the music staff of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College. The musical legacy of these years is the body of works for upper voices which have established themselves in the repertoire of countless choirs around the world. < < By chance, in 1993, Philip was invited to look after the musical interests in the estate of Richard Addinsell (1904-77), of Warsaw Concerto fame. One of his first enterprises was to write a radio documentary on the subject, linked to a CD recording (Marco Polo 8.223732) which had to include one of Addinsell’s most famous film scores, Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939). Given that the only surviving material was a voice and piano version of the ’School Song’, he set to work to take down the ’Main Titles’ from the video by ear. The success of this disc led to his being asked to do similar work on the early British films of Sir Alfred Hitchcock — The Thirty-Nine Steps, The Lady Vanishes and others. Since then he has supervised the reconstruction of numerous scores, most recently, single composer compilation albums of Arnold, Alwyn, Auric, Bliss, and two more of Addinsell, including one almost complete score, Victor Young’s for The Quiet Man.

In recent years, much of Philip’s work has been in the commercial field, library music, music for BBC plays, including The Merchant of Venice and Sir Thomas More, and TV animation, including the immortal Captain Pugwash, but he has not deserted the world of live music-making, with choral commissions to mark the centenary of the death of Lewis Carroll, one from the winners of the Sainsbury Choir of the Year, and a ballet, Hansel and Gretel, for the National Youth Ballet. His setting of Clement Clark Moore’s Night Before Christmas was released on Naxos last Christmas. Narrated by Stephen Fry, it was a bestseller and has continued to receive performances all over Britain and abroad, from the States to Macau.

LAWES, HENRY (1596 – 1662)

When talking about Henry Lawes it is important to use his first name in order to distinguish him from his younger brother William who was also a musician of some note. Both were well patronised by the aristocracy and held court appointments, even working together on masque entertainments during the reign of Charles I. William was known more for his dance and instrumental music whilst Henry was recognised as a fine song writer. Indeed it was Henry who, in 1634, asked the younger Milton, then little known, to write the text for a masque which must have given the poet something of a career boost. he work was Comus. Milton returned the favour with some appreciative lines extolling the virtue of Henry’s sensitive approach in setting the language to music, declaring that, ‘Harry … First taught our English Music how to scan. As such, Henry would have been a considerable influence on the great Purcell who was to dominate English music at the next generation and who in turn was to influence Benjamin Britten in his approach to word-setting.

Henry’s song output was enormous, even trouncing Schubert in this respect with well over 400 songs surviving. Many are delightful settings to simple dance rhythms but his more serious songs can be powerfully declamatory in which both melody and harmony are employed with telling effect to squeeze the meaning and emotion from words.

Throughout some of the most troubled times in the history of England, Henry managed to maintain a thriving, stable career; partly it seems through managing to stay in with the right people. Born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, he survived the civil war through to the Restoration of Charles II. Brother William fared less well. He went off to fight for Charles I in 1642 and was killed at the siege of Chester three years later, much to sorrow of the King.

John Leemanuparrow
LINLEY, THOMAS (1756 – 1778)

Thomas Linley the younger (the ‘English Mozart’) was born at the Abbey Green, Bath, on 7th May 1756.

As a boy he was frequently asked to play the violin at public concerts. Although it was fashionable for musically gifted children to be brought to the public’s attention in this way, Linley was, by any standards, one of the most prodigiously musically talented individuals ever to have been seen in England. The young composer was taught by local soloist and orchestral leader John Richards and at the age of eight played a violin concerto at a public concert in Bath. He soon afterwards commenced musical studies with the composer William Boyce (1711–1779).

At the age of 12 Linley left England for Italy to study under the famous violinist Pietro Nardini (1722-1793). Three years later whilst still in Italy Linley met Mozart. They were exact contemporises and became firm friends, later regularly corresponding with one another. After this first meeting Mozart’s father Leopold wrote to his wife: –>

‘In Florence we found a young Englishman who is a pupil of the famous violinist Nardini. This boy, who plays absolutely beautifully … came to the house … The two boys took turns performing all evening … The next day, the little Englishman, a most charming boy, brought his violin to where we stayed and played all afternoon with Wolfgang accompanying him on the piano.’

The musical historian Charles Burney reported that, “The ‘Tommasino’, as he is called, and the little Mozart, are talked of all over Italy, as the most promising geniuses of this age”. In 1784 Mozart was to describe Linley as, ‘a true genius’.

At the age of 15 Linley returned to England where he became leader of orchestras at Bath and also at Drury Lane, where he often played concertos between the acts of oratorios. He returned to his studies with Boyce and continued to compose.

On 8th September 1773 Linley’s first large-scale work, Let God Arise, was performed at the Worcester Festival. Matthew Cooke reported that, ‘… his industry and perseverance made him indefatigable. He was One of the most eminent Violin Performers of the age; between the years 1771 and 1776 he composed no less than Twenty Concertos for the violin … Many of these were performed by him … at Drury Lane … and were received with the most unbounded applause.’

It was around this time that he wrote such remarkable works as The Song of Moses and incidental music for The Tempest and Sheridan’s The Duenna.

In 1776 Linley composed his magnificent Shakespeare Ode. The Morning Chronicle of 21 March 1776 reported, ‘The composition must be allowed to be an extraordinary effort of genius in so young a man … the fugue of the overture is masterly … the song There in old Arden’s inmost shade … would not disgrace a Sacchini or Bach.’

In July 1778 Linley went with his sisters to Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire, as guests of the Duke of Ancaster and his family. On 5 August Linley went boating on the castle lake with two friends but during a storm the boat overturned and, whilst attempting to swim ashore, the 22 year old Linley tragically drowned.

Roger Sladeuparrow

William Lloyd Webber belonged to that category of composers who largely subordinate their creative gifts to the selfless pursuit of teaching. In this respect he somewhat resembles York Bowen, for many years a professor of the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. Both composed in a largely unchanging idiom throughout their lives, and the qualities of both are enjoying a welcome resurgence in our present, newly liberal and inquisitive age, when the determined pushing forward of modernist frontiers is thankfully no longer essential to our appreciation of honest craftsmanship and generous humanity. That Lloyd Webber composed rather less music than Bowen should blind us neither to his worth nor to his harmonic richness, which in some contexts may come as a considerable and impressive surprise; indeed, his orchestral tone poem Aurora is a work of Straussian opulence and elevation, and deserves to be widely played.

William Lloyd Webber’s family was not a prosperous one, but his father was assiduous in his attendance of London organ recitals, often taking William with him. In his early ’teens the boy was already giving recitals at highly significant venues around the country. Later he held a scholarship at the Royal College of Music, studying composition with Vaughan Williams and also gaining his FRCO before the age of twenty. He married during the war and his two sons, Andrew and Julian, have succeeded him with illustrious — and divergent — musical careers of their own. Despite considerable productivity in the 1940s and ’50s, William Lloyd Webber’s natural modesty and reticence led him to abandon composition for a time thereafter, since he seems to have found silence preferable to the baring of a soul out of kilter with the modernist currents of its time. Not long before his death, however, there was a fresh outpouring of work. “Why write six pages when six bars will do?”, he would ask his pupils at London College of Music, where he had become Principal in 1964. (It is a particular pleasure for me to ‘do the honours’ with this note, in my own capacity as present Head of Composition at LCM.) One of those pupils, Clement McWilliam, later Assistant Organist at Winchester Cathedral, recalled Lloyd Webber to me a few years ago as an imitable oracle on matters of technique, able to read the multiple transpositions of brass band scores with ease and to shine a gently humane yet all-seeing remedial light into the murkiest recesses of any student’s work.

Francis Pottuparrow
MACFARREN, (SIR) GEORGE (1813 – 1887)

Sir George MacFarren most probably suffers for being associated with that period in history when Great Britain was almost universally regarded as a ‘land without music’. Of course few people nowadays would insist that there were no good composers between Purcell and Elgar, but the fact remains that the impression has stuck. The Victorian years are still regarded as a byway: they are still seen as an era when performance was perhaps more important.

Yet this was not always the received view. For example, William Sterndale Bennett was regarded by contemporaries as one of the great composers of Western music rivalling Mendelssohn himself. Vincent Wallace’s operas were highly rated — both at home and abroad. And, more pertinently, the musicologist Ernest Walker could write that ‘MacFarren was one of the most industrious musicians of his time’. Of course industry does not necessarily lead to the creation of masterpieces, but it is important to note that in spite of the fact that Wagner felt ‘MacFarrinc’ was a ‘pompous, melancholy Scotsman’, there were many others in the contemporary musical world who regarded him highly. Some even suggested that he was the ‘British Beethoven’. In fact, even if he did not quite rival the great master, he was one of the few British composers of his day to have their works performed at the Gewandhaus Concerts in Leipzig and at other German venues.

George Alexander MacFarren was born in London on 2 March 1813. His father, who was a dancing-master and playwright, apparently taught the young George the rudiments of music. After a period of study with Charles Lucas, he entered the Royal Academy of Music at the precocious age of sixteen. He studied the piano, the trombone and composition with Cipriani Potter. Five years later, in 1834, he was appointed a professor of the Academy. In the same year, his Fourth Symphony in F minor was first performed. From this time on, his life was a succession of professional appointments. In 1843 he was the secretary of the important Handel Society. In 1875 he succeeded the great Sterndale Bennett as Professor of Music at Cambridge University. And, finally, in 1876 he was appointed principal of the Royal Academy of Music. He received his knighthood from Queen Victoria in 1883. He died in London on 31 October 1887.

It is well reported by contemporaries that MacFarren was one of the most industrious musician of his age, and this was in spite of virtual blindness, which he suffered for a large part of his life. A brief look at his catalogue reveals a huge number of works in virtually every genre — oratorios, operas, cantatas, nine symphonies, concertos for piano and for violin, a number of overtures, a huge amount of chamber music, ecclesiastical works and vocal music. But composition was not the whole story. MacFarren was one of the most prolific writers about music of his day. He edited much early music including scores by Purcell and Handel. He wrote a series of articles for the first edition of Grove’s Dictionary and completed a number of theoretical treatises.

