Granville Bantock

December 11, 2014
Granville Bantock

Sir Granville Bantock was born in London on the 7th August 1868. His father was the prominent Scottish surgeon and gynaecologist Dr George Granville Bantock. George’s father worked for the 2nd Duke of Sutherland, as gamekeeper and then laird, a few years after the Highland Clearances attributed to the 1st Duke of Sutherland. It is noted that the gamekeeper once offered 10 shillings each for White-tailed Eagle eggs in 1849. The Granville name was taken from the Sutherland Duke in tribute.

George Bantock tried to guide Granville into respectable professions. Granville was first enrolled into the Indian Civil Service; and then chemical engineering, but before long his father was to enrol Granville into the Royal Academy of Music.

On leaving the RAM he got a job as the editor of the New Quarterly Musical Review in 1893. In 1894 he became a conductor of light opera initially for the George Edwardes’ Gaiety Company and in 1897 he became a Musical Director of New Brighton Tower Pleasure Gardens. Then in 1900 he moved to the Birmingham and Midland Institute as Principal and in 1908 became Peyton Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham.

He became a great champion of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Sibelius’s 3rd Symphony is dedicated to him.

Bantock spoke several languages and studied Latin, Greek, Persian and Arabic. Some of his work is inspired by the Orient or Classical Antiquity but he is more known for the works inspired by his Scottish and Celtic roots.

His Eastern-inspired work includes the choral epic Omar Khayyám (1906–09) based on Edward Fitzgerald’s translations. The Orchestral tone poem Thalaba the Destroyer was based on the Lake Poet Robert Southey’s Arabian epic poem of the same name. Bantock was also to write Songs of Egypt, Songs of Arabia, Songs of the East, Songs of Persia, Songs of India, Songs of China and Sons of Japan based on his wife Helena Von Schweizer’s lyrics.

His Classical Antiquity-inspired work includes The Pagan Symphony (1928); his Third Symphony, The Cyprian Goddess (1938/39); The Sappho Songs and various incidental music for Greek plays including Electra (1909), Oedipus Coloneus (1911), The Birds (1946), and The Frogs (1935).

A key influence in his Scottish works is the folk song collector Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser. Her collections of the Songs of the Hebrides (1907, 1917, 1921) provided the composer with a rich vein of material which he continually used.

Before writing the Hebridean Symphony Bantock toured the Highlands and Islands. He composed the symphony in 1915 and conducted it first in Glasgow on Valentine’s Day 1916.

The opening of the Hebridean Symphony is based on the lament Ho Roinn Eile which was given to Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser by Frances Tolmie, a renowned Gaelic song collector. Altered in the symphony and renamed The Seagull of the Land-under-Waves it remains a haunting melody. The Symphony makes its way through other songs like Kishmul’s Gallery, The Pibroch of Donnail Dhu, Harris Love Lament and finally into a Song of Victory. Sections of the symphony are based on songs collected by Kennedy-Fraser: Ailein Duinn, 0-hi, Shiubhlainn Leat [Brown-haired Alan, with Thee I Would Go]; An Seachran-Gaoil [The Love Wandering]; Heman Dubh [Hebrid Seas]; and An Sgeir-Mhara [The Sea Tangle].

The Sea Reivers (1917) was first performed in 1920. It is based on Kennedy-Fraser’s arrangements of the song Na Reubairean, which was collected from Penny Macdonald of Eriskay.

The Seal-Woman (1924) is a two act opera. Kennedy-Fraser produced the libretto for this and even sang the role of ‘Old Crone’ in its first perfomance.

The Celtic Symphony (1940) makes use of another Hebridean folksong An Ionndrainn-Mhara [The Sea Longing]. It is scored for a full string orchestra including 6 harps!

These are just a selection of the composer’s Scottish-themed works. In fact Bantock became so obsessed with his Scottishness that his son Angus learned the bagpipes and another son Hamilton danced the Highland Fling and Sword Dance.

Bantock became President of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir under Sir Hugh Robertson. Robertson called him “the Laird” and wrote “the blood of Scotland flowed in his veins … a rich racial tradition, which, in his heart, he cherished”.

Bantock was given an honorary Doctorate of Music by Edinburgh University. He was knighted in 1930. He was to die on 16th October 1946. The Bantock Society was established after this to promote his work. The composer Jean Sibelius became it’s first president.

Selected works:

Hebridean and Celtic Symphonies, The Sea Reivers :

Omar Khayyám :

Pagan Symphony :

Sappho and Sapphic Poem :

The Cyprian Goddess :

Thalaba the Destroyer :

The Song of Songs :

Sheet music:

Songs-of-ScotlandSongs of Scotland :

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Alastair Stout

August 28, 2013

Alastair Stout
Alastair Stout was born in Derby, England in 1975. His family moved to the Shetland Islands in 1981 and he grew up in Vidlin, around 20 miles north of Lerwick; and nearly 140 miles from the Scottish mainland and around 220 miles to Norway, as the crow flies.

