|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.
|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.
|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 premiere of the Sinfonia quasivariazioni 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.
|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.
|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: ‘he 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.
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 composer’s music is long overdue.
|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.
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.
|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'!).
|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).
|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.
|BERNERS, LORD (14th BARON BERNERS) (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.
|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.
|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 ranto six editions and the Concertos to two editions. Subscriptionsfor the latter included the composer John Valentine, Handel’slibrettist Charles Jennens (who requested six sets) and manymusical 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:
|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 “unfortunately only too rare in this place”. 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.
|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).
|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.
|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, (SIR) JOHN FREDERICK (1844–1924)|
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.
|BRITTEN, BENJAMIN (1913–1976)|
Britten was born in Suffolk and he remained there for the majority of his professional life. He took lessons in composition with Frank Bridge in advance of pursuing a scholarship at the Royal College of Music in London where he studied composition with John Ireland and piano with Arthur Benjamin. Britten's compositional style is founded upon a firm professional individual technique which is more stylistically indebted to music of the past, such as Purcell, than closely associated with either the nationalist movement in British music or contemporary European influences such as Schoenberg. His international reputation is built primarily upon the success of his writing for voice. Britten's long-standing close professional and personal relationship with the tenor Peter Pears was significant to both his selection of genre, compositional output and their joint successful recital careers.
|BUTTERWORTH, GEORGE (1885–1916)|
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.
|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 in1614, 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.
|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 – 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.
|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.
'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.
|Dr David Green|
|COPLEY, IAN (1926–1988)|
Ian 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.
|CORP, RONALD (*1951)|
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.
|CURTIS, MATTHEW (*1959)|
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, I Musici de Montréal and the National Children's Orchestra of Great Britain.
|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.
|DANYEL, JOHN (?1564–?1626)|
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.
|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.
|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. Several 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 1590’s. 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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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. He 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.
|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 minorfollowed in the next few years, and a Second Violin Sonatacomposed in 1946 is another highlight. His last works weresubstantial 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, butalso warmly expressive, espousing an unapologetically Romantic aesthetic with William Sterndale Bennett, then with Edward Dannreuther.
|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.
|FLETCHER, PERCY EASTMAN (1879–1932)|
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.
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
|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.
|GIBBS, CECIL ARMSTRONG (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.
|The Percy Grainger Society|
|GURNEY, IVOR (1890–1937)|
There are very few men or women who have made a significant impression on the world of music and that of poetry. Yet Ivor Gurney managed to compose some of the most beautiful songs in the repertoire of English lieder. These cover a huge emotional range and reflect his interest in a diverse group of poets. Michael Hurd has written that Gurney’s poems ‘celebrate his love of the Gloucestershire countryside with the same unsentimental vigour as they report on the realities of trench-warfare and chart his gradual descent into madness’. It is only in the last two decades that the wide range of Gurney’s achievement has begun to be fully appreciated.
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.
|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
|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.'
|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'.
|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.
|IRELAND, JOHN (1897–1962)|
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.
|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.
|LANE, PHILIP (*1950)|
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!
|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. The 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.
|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).
'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'.
|LLOYD WEBBER, WILLIAM (1914–1982)|
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.
|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
|MACKENZIE, (SIR) ALEXANDER CAMPBELL (1847–1935)|
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’.
'At the Loh concerts on Sundays people attended them from all parts of Germany in order to hear this modern music … For 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.
|McDOWALL, CECILIA (*1951)|
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.
|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 www.robinmilfordtrust.org.uk.
|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
|NORRIS, DAVID OWEN (*1953)|
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.
|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.
|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.
|PARRY, (SIR) CHARLES HUBERT HASTINGS (1848–1918)|
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
|PEARSALL, ROBERT LUCAS (1795–1856)|
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:
|PHIBBS, JOSEPH (*1974)|
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.
|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 MyCountry were performed at Henry Wood Promenade Concerts.
All Montague Phillips works are well-crafted, have strong melodic and harmonic interest and are effectively scored.
|PICKARD, JOHN (*1963)|
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: TheSpindle 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 GaiaSymphony (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 TheFlight 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 Icarus and The Spindle ofNecessity 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.
|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.
|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 Trust|
|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?
|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.
|RUTTER, JOHN (*1945)|
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.
John Rutter's music has been widely recorded and is available on many record labels including Universal, Naxos, and Hyperion. The Cambridge Singers have recorded many of John Rutter's works on the Collegium Records label.
|John Rutter reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press|
|SAINSBURY, LIONEL (*1958)|
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 6’ 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 für 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, TheCharge 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.
|STANFORD, (SIR) CHARLES VILLIERS (1852–1924)|
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”, recalled
|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.
|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.
|TOVEY, (SIR) DONALD FRANCIS (1875–1940)|
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 ofDionysus. 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.
|VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, RALPH (1872–1958)|
“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 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 ”.
|WALFORD DAVIES, (SIR) HENRY (1869–1941)|
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 1902-07 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!
|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, HindemithVariations and Improvisations on an Impromptu of BenjaminBritten 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.
|WARLOCK, PETER [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.
|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.
|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 Cullerne· www.haydnwoodmusic.com|