It is difficult to estimate MacFarren’s potential for the concert hall of the present day. His Overture: Chevy Chase should be heard regularly. Perhaps his symphonies should be revived occasionally. There may also be a place for a concert version of the opera Don Quixote or his great oratorio St. John the Baptist. Yet I fear the reality is that it will be the lighter pieces, the part songs, the odd anthem and a few songs that will keep his name in the repertoire.

John Franceuparrow

Mackenzie is today one of the lesser known figures who contributed to the roots of the so-called English musical renaissance, perhaps remembered mainly for his role as director of the Royal Academy of Music, which flourished under his directorship. He was also a composer of some distinction, achieving considerable success in his lifetime, although his music is now rarely heard. He is however a major figure in English music, W.H. Hadow commenting: ‘There is no aspect of our musical life which has not benefited by his influence and example’.

Born in Edinburgh into a musical family, Mackenzie’s father sent him to Germany aged ten, where he received musical tuition and experience playing in the ducal orchestra in Sondershausen. Mackenzie later remembered this early exposure to the most modern music of the day:

‘At the Loh concerts on Sundays people attended them from all parts of Germany in order to hear this modern music … or instance, we were the second town in Germany to perform Lohengrin, and we played the Tristan Prelude before the opera was brought out.’

After his return to England, Mackenzie studied at the RAM, later returning to Edinburgh where he taught and played the violin. However, his busy schedule led to health problems, and he spent a number of years in Italy, where he began to concentrate exclusively on composition, producing choral works such as The Bride and The Rose of Sharon, the Violin Concerto, and the operas Colomba and The Troubadour.

When Mackenzie eventually returned to England he was offered the directorship of the RAM in 1888, a post he retained until 1924. Inevitably, his administrative and teaching duties took up much of his time, and his output became increasingly slight. He also produced books on Verdi and Liszt, both of whom were important influences, and an autobiography, A Musician’s Narrative.

F.G. Hussuparrow

Cecilia McDowall read music at Edinburgh and London universities, and at Trinity College of Music, and has studied under Joseph Horovitz, Robert Saxton, and Adam Gorb. The winner of several major composition awards, she has a distinctive style which speaks directly to listeners, instrumentalists and singers alike. Her choral output has been described as having a ‘freshness, brightness and fidelity’ about it, combining flowing melodic lines and occasionally astringent harmony with rhythmic vitality.

Cecilia McDowall’s music has been widely performed throughout the United Kingdom and abroad, and at a variety of festivals including Aberystwyth MusicFest, Dartington International Summer School, Deal, Hampstead and Highgate, and Presteigne. Her music has been performed by leading choirs, including the BBC Singers, and the London Musici, London Mozart Players, Fibonacci Sequence, and Ensemble Lumière have all both commissioned and performed her music.

Three new choral pieces have been commissioned for the Spring of 2008, Laudate, a 12-minute cantata for choir and orchestra, for the St Albans Choral Society, and two shorter anthems. The Skies in their Magnificence was written for performance by Ronald Corp and The London Chorus at the English Music Festival, and for Cantate, the youth choir of Portsmouth Cathedral, she has recently completed Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen.

In 2006 she was selected from a large list of composers by the Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir to compose a choral and instrumental work, Five Seasons, whose brief was to ‘celebrate the organic landscape’. This exciting and unique project, which was premièred in Sherborne Abbey in November 2006, involved the composer and the novelist and poet, Christie Dickason, taking up mini residences at five organic farms (under the auspices of the Soil Association). Five Seasons was subsequently featured on Aled Jones’ programme, The Choir, and BBC 4’s Farming Today.

Other recent commissions include Stabat Mater for the St Albans Choral Society, Radnor Songs for the soprano Rachel Nicholls and Paul Plummer (piano) for the 2005 Presteigne Festival, Lonely Hearts, for equal voice choir for the Canterbury Chamber Choir, Deus, qui claro lumine for New College Choir, Oxford, for the Yoxford Festival, and Century Dances for The Thorne Trio.

In the 2005 British Composer Awards, Regina Caeli was shortlisted in the Liturgical section and Stabat Mater in the Making Music Award. Both works appear on her newest CD (CDLX 7197), recorded by The Joyful Company of Singers and Canterbury Chamber Choir and released on the Dutton Epoch label in Autumn 2007. Autumn 2004 saw the release of her first choral CD (CDLX 7146) and autumn 2005 an orchestral and chamber music CD (CDLX 7159). In the past year, Oxford University Press has published the Christmas cantata, Christus natus est, and the Vesper hymn, Ave maris stella, and is anticipating the publication of Magnificat early this Summer. Her works are regularly broadcast; her St Martin’s Service and Introit were broadcast on the BBC’s Choral Evensong from Ely Cathedral, and on Christmas Day 2005 Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk broadcast her Christus natus est live from the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

MILFORD, ROBIN (1903 – 1959)

Son of Sir Humphrey Milford (who founded the Music Department of the OUP), Robin Milford wrote some 110 compositions. His best known works were written for solo voice, choir, piano, organ, various instrumental ensembles and solo instruments with piano. Milford also wrote works for large orchestral forces which include a symphony, a concerto, an opera, a ballet and some incidental music. Sadly, these latter works are now totally unknown and lie, unperformed, in the Bodlian Library.

In general Milford’s musical style belongs to the ‘English’ tradition, where instrumental music is vocally derived and where the melodic lines bear the shapes and characteristics of English folk-songs, as defined by Cecil Sharp, Vaughan Williams, Maud Karpeles, George Butterworth, Ernest Moeran et al. at the beginning of this century.

Robin Milford was a gentle, sensitive and insecure individual. He possessed a deep inferiority complex which caused many bouts of severe depression. Together these traits had a profound influence upon his life in terms of musical connections, periods of composition, musical syntax, genres and relationships with publishers.

Throughout his life, Milford relied on the support and influence of his family and friends. Close family members and friends included his parents, Kirstie — his wife, his cousin the poet Anne Ridler, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Balfour Gardiner, Charles Williams, Gerald Finzi and the renowned soprano Marion Milford, Robin’s niece, who later became one of his closest confidants and musical mentors.

Happily, there is currently renewed interest in Robin Milford and his music. Details can be found at

MOERAN, ERNEST JOHN (`JACK') (1894 – 1950)

E.J. Moeran was born in Middlesex, but after some unsettled years the family moved to Bacton in Norfolk where the foundations were laid for Moeran’s interest in folk-song and his appreciation of natural beauty, both of which were to become important sources of inspiration. Moeran first encountered folksong as a source of material for serious composition when he heard some music by Vaughan Williams during a brief period of study at the Royal College of Music in London. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914 — Moeran enlisted immediately and was severely injured in Bullecourt, France, in 1917. While recovering he was stationed in Ireland, and it was during this time that he encountered Irish folk music, which was to remain an important influence (already evident in MISSING TEXT).

Following his discharge Moeran soon returned to London, where he studied with John Ireland. The music written during this period is increasingly mature, including works such as the String Quartet No. 1 (1921), the two Rhapsodies for orchestra (1922 and 1924, the year of Moeran’s first attempt at the Symphony in G minor) and the Violin Sonata in E minor (1923). During the same period Moeran’s interest in folk-song intensified, and he became active as a collector. Moeran published several individual arrangements as well as three sets, one each from Norfolk (1923), Suffolk (1931) and Kerry (1950). Between 1925 and 1928, Moeran shared a cottage in Eynsford with Philip Heseltine (better known by his pseudonym ‘Peter Warlock’). Heseltine encouraged Moeran’s interest in Elizabethan music and the music of Delius, both of which were lasting influences on Moeran’s style. During this time his output became increasingly slight, and it became apparent to Moeran that he needed solitude in order to work, leading eventually to his withdrawal to remote rural areas when composing. The years following his time at Eynsford marked a restoration of his creative powers and further stylistic maturation, producing works such as the Seven Poems of James Joyce (1929), the Songs of Springtime for choir (1930), the String Trio (1931) and the Nocturne for baritone, chorus and orchestra (1934).

In 1935 Moeran returned to Ireland, finding in Co. Kerry (particularly Kenmare and Valencia Island) a location ideally suited to his requirements as a composer; in addition to finding the necessary solitude and the wild landscapes which he found inspiring, Moeran felt at ease with the people and their way of life. Later Moeran was to find similar conditions in Radnorshire, where he worked on his masterful Sinfonietta. Moeran completed his Symphony in G minor in 1937, and his next large-scale work, the Violin Concerto (completed in 1941), was also written in Ireland. Moeran had begun gathering ideas for a second symphony while still working on the Violin Concerto, but his continued difficulties with the demands of symphonic form, which occasionally mar the overall success of the Symphony in G minor despite substantial amounts of attractive material, hampered his progress on the Second Symphony, and it remained unfinished. The Sinfonietta, with its textural and formal clarity and references to neo-classicism, represents a remarkable development of style and technique, the fruits of which could be integrated into the subsequent Concerto and Sonata for Cello. These were written for and dedicated to Moeran’s wife Peers Coetmore. The Cello Sonata was Moeran’s last large-scale work and, with its mature and integrated style, in many ways represents the peak of his musical development. During the last years of his life, Moeran worked intermittently on the Second Symphony, but a long process of mental disintegration, including periods of alcoholism (a problem that affected Moeran intermittently following the war) and a number of occasions on which he disappeared for prolonged periods of time, prevented its completion. Moeran died on 1 December 1950, falling from the pier at Kenmare during a gale. A coroner’s inquest found no water in his lungs, concluding he died of cerebral haemorrhage before falling into the water. He is buried in Kenmare, near the Atlantic seascapes and ‘mountain country’ in which he felt most inspired and at ease.

F.G. Hussuparrow

David Owen Norris’s international career as a pianist, intensified since 1991 when he became the first Gilmore Artist, has made it difficult for him to pursue composition, which was always his main interest.