He studied at the Royal College of Music (1993 – 97) with Joseph Horovitz and John Birch (winning prizes in composition, organ and music history), the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (1997 – 98) with Robert Saxton and Graham Elliot, and Royal Holloway, University of London (1998 – 2001) with Simon Holt where he graduated with a PhD in composition.

During his time in London, he became Assistant Organist at Wesley’s Chapel, the Mother Church of World Methodism.

In 1995 he won the Glasgow Orchestral Society’s Young Composer Award and in 1996 received a commission to write an anthem for the opening of the summer exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. His first String Quartet won the Gregynog Composers Award of Wales 1999.

In 2002, Alastair relocated to the USA to take up the position of Music Director at the Coraopolis United Methodist Church near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 2010 he became Director of the Pittsburgh Compline Choir. He is also Assisting Organist at St Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Highland Park, Pennsylvania.

Scottish folk music flavours his work, and he also cites diverse compositional influences like Purcell, Gesualdo, Messiaen, and Elliott Carter.

Selected works:

Deep in your coral caves :

Empty fathoms :


Eugen d’Albert

August 28, 2013
Eugen d'Albert

Eugen d’Albert was born in 4 Crescent Place, Charing Cross, Glasgow on 10 April 1864.

There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding his exact place of birth in Glasgow; some sources stating 9 Newton Place in Charing Cross, and others showing Crescent Grove in Knightswood. Hence this page resolves the issue.

Wikipedia is correct in stating that d’Albert’s birth certificate states 4 Crescent Place; also confirmed by census. His birth certificate states that 4 Crescent Place is in the Anderston district, but today that area is probably best described as in Charing Cross.

Charing-Cross-1857

The above 1857 map shows the Charing Cross and Woodside area of Glasgow. At the bottom of the map is Crescent Place.

A closer look…

Crescent-Place

It shows that Crescent Place ran between (on left) Woodside Crescent and (on right) St. Georges Road. This stretch of St. Georges Rd is now known as North St.

Overpass where Crescent Place would be today, looking back towards Woodside Crescent from North Street

Crescent Place is unfortunately no longer in existence. It has been replaced by a pedestrian overpass which runs from Woodside Crescent to Renfrew Street. Perhaps a campaign should be started to name this overpass in honour of Eugen d’Albert!

From-Woodside-Crescent

The view north and west from Crescent Place today…

Crescent-Place-wide-view-to

D’Albert had an English mother, Annie Rowell, and a German-born father of French and Italian descent, Charles Louis Napoléon d’Albert (1809–1886), whose ancestors included the composers Giuseppe Matteo Alberti and Domenico Alberti. D’Albert’s father was a dancer, pianist and music arranger who had been ballet-master at the King’s Theatre and at Covent Garden. He was 55 years old on Eugen’s birth and was to be his first music teacher.

At the age of 10, Eugen entered the National Training School (now the Royal College of Music) in London, where he studied piano with Ernst Pauer and theory with Sir John Stainer, Ebenezer Prout, and Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan); and achieved early success in England as a bravura pianist.

In 1881 d’Albert won the Mendelssohn Scholarship, enabling him to study in Vienna, where he met Johannes Brahms and Franz Liszt. From Austria he emigrated to Germany, becoming a pupil of the elderly Liszt and beginning a career as a concert pianist.

At the same time d’Albert focused increasingly on composing, producing 21 operas and a considerable output of piano, vocal, chamber and orchestral works.

His most successful opera was Tiefland, which premièred in Prague in 1903. His successful orchestral works included his cello concerto (1899), a symphony, two string quartets and two piano concertos.

D’Albert toured extensively, including in the United States from 1904 to 1905. In 1907, d’Albert became the director of the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, where he exerted a wide influence on musical education in Germany. He also held the post of Kapellmeister to the Court of Weimar.

In the wake of his success, he adopted German citizenship, and made repeated statements derogatory to English culture and his former English music teachers. He further changed his first name from Eugene to its German form, Eugen.

D’Albert was married six times: to Louise Salingré; to the pianist, singer and composer Teresa Carreño; to mezzo-soprano Hermine Finck; actress Ida Fulda; Friederike Jauner; and Hilde Fels. He had eight children.

In 1914, d’Albert moved to Zurich and became a Swiss citizen. During World War I, he was vocal in his enmity toward England, which led in turn to an understandable repugnance among English musicians to accept his music.