He studied composition at the RAM with Eric Thiman and John Gardner, and at Oxford with Robert Sherlaw Johnson. His BA degree (he took a First) included a large portfolio of compositions, on the strength of which he was awarded a composition scholarship for postgraduate work. His iconoclastic view of the Second Viennese School (which he admired but regretted) led to friction with the examiners, especially his required dodecaphonic piece, which was so blatantly in E minor that he helpfully attached a serial analysis. Norris’s views are now widely held by much younger composers, of course, and one of the guiltier pleasures of his long career in music has been observing the vanishing reputations of his examiners on that occasion. At the time, the fall-out led him to neglect composition in favour of performing opportunitie at the Royal Opera House and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The first pieces that attracted attention were folksong settings. Their broadcast on Radio 3 (twice repeated within a year by popular demand) led to requests from American public radio. Original compositions included a commission from the Scottish Arts Council for soprano, clarinet and piano (A Small Dragon — frequently revived) to words by Brian Patten, who praised the cycle. Some Roger McGough settings led that poet to provide unpublished poems for musical setting.<

As director of the Petworth Festival, Norris produced a community cantata Interruption at the Opera House (again to words by Patten) and a notable Benedicite for children which was broadcast in 1990 on Radio 4’s Morning Service, leading to innumerable requests for the music, which, alas, has still not been written down. (It will be performed by 500 children in Winchester Cathedral in 2009, however.)

In 1991 the BBC commissioned a work for the Mozart-year. The result was a radio opera (a very definite new genre drawing on Norris’s experience of speech broadcasting, which had filled most of his time for the preceding four years) entitled Die! Sober Flirter. This has had extraordinary success wherever it has been performed, from America to Norway. Three different productions of it have been broadcast. Its success on tour in 2006 led to Norris’s latest piece, a second radio opera, Pugwash walks the plank, which will receive its premiere this autumn.

On reaching his fiftieth year Norris felt he had achieved most of what he wanted in the fields of performance, recording, teaching and broadcasting. And so he turned more of his attention to composition, producing a number of piano pieces including a set of variations … play on; …, a song-cycle for tenor, cello and piano, Think only this (premièred and recorded by Philip Langridge, performed in the Brussels Festival by Ian Partridge), and a song-cycle for tenor and piano to poems by John Donne, Tomorrow nor Yesterday (premiered in 2006 by Mark Wilde).

The fluency Norris discovered on thus re-immersing himself in composition meant that he could fulfil the 2006 commission of the English Music Festival with the 70-minute Prayerbook, an oratorio about tradition and change. It was premièred by the Oxford Bach Choir under Nicholas Cleobury. Performers and audience alike were delighted to find accessible music with serious import. The piece has just received its second performance.

Most of the Piano Concerto was sketched on a tour of Ireland in 2007, though parts of the slow movement date back to 1994. It has three movements and lasts about half an hour.

O'NEILL, NORMAN (1875 – 1934)

O’Neill is the third composer in this programme (along with Holst and Vaughan Williams), to have had links with St Paul’s Girls’ School. When the school was founded in 1903, Norman O’Neill’s wife, Adine, was appointed Music Mistress, and it was she who advised the High Mistress, Frances Gray, to invite Gustav Holst onto the staff. Norman O’Neill took over the school orchestra from Holst during the latter’s leave to do educational work in Salonica during the war.

Norman O’Neill was born in London and grew up in Kensington. He studied with Arthur Somervell before heading over to Frankfurt on the advice of the highly respected violinist Joachim. There, he met up with several other young composers — Roger Quilter, Balfour Gardiner, Percy Grainger and Cyril Scott, together known as the ‘Frankfurt gang’.

He spent much of his working life in the theatre — he was Musical Director of the Haymarket Theatre for many years. As well as conducting, he composed incidental music, producing more than fifty scores, including the highly acclaimed music for J M Barrie’s play Mary Rose. He was also on the teaching staff at the Royal Academy of Music, was active in the Royal Philharmonic Society and was an adjudicator for the Associated Board. His death, just before his sixtieth birthday, was caused by a motoring accident.

His output includes a few ballets, and a wide range of chamber, choral and orchestral and instrumental music. He produced well-crafted pieces, full of charm and an easy delight, which do not deserve the obscurity that they currently face.

ORR, C.W. (1893 – 1976)

C.W. Orr was born in Cheltenham and came to music at the ‘advanced’ age of 24 when he enrolled at the Guildhall School after a military career cut short by ill health. In 1930 he moved from London back to the Cotswolds living finally in the village of Painswick within sight and sound of the parish church. (A blue plaque marks the spot.) His output comprises 35 finely honed songs (24 of them to words by A.E.Housman) the first appearing in 1921, the last in 1957, which drew much praise from his contemporaries, Warlock, Delius and Goossens amongst them. He wrote only two instrumental pieces — Midsummer Dance for cello and piano, and A Cotswold Hill-Tune for strings,


C. Hubert H. Parry was born in 1848 in Bournemouth, the youngest of six children, three of whom had not survived infancy. His musical talent was nurtured while at school in Twyford, where he also met S.S. Wesley at Winchester Cathedral. He continued his training at Eton, and was the youngest ever successful candidate to take the Oxford BMus examination in 1866. The following year he enrolled at Exeter College, Oxford, where he studied law and history. Although he was developing as a composer, Parry became an underwriter.

While working in London, Parry continued to study music, first with William Sterndale Bennett, then with Edward Dannreuther, who was probably the most important formative influence on Parry, exposing him to new music including Wagner and Brahms, and providing him with opportunities to have his own music performed. After composing much chamber music, and eventually giving up his post at Lloyd’s to concentrate fully on music, Parry achieved success with an overture, Guillem de Cabestanh, and his first choral commission, Prometheus Unbound, which has since served commentators as a convenient landmark in tracing the roots of the English musical renaissance.

Commissions for orchestral and choral works followed, including the first two symphonies. He became acquainted with Grove, who engaged him as a sub-editor for his famous Dictionary, and later appointed him professor of music history at the new Royal College of Music. No doubt inspired by Wagner’s music dramas (he visited Bayreuth several times, and met Wagner in London), Parry tried his hand at an opera, Guinever, which was unfortunately rejected by the Carl Rosa opera company, and Stanford was unsuccessful in securing a performance on the continent. Renewed success was, however, secured with Blest Pair of Sirens, which later inspired Vaughan Williams to write: “I hereby solemnly declare, keeping steadily in view the works of Byrd, Purcell, and Elgar, that Blest Pair of Sirensis my favourite piece of music written by an Englishman.”

A series of successful choral works, including Judith, the Ode on St Cecilia’s Day, and Job, as well as two further symphonies and the Symphonic Variations, followed. In 1895 Parry was appointed director of the RCM, a post he retained until his death, and in 1900 he became professor of music at Oxford. Around this time Parry embarked on a series of so-called ‘ethical oratorios’ in which he sought to express a personal philosophy, but which were not received enthusiastically. After a period of doubt and ill-health, Parry experienced something of an Indian summer, producing a number of books, a fifth symphony, the Ode on the Nativity, a symphonic poem, From Death to Life, and the Songs of Farewell. The First World War caused Parry great distress, as he witnessed the collapse of the Teutonic culture which he fervently admired, and the tragic fates of many members of the promising new generation of English composers.

That Parry’s contribution to English musical life is invaluable is commonly accepted, but the immense value of his music is only gradually being recognised.

F.G. Hussuparrow

Pearsall is best known for two choral compositions: his arrangement of In dulci jubilo, and the eight-part madrigal, Lay a Garland. He is often, and probably quite rightly, regarded as the doyen of the nineteenth-century English madrigal movement, and it would seem only natural to assume that his works were the result of a lifelong study of harmony and composition. However, the truth is markedly different:

He was born in Clifton (in what was then Gloucestershire, and is now the City and County of Bristol) in 1795, and at the age of twenty embarked upon a legal career, leading him to be called to the Bar in 1821. Thereafter, he practiced as a barrister in Bristol until 1825, when he moved with his wife and three children to Mainz in Germany, abandoning his career, and setting out on a new path of exploration and discovery, becoming a translator of Schiller and Goethe into English, a collector of antiquarian artefacts, a poet, and a pupil of musical composition. He was so successful in his musical pursuits that within three years of arriving in Mainz, Schott & Co. were publishing his earliest compositions!

In 1830, the family moved to Karlsruhe in the Duchy of Baden, where they remained until 1842. In dulci jubilo was written for the choral society at Karlsruhe in 1834, and Pearsall was also producing large quantities of chamber and orchestral music, and was enjoying their successful continuing publication by Schott. In 1837, whilst on a return trip to England (which lasted no less than a year), Pearsall was present at the foundation of the Bristol Madrigal Society, and it was for that august body that he wrote most of his twenty-one madrigals, and also so many part songs in the ensuing four years.

In 1842 he bought the Schloss Wartensee, which stands above the shores of the Bodensee, dividing Bavaria from Switzerland. There he lived in baronial splendour, resuming his study and composition until his death in 1856. Pearsall’s music is marked by its characteristics of strong contrapuntal technique and also his peculiar harmonic idiom — the use of preparation, dissonance and resolution punctuates every one of his compositions in a textbook-perfect way but where any Renaissance composer could never have tread, Pearsall embraces the harmonies of the nineteenth century, producing music which sounds simultaneously both ancient and modern. As more and more academic research is made into the hitherto unsung heroes of the nineteenth century, so Pearsall is at last beginning to achieve the recognition that he richly deserves.

James Hobsonuparrow

Joseph Phibbs studied at The Purcell School, King’s College London, and Cornell University and his teachers have included Param Vir, Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Steven Stucky. His works have been performed by leading ensembles in the UK and beyond, including the London Sinfonietta, Britten Sinfonia, BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, and National Symphony Orchestra (Washington). Much of his output has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and he has received commissions for the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, and Bath festivals. He has also written for the theatre, scoring for a number of productions at the Wolsey Theatre (Ipswich), Sadlers Wells, Setagaya Theatre (Tokyo), and The Globe.

Large-scale works include In Camera (BBC SO/Slatkin), Lumina (BBC SO/Slatkin, 2003 Last Night of the Proms), Tenebrae (St Albans Bach Choir/Andrew Lucas), Shruti (LSO/Petrenko), Rainland (in collaboration with Stephen Plaice), and The Spiralling Night, premièred by NYWE under Phillip Scott at the 2007 WASBE conference. His largest chamber work to date, The Canticle of the Rose, was premièred at Wigmore Hall by Lisa Milne and the Belcea Quartet, and shortlisted for the 2006 RPS Chamber Music Prize. Other chamber works include FLEX (a joint RPS/BBC commission, written for the 2007 City of London Festival), Personnages for Nicholas Daniel, Arc de Soleil for clarinet and piano, premièred by Sarah Williamson at Wigmore Hall in 2008, and The Silence at the Song’s End, a song cycle for soprano and string quartet based on poems by Nicholas Heiney, written for the 2008 Burnham Market Festival.

Commissions for 2009 include a clarinet concerto for Sarah Williamson and the Orchestra of the Swan, a work for the English Piano Trio’s 20th Anniversary Concert, a development commission for a chamber opera (Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre), and a setting of Psalm 98 for choir and orchestra, commissioned by the Bachakademie Stuttgart to mark the Mendelssohn bicentenary. A work combining school choirs with the Britten-Pears Chamber Choir has been commissioned for performance at Snape Maltings in the autumn of 2010, and he will be Composer-in-Residence at the Presteigne Festival in 2011, for which he is writing a new work for strings. Plans are currently underway to write a percussion concerto for Dame Evelyn Glennie for 2011–12, as well as a song-cycle for James Bowman and Andrew Plant. Since 2003 Phibbs has combined his composing career with the editing and promoting of Britten’s music, and he is a director of the Britten Estate. He was appointed to teach composition at Wells Cathedral School in 2008. His works are published by Faber Music, Oxford University Press, and BMIC (British Music Information Centre).

PHILLIPS, MONTAGUE (1885 – 1969)

For most concertgoers, Montague Fawcett Phillips’s name is forever associated with his once ubiquitous light opera, TheRebel Maid (1921). For many years, its most popular song ‘The Fishermen of England’ was in every bass-baritone’s repertoire. However, in recent times there has been a reappraisal of Phillips’s music with the CD releases of a number of his orchestral works, including two important piano concertos. Typically, he is classified as a ‘light’ music composer, although this would be to do him an injustice. Many of his compositions haunt the twilight world between Edward Elgar and Arthur Sullivan that was fairly common in the first half of the twentieth century, with composers such as Edward German, Haydn Wood and Eric Coates. Melody and craftsmanship were more important to him than innovation.

Montague Phillips was born in Tottenham, London on 13 November 1885. After a general education and having gained a reputation as a boy soprano at St. Botolph’s Church, Bishopsgate, he commenced studies at the Royal Academy of Music. His contemporaries included York Bowen, Arnold Bax and Benjamin Dale. During his time there he won the Charles Lucas Memorial Medal for a Symphonic Scherzo. Much of his working life was spent as a church organist at Theydon Bois, Essex, then at Christ Church, Wanstead and finally Esher Parish Church where he remained for some 35 years. He gained a reputation for his wit and his strict discipline.

Phillips maintained a connection with the R.A.M. for most of his life and held the post of Professor of Harmony and Composition. He was a competent pianist and played the solo parts of his concertos in concert. Montague Phillips died in his home at Esher on 4 January 1969.

His earliest compositions tended towards the concert hall and recital room; however, after meeting his future wife, the soprano Clara Butterworth (1888–1996), he began to write popular ballads and songs in the contemporary style. It was these works that were to dominate his output and for which he became well known. Montague Phillips had a particular penchant for writing effective song-cycles, usually with evocative ‘Georgian’ titles such as From a Lattice Window, SeaEchoes and Flowering Trees. These songs are often on the cusp between popular works and the art songs of an Ireland or a Frank Bridge. Many would deserve our attention if they were recorded or given at song recitals.

Phillips’s ‘serious’ works include the Phantasy for violin and orchestra, a cantata based on a text by Henry Newbolt, TheDeath of Admiral Blake, a string quartet, the two piano concertos, a Sinfonietta and the Symphony. A number of his orchestral works allude in style to those of Eric Coates: these include The World in the Open Air, the Surrey Suite, A MoorlandIdyll, Spring Rondo, the Dance Revels and the Hampton CourtOverture. In spite of this reputation for ‘light’ music seemingly more at home at the ‘end of the pier’, a couple of his orchestral works, the Imperial March and the overture In Praise of My Country were performed at Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.

All Montague Phillips works are well-crafted, have strong melodic and harmonic interest and are effectively scored.

John Franceuparrow

John Pickard was born on 11 September, 1963, and started to compose at an early age. He read for his BMus degree at the University of Wales, Bangor, where his composition teacher was William Mathias. Between 1984 and 1985 he studied with Louis Andriessen at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Netherlands, on a Dutch Ministry of Culture Scholarship. He was awarded a PhD in composition in 1989 and is currently Professor of Composition and Applied Musicology at the University of Bristol, where has worked since 1993.

John Pickard is best known for a series of powerful orchestral and instrumental works. He has written four symphonies (No. 2 premièred by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra in 1989; No. 3, a BBC commission for BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Mark Wigglesworth, premièred in 1997), and other orchestral works of symphonic dimensions: Sea-Change (1989), The Flight of Icarus (1990), Channel Firing (1992–93) and the Trombone Concerto: The Spindle of Necessity (1997–98). The Flight of Icarus (a BBC commission), received its first performance in 1991 by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, was repeated by them at the 1996 BBC Proms and has since been played many times, both in Britain and abroad.

Recent major works include a Piano Concerto, premièred in Dresden in 2000, a large-scale song-cycle for baritone and piano: The Borders of Sleep (2001) and the hour-long Gaia Symphony (1991–2003) for brass band. John Pickard’s commitment to the brass band movement was marked in 2001, when he was appointed Composer in Residence to the renowned ‘Buy as you View’ Cory Band, a position he held until 2004. In 2005 he was commissioned to compose the test piece for the finals of the 2005 National Brass Band Championship, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London. John Pickard’s music has been widely praised for its largescale architectural sense and bold handling of an extended tonal idiom. His four string quartets (1991, 1993, 1994, 1998), have received particular acclaim. Reviewing the première of the Fourth Quartet in June 1998, The Strad called it ‘one of the best pieces of British chamber music to be heard for years’ while the January 2003 edition of Tempo, reviewing the Sorrel Quartet’s CD of Quartets 2, 3 & 4 (Dutton Epoch CDLX 71117), said ‘even if Pickard were never to write another quartet in his life, his place among the greats is secure’. His orchestral music has also received critical praise. The U.S. première in 2006 of The Flight of Icarus by the San Francisco Symphony was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as ‘a translucent and achingly lovely memorial to the fallen Icarus’ and ‘a serious contender for the most exciting musical première of 2006.’

An increasing number of John Pickard’s compositions is available on CD. The major international label BIS Records has recently begun a recording project of his orchestral music with the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. A disc of three works, Channel Firing, The Flight of Icarusand The Spindle of Necessity was released in March 2008.

In addition to his compositional activities, John is General Editor of the Elgar Complete Edition.

PURCELL, HENRY (1659 – 1695)

Henry Purcell lived during a turbulent time in English history, through the plague, the fire of London, and national financial and political instability. He died early, aged thirty-six, almost exactly the same age at which Bach began his long and productive tenure as Kappelmeister at St. Thomas’ in Leipzig. Yet in that brief lifespan Purcell composed some of the finest music of that or any other age.

Purcell was fortunate in having had a musical father (a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal). After the early death of his father, his uncle, Thomas Purcell, played an influential role in the boy’s upbringing and musical education. Purcell became a Boy of the Chapel at the age of eight, where he sang as a choirboy under Captain Henry Cooke, by all accounts an excellent musician and choirmaster. Purcell was taught to play string and keyboard instruments, and learnt composition, music theory, Latin and the ‘three r’s’. On Cooke’s death, Pelham Humphrey took over as Master of the Children of the Royal Chapel, and was later succeeded by John Blow, a friend and teacher of, and great musical influence on, the young Purcell. When Purcell’s voice broke at the age of fourteen, he was apprenticed to Hingeston as an assistant keeper, maker, repairer and tuner of the King’s wind and keyboard instruments, and he also did some copying. On the death of Matthew Locke in 1677 he took over as composer for stringed instruments at the Chapel Royal, and two years later was made organist at Westminster Abbey in succession to Blow — a position that Purcell was to retain for the rest of his life. 1680 saw his marriage to Frances Peters, a marriage that produced two children to survive to adulthood, Frances and Edward. Between this year and 1685, he was primarily a court composer, writing for Charles II. In 1682 he replaced Edward Lowe as an organist at the Chapel Royal, and in 1683 he finally took the position of Keeper of the King’s instruments after his teacher, Hingeston, passed away. Purcell kept his position in court when James II succeeded to the crown in 1685, yet when James was exiled in 1688 and William and Mary took the throne, his career as a court composer declined, although he continued to compose odes for Queen Mary. Instead, he turned to the theatre and composed a great deal of incidental music and semi-operas — he had been familiar with theatre music since a boy, when the choirboys participated in the music of theatrical performances. Indeed, Gustav Holst wrote of Purcell “in one way Purcell is a finer stage composer than Wagner — his music is full of movement, of dancing. His is the easiest music in all the world to”. At this time he also taught, helping to edit and contributing to Playford’s The Second part of Musick’s Hand-Maid and then later revising and updating Playford’s Introduction to the Skill of Musick.

Purcell died in 1695, probably from a cold that took a turn for the worse, which it is rumoured he caught whilst shut out of his house one night — his wife, angered at his typical visits to public houses and late returns, ordered the servants to lock the door at midnight and not allow him in after that hour! He was buried beneath the organ at Westminster Abbey.