In John Purser’s biography of Erik Chisholm ‘Chasing a Restless Muse’, he noted d’Albert’s frequent visits back to Scotland in the following anecdote when Chisholm was registering his daughter’s birth and got into conversation with the Glasgow registrar:

“Weel” said the clerk, “Ye’re nothing like so particular as a wee red-heeded fella who kept coming back here; he had a kinda queer name – whit was it noo? Albert something? Dalbert. That’s it. Dalbert. You-gene Dalbert. He was a pee-anist, too, and every time he was playing in Glesca he came up here to see if we would change his birth certificate. He didna’ want his fether’s profession to be jest ‘Dancin’ but ‘Maitre de Ballet'”.

D’Albert died on the 3rd March 1932 at the age of 67 in Riga, Latvia, where he had travelled for a divorce from his sixth wife. In the weeks preceding his death, d’Albert was the subject of attacks by the press in Riga concerning his personal life. His last companion was a mistress, Virginia Zanetti. D’Albert’s final opera, Mister Wu, was left unfinished at his death and was completed by conductor Leo Blech. D’Albert was buried in the cemetery overlooking Lake Lugano in Morcote, Switzerland.

Selected Works:

Tiefland :

Die Abreise :

Die Toten Augen :

Symphonic Prologue to the Opera Tiefland :

Symphony in F and Cello Concerto :

Solo Piano Music :

Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 :


Kenneth Dempster

August 24, 2013

Kenneth Dempster
Kenneth Dempster was born in Edinburgh in 1962. He began his advanced musical training at Edinburgh Napier University before going on to study at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London.

Dempster was awarded a variety of scholarships which enabled him to travel to the United States to study at Yale University. During his time at Yale, he studied with many eminent composers: Jacob Druckman, Martin Bresnick, Louis Andriessen, Earle Brown and Frederic Rzewski.

On returning to Britain, he studied further with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and James MacMillan on the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Course for Young Composers.

Since completing his studies, he has received commissions for new pieces of music from a wide variety of ensembles and organisations.
His orchestral work, Seven Fans for Alma Mahler, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, was widely acclaimed by reviewers and audiences alike. He also conducted the first performances of a large-scale community opera on the subject of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, commissioned by the St. Magnus Festival to mark the 70th birthday of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. His music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Scotland.

He has received noted recognition for his compositions: the Inter-Collegiate, Theodore Holland Award at the RAM, two Yale University prizes, the Cornelius Cardew Composition Prize and a Creative Scotland Award. He is currently Composer in Residence at Edinburgh Napier University.

His String Quartet No.4 ‘The Cold Dancer’ is on the eponymous CD featuring contemporary String Quartets from Scotland :

The Saltire Quartet have his work ‘Under the Hammer’ on a hard to find and occasionally unavailable CD :


Judith Weir

August 23, 2013

Judith-Weir
Judith Weir was born on 11 May 1954 in Cambridge, England, to Scottish parents: her father was a psychiatrist, her mother a teacher – and both were serious amateur musicians.

She became an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. “When I was a teenager I had a few lessons with John Tavener, who lived down the road,” she says, “and then in 1975 I had a piece played at a youth orchestras festival in Aberdeen. One of the jurors was Aaron Copland, and he suggested I go to Tanglewood.”

Her visit to the famous summer music school in New England was a life-changing experience, but years of confused struggle would follow before Weir found her own compositional voice.

“It was the tail end of the modernist period, which in a way I found very inspiring. It was wonderful to hear Boulez conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and new pieces by Birtwistle. But I was trying to do something completely different, which didn’t feel like ‘proper’ music, and I just felt completely incompetent compared with these great figures.”

The result was King Harald’s Saga (1979), a witty account of the Norwegian invasion of Britain in 1066. “That’s the real me, I think, because of the way it refers to the history of opera and compresses something big into a small frame.”

In the year of its première, Weir moved to Glasgow – “around the edges of the university music department” – where she encountered Scottish folk music and legends.

“Despite my Scottish ancestry, until then I had thought of the bagpipes as just a loud instrument. But I shared a house with someone who played in a folk group and learned a bit about the pìobaireachd starts with a tune and then, in a very systematic way, variations are built up so the piece becomes more florid and ornate. It’s almost like you can compare it to baroque with its sense of ornamentation, to tradition, which is this amazing classical variation. It always 19th-century music with its variation and possibly even to 20th-century processed music.”

In Glasgow, Weir remembers that apart from Scottish Opera and the BBC orchestras, the serious music scene had a strong do-it-yourself ethos: “maybe not always of the greatest standard, but lots of opportunities to get work performed in a supportive, yet critical, community”. Her opera The Vanishing Bridegroom was commissioned by the Glasgow District Council and premièred by Scottish Opera as a part of the 1990 European Capital of Culture celebrations in the city.