Although he had been well appreciated throughout his lifetime — indeed, a contemporary said of him that Purcell ‘was confessedly the Greatest Genius we ever had’, and Dryden wrote that ‘we have at length found an Englishman, equal with the best abroad’ — he was unjustly forgotten and unrecognised until the bicentenary of his death in 1895. Unfortunately, he was quickly forgotten again until a more sustained revival began in the mid to late 20th century culminating in his tercentenary in 1995. The composer Peter Warlock suggests a reason for the neglect of his music, astutely commenting that ‘the forms in which [Purcell’s music] was cast were for the most part dictated by his age, and it is the unsatisfactory character of these forms that is largely responsible for the neglect of his music’, adding also that ‘the quality of his music reveals Purcell as man of genius far beyond his age’. Indeed, the fact that composers such as Gustav Holst, Peter Warlock, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Michael Tippett promoted his music, and that Benjamin Britten imitated and championed him is testimony also to his greatness. Purcell’s music is rich and varied, original and captivating and his word setting knows no equal. He encapsulated his art thus: ‘Music is the exaltation of poetry. Both of them may excel apart, but surely they are most excellent when joined, because nothing is then wanting to either of their proportions: for then they appear like wit and beauty in the same person’. Purcell was a very prolific composer, and wrote in just about every musical form of his day, contributing considerably to the development of musical style.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow
QUILTER, ROGER (1877 – 1953)

When Roger Cuthbert Quilter was born on 1 November 1877, Elgar was 20, Ethel Smyth was 19, Delius was 15, Vaughan Williams had just turned 5, and the ill-fated National Training School for Music, from whose ashes arose the Royal College of Music, had opened the previous year. Quilter himself was born within the sound of the sea, right on the coast, in Hove, by Brighton in Sussex. The family was wealthy and upper class — his father, William Cuthbert Quilter, was a stockbroker about to start acquiring a substantial estate around Felixstowe, and he also built Bawdsey Manor, on the headland overlooking the river Deben; he was made a baronet in the Diamond Jubilee honours. Roger, the fifth of seven children, went off to prep school (which he loved) and later to Eton (which he hated); he was never a very healthy child, and was allowed to forgo sports there in favour of music. At a time when a musical career was out of the question for someone of his class, he nevertheless went on to study piano (with Ernst Engesser) at Dr. Hoch’sches Konservatorium in Frankfurt, and while there also took private composition lessons (as did many others) with Ivan Knorr; it was at Frankfurt that he wrote Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, though he revised it before its publication in 1904. Frankfurt attracted many English-speaking students, including Percy Grainger, Cyril Scott, Norman O’Neill, and Balfour Gardiner; the five were known as the ‘Frankfurt Gang’, though they were united, not so much by a common musicality, as by a common dislike of Beethoven.

He set up home in London — anywhere to get away from his philistine father — and within a few years had published the songs that first brought him to public notice (the Four Songs of the Sea, sung by Denham Price at the Crystal Palace in March 1901), his first set of Shakespeare Songs (which were highly successful), and the immensely popular Love’s Philosophy. He was dangerously ill with a duodenal ulcer, and in 1911 he wrote the incidental music to the children’s fairy play Where the Rainbow Ends, which was performed annually from then until 1959, and led directly to the establishment of the Italia Conti stage school. He had become a household name, and in later years said that he was the only one of the family who — at one stage, at any rate — could have lived on his earnings. His Children’s Overture, first intended as the overture to Rainbow but discarded for that purpose, was first heard at a Prom in 1919; even Edward Dent, whose thoughts generally hovered over Scarlatti, Mozart, Busoni and the modern continental composers, wrote in his diary that it ‘delighted me & really brought tears to my eyes’. In the late 1920s, Quilter collaborated with Rodney Bennett (Sir Richard’s father) on a light opera, called The Blue Boar; it was performed in a one-act version in 1933, revamped as Julia and given at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 1936 (conducted by Albert Coates), and revised again and published as Love at the Inn). The Blue Boar score is lost, but Julia could be reconstructed from remaining materials; the waltz theme Love Calls through the Summer Night is utterly captivating.

Quilter was deeply distressed by the death of his favourite nephew Arnold during the Second World War; that, together with the consequences of a prostate operation late in 1945, triggered a mental breakdown and he was admitted to St. Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton, for six months. His personality changed, and he became very indiscreet about his homosexuality; there are claims that he was blackmailed, and though these remain unproven, they are all too likely to be true.

He remains best known as a writer of songs, each one a finely crafted miniature, redolent of Edwardian nostalgia — even his large scale works are, to all intents and purposes, short pieces strung together as pearls on a necklace. Grateful to sing and to play, they are full of an unmatched, exquisite art.

Valerie Langfielduparrow
RAWSTHORNE, ALAN (1905 – 1971)

Alan Rawsthorne, a Lancastrian born in 1905, first made his mark in 1937 with the Theme and Variations for Two Violins, performed at the International Contemporary Music Festival in London the following year. This highly acclaimed work demonstrated his prowess in the field of instrumental music, which was built upon throughout the rest of his career, which ended with his death in 1971. During that creative span he composed nine concertos, three symphonies, other orchestral works, a handful of songs and choral works. One of his major achievements was to make a substantial contribution to British chamber music of the twentieth century.

John M. Belcher: The Rawsthorne Trustuparrow
REED, WILLIAM HENRY (`BILLY') (1876 – 1942)

We remember W.H. Reed nowadays as the leader of the London Symphony and other orchestras who was friendly with Sir Edward Elgar, particularly during the latter years of his life, although earlier Reed had helped him in the composition of the his Violin Concerto and had taken part in the first performances of all three Elgar chamber works. He has left us his impressions of Elgar and his music in Elgar As I Knew Him (1936), a most sympathetic, yet not, I think, consciously idealised account of the older man, and, in Dent’s Master Musicians series, Elgar (1938), which many of us think was not entirely superseded by its replacement in that series, by Ian Parrott, many years afterwards.

Reed was born in France on 29 July 1876 and studied violin and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. He joined the LSO in 1904 and became its leader in 1912, holding the position until 1935, when he exchanged it for that of Chairman of the Orchestra. He taught violin at the Royal College of Music, conducted orchestras — mainly amateur ones — and acted as examiner and adjudicator (indeed he died, at Dumfries on 2 July 1942, whilst examining for the Associated Board). But comparatively few recall that he was a composer of some repute even before he met Elgar in the early years of this century. It is perhaps worth mentioning at least the titles of some of his works.

Many of these were orchestral. There was a shortish (about 17 minutes long) Symphony for strings, a Violin Concerto in A minor, a genre piece subtitled The Lincoln Imp and a symphonic poem, Caliban. (The Violin Concerto was published in piano reduction in 1918 in which year it had a performance.) His lighter music was perhaps more popular. Of his orchestral suites some — like Down in the West Country, for strings and timpani with Widdicombe Fair as its last movement — seem to reflect a love of his native district, others — Shockheaded Peter, Scenes from the Ballet, Miniature Suite for strings and Aesop’s Fables do not. Individual movements like the overture, Merry Andrew, the Valse Brillante and the caprice Will O’the Wisp enjoyed a considerable vogue. Valse Brillante (1898), the overture, Touchstone (1899), Valse Elegante (1903), the symphonic poem Among the Mountains of Cambria (1922) and the Suite Venitienne (1903) were all first performed at the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. We should not forget, either, that there are a number of excellently written pieces for junior orchestra, with titles like Stately Dance, Patrol, March of the Prefects and School March, which would still be useful even today were a teacher lucky enough to find them. Bournemouth did its bit for performances of Reed as it did for other British composers — the Viola Concerto (1918), the Rhapsody for violin and orchestra in E minor (1920), The Lincoln Imp, Aesop’s Fables (1925), Shockheaded Peter (1933) and Will O’the Wisp (1924) were all played there. Other orchestral items were the Variations Caracteristiques for strings, Elegie, Intermezzo, Pastorale and the Men of Kent, but they were not played at Bournemouth, so far as I know.

Nor did Reed ignore vocal music. He composed songs plus a choral ballad Earl Haldan’s Daughter (1939) and a Treasury of Christmas Music for mixed voices with accompaniment ad lib. He published some piano music including arrangements of Suite Venitienne and others of his orchestral pieces. More importantly he wrote chamber music; he was, after all, a fine chamber musician. His String Quartet No. 5 in A minor (1916) won a second prize in the Cobbett Competition that year and Cobbett himself wrote approvingly of its ‘graceful writing and striking harmonic effects’. Other works — and there must have been at least four other quartets — included an unpublished String Trio, Risenlied for violin and piano, the Introduction and Rondo Caprice for clarinet and piano and the Rhapsody, published in 1927 for viola and piano. This in fact received two concert performances in my home town of Doncaster in 1927 and 1929 and was then reckoned a most attractive piece. This was about the time that Lionel Tertis was trying hard to persuade composers to write for the viola. Perhaps an enterprising violist could exhume this and thus begin a modest revival of W.H. Reed the composer?

P.L. Scowcroftuparrow
ROSE, TOM (1991)

Tom Rose began improvising on the piano and violin at the age of six and started composing seriously five years later. At the age of thirteen, his work for piano, violin and choir, Their Name Liveth for Evermore), won a national competition organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and was subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Since 2006 he has studied composition with Jeffery Wilson at the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in addition to conducting and jazz piano (he has his own trio). He is also a member of the Aldeburgh Young Musicians programme. In 2008 he won the Junior Section of The Guardian/BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition with Moth Lamp, for winds, strings, piano and percussion — a piece written initially for fellow Aldeburgh Young Musicians. Through AYM Tom was introduced to, and has studied with, another of the composers whose work is has been heard at the EMF, Joseph Phibbs.

Tom’s work also includes orchestral and choral pieces, but he especially enjoys writing for smaller ensembles to bring out the quality of the individual instruments. Current items in progress are a song cycle for mezzo and piano and a BBC commission for this year’s Young Composers’ Prom concert: a micro-concerto for electric guitar and small ensemble. He says: “I am particularly aware of what Benjamin Britten said about composing: that it should be ‘of use to the living’. So of course Britten is an influence on my work, but many others, particularly twentieth century and contemporary composers, artists and writers, are too. I try to set something down on paper every day.”


John Rutter was born in London in 1945 and studied music at Clare College, Cambridge. His compositions embrace choral, orchestral, and instrumental music, and he has co-edited various choral anthologies including four Carols for Choirs volumes with Sir David Willcocks and the Oxford Choral Classics series. From 1975 until 1979 he was Director of Music at Clare College, and in 1981 formed his own choir, the Cambridge Singers, as a professional chamber choir primarily dedicated to recording.

He now divides his time between composition and conducting, and has guest-conducted or lectured at many concert halls, universities, churches, music festivals, and conferences in Europe, Scandinavia, and North America. He is an honorary Fellow of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, a Fellow of the Guild of Church Musicians, and in 1996 was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Music. In 2002 his setting of Psalm 150, commissioned for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, was performed at the Service of Thanksgiving in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

Rutter’s choral works, including his Requiem and Gloria, are frequently performed in Europe,the USA, and Australasia. In 2003 Mass of the Children, a major work for adult’s and children’s choir, soloists, and orchestra, was premiered in New York’s Carnegie Hall conducted by the composer.

John Rutter’s music has been widely recorded and is available on many record labels including Universal, Naxos, and Hyperion. he Cambridge Singers have recorded many of John Rutter’s works on the Collegium Records label.

John Rutteruparrow

Lionel Sainsbury, who lives and works in West Oxfordshire, is increasingly recognised as one of Britain’s leading present-day composers. He studied at the Guildhall School of Music with Patric Standford, winning prizes as both composer and pianist. At the age of 21 he was awarded the prestigious Mendelssohn Scholarship, which enabled him to discuss his music with Edmund Rubbra and John McCabe, and in Paris with Henri Dutilleux. Since then his music has been performed and broadcast worldwide. His catalogue to date includes concertos for violin and for cello, a symphonic poem Time of the Comet, Allegro Risoluto for strings, a substantial body of piano music, and works for violin, guitar, clarinet, and two pianos. Amongst soloists who have played his work are Tasmin Little, Craig Ogden, Jack Gibbons and Anna Hashimoto.

In 2010 Sainsbury’s Violin Concerto was released on Dutton-Epoch with soloist Lorraine McAslan and the BBC Concert Orchestra under Barry Wordsworth. The recording attracted widespread acclaim: ‘… genuinely inspired: this is quite magnificent music’ (International Record Review); ‘unabashedly romantic … no lover of the English violin literature can afford to be without it’ (Fanfare, New Jersey). Lorraine McAslan gave the public première at the 2002 Three Choirs Festival, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Adrian Lucas.

His Two Nocturnes for strings, available on Naxos ‘English String Miniatures’ with the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, have been described as: ‘lovely miniatures, unmistakably English in character … damask, dark and marmoreal — developing a Mahlerian heat … often piercingly emotional’ (Musicweb International).

Also active as a performer, Lionel has recorded a CD of his piano music, from which his Cuban Fantasy was given its première broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Upcoming projects include a recording of his Cello Concerto with Raphael Wallfisch and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Martin Yates.

SOMERVELL, (SIR) ARTHUR (1863 – 1937)

Until recently, Arthur Somervell was largely remembered for his two song cycles — Maud and The Shropshire Lad. However, in 2005 a recording of his Violin Concerto was released by Hyperion. It was well received by critics and listeners for its musicality: a good balance between the German influence of Brahms and the English Pastoral School. Unfortunately this new CD has not led to a sustained revival of interest in his life and his music.

Arthur Somervell was born in Applethwaite in Cumberland on 5 June 1863. After attending Uppingham School he went up to King’s College, Cambridge where he studied with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. After gaining his B.A. in history he had a period in Berlin at the Hochschule f{"u"r Musik. In 1885 he entered the Royal College of Music and after two years there, he had private lessons with Parry. When his studies were complete he joined the staff at the R.C.M. and began his career as a composer, a teacher and an examiner. In 1901 he succeeded Sir John Stainer as Inspector of Music to the Board of Education. In 1920 he became that organisation’s Chief Inspector. On his retirement from this post, he received his knighthood. Latterly he was the chairman of the Council of the School of English Church Music. Sir Arthur Somervell died in London on 2 May 1937.

Somervell’s contribution to musical life in Britain was considerable; however it is fair to say that his work in education meant that his career as a composer suffered. He took his role as educator extremely seriously and was in the forefront of pioneering new teaching methods that challenged the Edwardian consensus. Somervell believed that musical education should be an integral part of the school curriculum for all the members of society. He insisted that this could be achieved through the teaching of sight-singing, understanding of musical notation and a familiarity with the ‘matter’ of Britain as found in Hadow’s Songs of the British Islands and Stanford’s National Song Book.

It is difficult to make an assessment of Somervell’s place as a composer. Most of his works have not been heard for at least two generations. However there are three main trajectories to his creative achievement. Firstly, there are five song cycles which include important settings of Robert Browning, A.E. Housman and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He was one of the earliest composers to set The Shropshire Lad, where he gave the cycle a sense of narrative as opposed to just a collection of songs. The second main strand of his compositions is his choral works including cantatas, oratorios and liturgical music. Some of these are major achievements, including an important Mass in D minor for men’s voices, The Charge of the Light Brigade (Tennyson) for chorus and orchestra and the one-time popular The Power of Sound to words by Robert Bridges. Many critics regarded his Wordsworth setting of the Intimations of Immortality as being his most important choral work. The last important group of works are orchestral. These include the large scale Symphony Thalassa, the Piano Concerto The Highland and the Symphonic Variations Normandy.

Arthur Somervell’s musical style looks towards Germany rather than France or England. He does not make use of folk music or early English music. His heroes are Brahms and Mendelssohn, filtered through Parry and Stanford. His compositions inhabit the late Victorian and Edwardian era of Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Edward German and Haydn Wood.

John Franceuparrow

For many years, Charles Villiers Stanford was remembered more as a teacher of composition than as a composer. Many of the most prominent composers of the British music renaissance studied with him, and stories of his curt dismissal of the efforts of many of his pupils as, ‘All rot, me bhoy’ are legion. Vaughan Williams later attributed his greatness as a teacher to his intolerance and narrow-mindedness — “if a thing was right it was right; if it was wrong it was wrong, and there was no question about it.” But Stanford was also a superb technician. “He could use the technique of any composer and use it better”#8221”;, recalled INCOMPLETE.

Stanford was born in Dublin during the same decade as two other brilliant Irishmen who found their way to England, Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. As a young man he quickly emerged as one of the most gifted musicians of his generation, studying in the then fashionable Leipzig and attaining early academic recognition through the appointment of Professor of Composition at the newly established Royal College of Music. Operas, orchestral, choral, chamber and instrumental music poured from his pen but, like his contemporary Parry, an obscure self-taught musician from Worcestershire eclipsed his star. There can be no doubt that Elgar had an element of genius denied to Stanford, but the neglect into which his works fell was unwarranted. However, his church music never fell from favour and the last twenty years has seen renewal of interest in Stanford’s music, including his symphonies and other orchestral works, which has allowed the musical world to make an evaluation of his true worth as a composer.

Peter Reynoldsuparrow

William Sterndale Bennett was born into a musical family in Sheffield. Orphaned early, he moved to Cambridge and was later accepted as a chorister into the Chapel Choir at King’s College, followed by a scholarship to the newly formed Royal Academy of Music. Under his principal teacher Cipriani Potter he soon displayed exceptional talent as a pianist and great potential as a composer. Mendelssohn, recognising this, invited him to Germany ‘not as my pupil but as my friend’, which led to three extended visits to Leipzig where he received lavish praise not least from Schumann. By this time he had composed five well-received piano concertos, a symphony, four overtures, three chamber works, several piano works and a set of six songs. It was not until later in life that he returned to composing, but, despite popularity at the time, several of these later works failed to match up to the products of his earlier fecundity.

On his return to England in 1842 aged 26 he became much in demand as a pianist, the organiser of classical chamber concerts at the Hanover Square Rooms, as a teacher and as editor of some works of the great masters. In 1849 he formed the Bach Society, a precursor to the Bach Choir in London, to produce the ground-breaking first English performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion in 1854. Two years later he was elected Professor of Music at Cambridge. In that same year he succeeded Wagner for ten years as Chief Conductor of the Philharmonic Society Orchestra, and was the first to receive the Society’s coveted Gold Medal. Then in 1866 he was appointed Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. Although by nature kindly and inwardly reserved, with steely determination he successfully steered that institution through the most perilous time of its existence. He died in office aged 58 in 1875 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.

2016 marks the bicentenary of Bennett’s birth, which should provide an opportunity to reflect on a hitherto largely forgotten but very promising Romantic composer, a brilliant pianist and conductor of our leading orchestra. He was also a most influential music educator and administrator, who taught Sullivan and Parry and greatly encouraged the young Stanford and Stainer. Knighted for his services, the great educational reformer Sir Henry Hadow declared ‘Bennett held a most honourable position on the mid slopes. He found English music a barren land, enriched its soil and developed its cultivation.’

Barry Sterndale Bennettuparrow
SULLIVAN, (SIR) ARTHUR (1842 – 1900)

Sir Arthur Sullivan is at once one of the best known and one of the most mysterious of English composers.

He dominated British musical life for a generation (to an extent matched later only by Elgar and Britten), yet soon after his death he had become something of a footnote, an embarrassment even.

Of all the unsung aspects to his career, perhaps the greatest was Sullivan’s role as a composer of English music and as a tireless campaigner for English music and musicians. His devotion to the concept of furthering an English school straddled the whole of his career, and the Savoy Operas were not an exception, but a part of it. His adoption of, and association with, Shakespeare, from very early on (not least with his ground-breaking music to The Tempest and some of his earliest songs) was part of the process. While many of Sullivan’s non-English works acquired a unique quality from the ‘local colour’ that he loved to employ, it was a succession of English pieces that dominated his career at the height of his powers — not least The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), Ivanhoe (1891) and Haddon Hall (1892), in which English history was central. The Sorcerer (1877), HMS Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879), Patience (1881), Iolanthe (1882) and Ruddigore (1887) are — in their different ways — just as important in terms of their English settings, their echoes of older English composers, and their use of English dance and song styles.

Sullivan was seldom a political animal, and on the few occasions when he spoke out, it was in defence of the English musician. It was neither xenophobia nor self-promotion that led to him voicing concerns about the promotion of foreign conductors, or of foreign music predominating at state occasions. One anecdote records Sullivan as conductor of the Leeds Festival being praised for the outstanding quality of his orchestra, the assumption being that many of its members were foreign; Sullivan replied with his trademark sparkle, ‘Not one.’

Sullivan was keen to see English music promoted in all its spheres; it was what led him to take on (in 1876) the principalship of the National Training School for Music, and to devote five years of his life to it (the School later mutated into the RCM). There are many testimonies to his support for other younger English musicians — Elgar and Ethel Smyth were just two who held him in deep affection. Even at the end of his life, Sullivan was instrumental in the development of the National Brass Band competition (to be held at the Crystal Palace): he saw it as a way of fostering wider involvement in music among the general population, and was typical of his proselytising attitude towards the art which he once described as his ‘mistress’.

Sullivan contributed much more to English music than is often remembered. His first compositions — notably The Tempest (1861) and the Symphony (1866) — created enormous excitement and marked a critical stage for music in this country. Sullivan should certainly be accorded a leading role in the 19th century English Musical Renaissance, and all that it achieved for the later flowering of our musical life.

William Parryuparrow
TIPPETT, (SIR) MICHAEL (1905 – 1998)

At the time of his death in January 1998, Sir Michael Tippett was widely regarded as the greatest living British composer. His reputation however was not easily achieved. Unlike his effortlessly fluent contemporary Benjamin Britten, Tippett’s music often seemed to emerge from a sense of struggle, something that he himself acknowledged, quoting Nietzsche: ‘One must have a chaos inside oneself to give birth to a dancing star.’ During his earlier years, performers, critics and listeners often encountered difficulties with his music and it was not until the 1960s that Tippett’s importance became generally accepted. Despite the warmth and generosity of his music, it was hard in the making and can make considerable intellectual demands on the listener. Whilst Tippett himself was always profoundly concerned with contemporary developments, his music has steadfastly refused to yield to the most contemporary of demands: that of instant comprehension and gratification.

As a young man Tippett studied at the Royal College of Music. For many years he lived frugally in the small Surrey village of Oxted, gradually developing an individual musical voice of his own. During the 1930s he conducted the South London Orchestra for unemployed musicians, was profoundly involved with left-wing politics and became an active pacifist. Indeed his uncompromising stance as a conscientious objector led to his imprisonment in 1943. During the war years he found his own personal voice, and his first masterpieces such as the Concerto for Double String Orchestra and the oratorio A Child of our Time received their first performances. Through to the very last years of his life, Tippett’s music constantly strove to break new ground, to explore new ideas and possibilities. Even in his ’80s his energy remained phenomenal, producing an opera, orchestral works and a string quartet. The epigraph that he chose for his opera The Knot Garden, might well have served him: ‘simply the thing I am shall make me live.’

Peter Reynoldsuparrow

Sir Donald Francis Tovey was a British musical analyst, musicologist, writer on music, composer and pianist. He is best known for his Essays in Musical Analysis.

Tovey began to study the piano and compose at an early age. He eventually studied music under Hubert Parry. Tovey became a close friend of Joseph Joachim, and played piano with the Joachim Quartet in a 1905 performance of Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quintet. He gained some moderate fame as a composer, having his works performed in Berlin and Vienna as well as London. He performed his own piano concerto under the conductorship of Henry Wood in 1903 and under Hans Richter in 1906. During this period he also contributed heavily to the music articles in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, writing a large portion of the content on music of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In 1914 he began to teach music at the University of Edinburgh and there he founded the Reid Orchestra. For their concerts he wrote a series of programme notes, many of which were eventually collected into the books for which he is now best known, the Essays in Musical Analysis. Tovey began to compose and perform less often later in life. In 1913 he composed a symphony, in 1935 he wrote a cello concerto for Pablo Casals and he also wrote an opera The Bride of Dionysus. In illustrated radio talks recorded in his last few years, his playing can be heard to be severely affected by a problem with one of his hands.

Tovey made several editions of other composers’ music and in 1931 produced a completion of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge. Tovey was knighted in 1935. He died in 1940 in Edinburgh.

Peter Shoreuparrow

“The art of music above all other arts is the expression of the soul of a nation” said Ralph Vaughan Williams, and how truly he spoke. Almost all English composers of the early twentieth century exude Englishness in their works — and by this I don’t mean that they all depict cows looking over gates, but that their music has captured something of the spirit of this country, and is recognisably English in style — and Vaughan Williams is most certainly not an exception. One need only listen to his exquisite Linden Lea or Oxford Elegy to find England personified therein! Yet he can be said to have had a healthy mix of both the English and the continental in his musical education. He studied under two of the musical ‘greats’ of their time, Parry and Stanford, at the Royal College of Music (RCM), as well as with Charles Wood at Trinity College, Cambridge. Abroad, he had a few lessons with Ravel (in Paris) and studied with Bruch (in Berlin). His own music, however, stands firmly rooted in all that is best in English music — indeed, Ravel is said to have called him ‘my only pupil who does not write my music’. RVW himself said that “We pupils of Parry, if we have been wise, inherited the great English choral tradition which Tallis passed onto Byrd, Byrd to Gibbons, Gibbons to Purcell, Purcell to Batishill and Greene, and they in turn through the Wesleys to Parry. He has passed on the torch to us”.

This love of Englishness and awareness of the importance of the English choral tradition manifested itself in many ways discernable throughout his works. Like his close friend, Gustav Holst, RVW was fascinated with folk song and this shines through in lilting, singing melodies and dancing rhythms in a great deal of his output. Another way was through his work editing the new English Hymnal. Originally intended as a fairly swift task to be completed in a couple of months, he stretched it out for two years, in which time he made extensive use of his passion for collecting folk songs. He set out to return the hymns to their original state, reducing the Victorian distortions of the simple melodies. He composed a number of hymn tunes himself for the Hymnal and commissioned further tunes from his contemporaries.

At the start of the war he enlisted in the medical corps and was posted to France, although aged 41. He lasted the war period well, making the most of his mixture of experiences, which would later add to the rich fabric of his compositions. After the war he returned to his former college, the RCM, as a teacher and spent some time re-working earlier compositions before turning his pen to what are considered to be his more mature and distinctive works.

He is one of only a handful of composers who continued developing musically well into old age, writing original and exciting works right until the end of his life. His oeuvre includes operas, nine symphonies, concerti, songs, ballet music, film scores, chamber and choral works, all of them innovative, evocative, moving and characterful, with an ability to surprise — sometimes shock (his fourth and sixth symphonies for example) — and delight

He lived to the ripe age of 86, composing, writing film scores, attending concerts, and supporting other composers, always remaining the unselfish, affectionate, eccentric character that his many close friends knew and dearly loved.

Em Marshall-Luckuparrow

Sir Henry Walford Davies is largely remembered for only three works — the Solemn Melody, the RAF March Past and his setting of ’In the Bleak Mid-winter’. Even with these three compositions most listeners would be hard-placed to identify the composer of the music. Yet there are many works by Walford Davies that await rediscovery, including two symphonies, a number of cantatas and oratorios, many organ pieces and much church music. In recent years his oratorio Everyman has made a welcome return to concert listings and CD catalogues. It has been considered one of the most important British choral works of the twentieth century.

Henry Walford Davies was born on 6 September 1869 in Oswestry, Shropshire. After a time with Sir George Elvey and Sir Walter Parratt at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, he enjoyed a succession of appointments in various organ lofts in London. These included St. George’s Campden Hill, St Anne’s Soho and Christchurch in Hampstead. In 1890 Walford Davies went up to the Royal College of Music and studied under Sir Hubert Parry and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. In 1893 he joined the College staff as teacher of counterpoint. In 1898 he became organist of Temple Church, a post he held for some 25 years. He was conductor of the Bach Choir from 1902-p07 and the London Church Choir Association from 1901–13. Other major appointments included the Organising Director of Music in RAF at the rank of Major, and Professor of Music at the University College of Wales. There he became an enthusiastic advocate of Welsh music and acted as chairman of the National Council of Music for the University of Wales. In 1922 he was knighted and in the following year he was appointed Professor of Music at Gresham College in London.

However, his greatest honour was being made Master of the King’s Music in 1934 after the death of Sir Edward Elgar. It was an appointment that he took seriously: he organised King George’s Jubilee concert in 1935 and was heavily involved in the arrangements for the Coronation of King George VI. He retained the post until his death on 11 March 1941.

Walford Davies became the first ‘celebrity composer’ to broadcast regularly on the BBC Home Service. He presented a programme called Music and the Ordinary Listener which ran for a number of years. These lectures and talks were later edited, elaborated and published in book form in 1935 as ‘The Pursuit of Music’. He provided radio programmes for children between 1939 until shortly before his death and a series called “Everyman’s Music”. In this capacity Walford Davies became a household name, in spite of the fact that his compositions remained relatively unknown. His special talent was ‘thinking aloud and thinking with his hearers’.

In H.C. Colles’s biography of the composer there is an extensive works list covering virtually all that Walford Davies wrote. Apart from the now revived Everyman, there are a number of oratorios based on biblical themes, including The Temple and the sacred symphony Lift Up Your Hearts. However, Davies’s choral music is not confined to ecclesiastical works, there is a Song of Nature which is a setting of various poems by Herrick, Wordsworth and Drayton, and the early The Three Jovial Huntsmen to an old English poem.

There are a fair number of orchestral works in the catalogue including Holiday Tunes, a Festal Overture in four movements and a Suite in C after Wordsworth. Perhaps the novelty that is most tantalising is a piece entitled Big Ben Looks On from 1937. His chamber music includes two sonatas for violin and piano, a Quintet in G for piano and strings and Peter Pan, a miniature suite for string quartet. There are numerous songs, anthems, organ pieces, hymn tunes and part-songs and even an operetta for children entitled What Luck!.

The composer produced a number of arrangements of Welsh songs which were used at various Eisteddfods. His interest in musical education for children and amateurs led to the edition of a number of song books such as Thirty-Eight songs for Camp Concerts and The Army Tune Book.

John Franceuparrow
WALTON, (SIR) WILLIAM (1902 – 1983)

William Walton was born in Oldham in 1902, the son of two singers (his father earned a meagre wage as a choirmaster). His earliest musical experiences came in his father’s choir, and in 1912 he became a chorister at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. The Dean, Thomas Strong, encouraged Walton’s enthusiasm for music (now including an interest in composition) and supported him financially, enabling him to attend Oxford University from 1918 to 1920. It was at Oxford that Walton met the Sitwells, who took him under their collective wing, broadening his cultural horizons and offering him a place to live (as well as providing the impetus for his first major work, Façade). A series of increasingly mature and successful works followed: the Portsmouth Point overture, Sinfonia Concertante, Viola Concerto, Belshazzar’s Feast and the First Symphony. The latter was completed in 1935, after which Walton produced a number of film scores and, after the war, many more substantial orchestral and chamber works, as well as an opera, Troilus and Cressida. These were generally regarded to be less adventurous and forward-looking than his works of the 20s and early 30s. They are, however, extremely accomplished, and works such as the Second Symphony, Concertos for Violin and Cello, Violin Sonata, String Quartet in A minor, Hindemith Variations and Improvisations on an Impromptu of Benjamin Britten are among his finest achievements. It seems natural that these works seemed outdated compared to the avante garde of the 50s and 60s, and his reputation suffered during this period.

Walton found composition increasingly taxing in his later years, and he would labour for extended periods over his compositions, in search of perfection. His last works tend to be on the short side, as he found extended composition more and more difficult. His music also faced the charge that he repeated himself in later works, and that his stylistic and expressive range often appeared limited. This is perhaps unjust, however, in that Walton’s aesthetic aims appear to have been clearly defined, and his later development is less an exploration of new territory than a crystallisation of prioritised elements, and the icy brilliance and technical and expressive control of works such as the Second Symphony and Cello Concerto are extremely impressive (and appear to have pleased Walton).

In 1949 Walton and his wife Susanna had moved to Ischia, where they spent most of the remainder of their lives. Walton suffered bad health from around the mid-1960s onwards, another factor that slowed his composition. A compulsive pipe-smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer, which was treated successfully, but left him considerably weakened. His health was precarious thereafter, but he managed to complete several important works. He died in 1983.

F.G. Hussuparrow
WARLOCK, PETER (a pseudonym of PHILIP HESELTINE) (1894 – 1930)

‘Peter Warlock’ is the principal pseudonym used by Philip Heseltine, and the one under which his music is usually presented today. Warlock was born into a wealthy family in the Savoy Hotel in 1894. His musical talent was nurtured at Eton by his piano teacher Colin Taylor, who introduced him to the music of Delius. Delius was to become a friend, and his music had a significant influence on Warlock’s style.

After a number of failed attempts at university and non-musical employment, Warlock became a member of D.H. Lawrence’s circle, although they parted acrimoniously (when Lawrence included a thinly-veiled caricature of Warlock in ‘Women in Love’, Warlock had to threaten legal action to force him to rewrite parts of the book).

Having befriended two figures of more lasting significance in his life, Cecil Gray and Bernard van Dieren, Warlock began to produce both criticism of note and mature songs during the war years. He had also begun editing early music, another important influence on his style. In the early 1920s he produced some of his best songs (as well as writing a book on Delius), and in 1922 he completed what is often considered to be his masterpiece, The Curlew.

From 1925 to 1928 he shared a cottage in Eynsford with E.J. Moeran, and the spirited social activity there, often involving figures such as Gray, Constant Lambert and Arnold Bax, is the stuff of legend. The output of both Meroan and Warlock dwindled during this period, a trend that, in Warlock’s case, continued after the Eynsford period.

This presumably contributed to the depression that in all probability led to Warlock’s suicide (although it as least possible that his death was accidental) in December 1930. Although his output is relatively slim, his songs are among the best ever written in England The synthesis of impressionistic harmony, the influence of Elizabethan music and folk elements is masterly, resulting in a wide range of moods that are unified by a unique voice and are immediately recognisable. The Curlew is a masterpiece of slightly larger dimensions, and the Capriol Suite is a popular classic.

His work as editor and critic is also of the highest quality, and of considerable significance in the early stages of the revival of early English music.

F.G. Hussuparrow
WESLEY, SAMUEL (1766 – 1837)

Wesley’s friend Vincent Novello said of him: ‘Samuel Wesley was one of the greatest musical geniuses that England ever produced.’

This is true. He was the most important composer of the classical period in England, the very opposite of insular or provincial. His importance lies partly in his musical style, partly in his very clear aesthetic purpose, partly in his position, historically, in the English musical tradition. His mature style, after 1784, represents a meeting point of many traditions: in the choral works, of Byrd, Bach, Haydn; in the orchestral and instrumental works of Beethoven, Weber, Mendelssohn. His best works are the first by an English composer in classical vein to link the English musical heritage of the past with the mainstream European tradition of his time, in a musical language that is both individual and distinctive. Its chief characteristics, are a constant striving for large-scale structures, a mastery of counterpoint, a highly colourful chromaticism of the melodic material, and a visionary quality which caused him to transcend the limitations and constrictions of his day.

During his lifetime he was largely ignored, and after his death the arbiters of Victorian taste disowned him, largely in favour of his organist son Samuel Sebastian, with whom even today the composer is still sometimes confused. Das Land ohne Musik gave scant place to Wesley. His achievement was concealed in the arid years of the nineteenth century. So to us today he is barely known.

The 20th-century re-discovery of Samuel Wesley’s music began in the 1970s, with the first performance in modern times of Confitebor in York Minster in June 1972. Further performances and broadcasts began from that point, and the publication in practical, performing editions of some of the chief works in his very extensive, and variable, output. A high point was reached in 1997 with the world première in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, of the Missa de Spiritu Sancto, 213 years after its completion in 1784 by the 18 year old Wesley — the first work of his maturity, yet one that was never performed in his lifetime, nor for 160 years after his death.

Wesley’s music covers every genre except opera. In some categories his mature works are few, just as opportunities for performance were indeed few in the London and the England of his time, which had no established orchestras, no schools of music. So in the categories of symphony, concert overture, string quartet, Wesley composed just one of each. Yet in each he achieved mastery, in both style and content, bringing the dormant English tradition into line with mainstream developments in Europe.

Francis Routhuparrow
WOOD, HAYDN (1882 – 1959)

Haydn Wood was born in Slaithwaite, Yorkshire, and from age three until fifteen lived in Douglas, Isle of Man. For this precocious young boy, the island was a favourable cultural milieu. He took violin lessons from his effervescent older brother Harry, later known as ‘Manxland’s King of Music’, played in amateur and professional orchestras in Douglas, and steeped himself in Manx folklore.

In 1897, his virtuosic violin playing won him a scholarship to attend the Royal College of Music, and from then on, London was his home base. His violin teacher was Senor Ferdinand Arbos, and already upon arrival at the College, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford took Haydn to play privately for Joachim, and on another occasion he performed privately for his long-time idol Sarasate. In the middle of his fifth year at the College, he majored in composition, studying with Stanford.

Composing came easily, and his style emerged well formed. His earliest works range the gamut from bucolic songs to a serious suite, a piano concerto, a string quartet and a symphony. Almost immediately after Wood graduated from the RCM, he toured the British Isles and Empire for eight years (1904–1912) with the famous soprano Emma Albani and her Concert Party, playing virtuosic solos and violin obbligatos for Albani’s arias. He married Savoyard soprano Dorothy Court in 1909 and the couple enthusiastically embarked on what turned out to be a twelve-year career (1913–1925) touring the variety halls throughout the British Isles. All the while, he was composing, especially songs with piano accompaniment, a few of them big money-makers — above all, Roses of Picardy. Wood was pleased that his music was providing untold millions of people a way of emotional escape during Britain’s times of war and deprivation.

In addition to his songs, Wood excelled at composing light orchestral pieces that evoked landscapes and people, real or imagined. He often conducted his own works, and apparently very well. Most of them were broadcast regularly by the BBC. Two became signature tunes: The Horse Guards, Whitehall, and The Bandstand, Hyde Park. However, many of these orchestral pieces are now hidden treasures unjustly neglected.

Wood remained imbued with the Isle of Man culture throughout his life. He composed twelve songs with Manx lyrics, and eight powerful orchestral works with Manx subject matter, the most beloved being the tone poem Mannin Veen. His final Manx project was to compose 23 new numbers for solo singers, choir, orchestra, and dancers for a mammoth undertaking, A Pageant of the Isle of Man, which was part of the 1951 Festival of Britain.

Haydn Wood succeeded in getting 180 songs and ballads published, as well as 86 light orchestral pieces (suites, overtures, morceaux de concert, entr’actes, intermezzi, rhapsodies, marches …), a piano concerto, a violin concerto, variations for cello and orchestra, works for string orchestra, a string quartet, solo works for piano, violin, flute, oboe, choral works with orchestra, and a musical play. His symphony was never published and is now lost.

Most dear to his heart as he matured were his Manx flavoured compositions and his serious works. He called it ‘a perfect day’ when he could listen to or conduct his concertos, his string orchestra delights, or his works for choir and orchestra. He wrote that ‘music, to be good, must come from the heart and must play on our emotions. No man who makes a god of technique can create those lovely airs which achieve immortality. To do this he must preserve his understanding of the heart of the ordinary man.”

Marjorie Cullerneuparrow