She is the recipient of honorary doctorates from the Universities of Aberdeen (1995) and Glasgow (2005), Queen’s University, Belfast (2001) and King’s College, London (2007). She was appointed a CBE in 1995.

Currently resident in London, she was the Artistic Director of the Spitalfields Festival from 1995 to 2000. In 2007, Weir was the third recipient of The Queen’s Medal for Music.

Her music often draws on sources from medieval history, as well as the traditional stories and music of her native Scotland.

She is best known for her operas and theatrical works, although she has also achieved international recognition for her orchestral and chamber works.

Selected Works:-

Piano Concerto and Orchestral Works

Choral Music

The Welcome Arrival of Rain

Blond Eckbert

Distance and Enchantment : Chamber Works

A Night At The Chinese Opera

Flute Concerto on the CD Spellbound

On Buying A Horse : The Songs

3 Operas : Consolations of Scholarship; Missa del Cid; King Harald’s Saga

The Cold Dancer featuring Weir’s String Quartet from 1990

NMC hope to release The Vanishing Bridegroom in 2014/15 if their opera appeal is successful


Sally Beamish

August 22, 2013

Sally Beamish
Sally Beamish was born in London on August 26th, 1956 and started writing music and playing the piano at an early age. Beamish studied the viola at the Royal Northern College of Music, where she received composition lessons from Anthony Gilbert and Sir Lennox Berkeley. She later studied in Germany with the Italian violist Bruno Giuranna. As a violist in the Raphael Ensemble, she recorded four discs of string sextets.

She moved from London to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer and moved from London to Scotland, where she and her husband, cellist Robert Irvine, founded the Chamber Group of Scotland, with co-director James MacMillan, and where Beamish’s career as a composer really began to flourish.

Since moving to Scotland she has received a steady stream of commissions, and in 1994 and 1995 was Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ assistant on the SCO composers’ course in Hoy. From 1998 to 2002 she was composer in residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the SCO, for whom she wrote four major works. Beamish won a ‘Creative Scotland’ Award from the Scottish Arts Council which enabled her to write her oratorio for the 2001 BBC Proms – the Knotgrass Elegy premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with Sir Andrew Davis.

Scotland, she agrees, is the place to be. ‘It’s incredible up here,’ she said. ‘Everything has happened at exactly the right moment. It’s very important for composers to rub along together and talk. And that is what is so fantastic in Scotland – there is that sort of atmosphere between us of mutual support.’

In 2001 Sally Beamish was the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Music (DMus) from Glasgow University, for her services to musical life in Scotland.

Her music embraces many influences; particularly jazz and Scottish traditional music. Scotland’s lively and responsive musical scene have fed into her work, and she has drawn on the inspiration of Scotland’s landscape and its musical traditions, from Scottish fiddle playing to music for bagpipes.

Selected Works:-

Symphony No.1, Violin Concerto, and Callisto

The Imagined Sound of Sun on Stone

The Seafarer

River

Bridging the Day

Bridging the Day

Flute Concerto on the CD Spellbound

Haunted House on the CD A White Room


Geraldine Mucha

August 3, 2013

Geraldine-Mucha2

Geraldine Mucha, née Thomsen, was born on 5th July 1917 in London. She was born into a musical Scottish family. Her mother enjoyed success as a singing-actress and appeared in several notable London musical productions. Her father, Marcus Thomsen, was a popular concert baritone. He was missing in action in 1917 when she was born. When he returned, rescued by Belgian peasants, his voice was wrecked by mustard gas. Unable to perform professionally he turned to teaching and became Professor of Voice at the Royal Academy of Music.

Encouraged by her father, the young Geraldine was given lessons in harmony after school with the composer Benjamin Dale, a professor at the Royal Academy. She was introduced to Sir Arnold Bax, a prominent figure in British music, by his daughter Maeve, who was her school friend. Bax took a keen interest in Geraldine’s music and would often play through her latest compositions and discuss them with her. She continued her studies in composition and also conducting more formally at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Here she studied harmony with Benjamin Dale, and also met composers Alan Bush and William Alwyn.

In 1939 the War intervened and although the Royal Academy remained open, Geraldine was obliged to combine her studies with working on a telephone switchboard. She still found time to compose incidental music for an anti-fascist play, however, and to make musical arrangements for the BBC.

In 1941, while visiting her aunt as a student, Geraldine met in Leamington Spa her future husband; the writer and journalist Jiri Mucha – at the time a BBC war correspondent and RAF Flying Officer – and the son of Art Nouveau artist, Alphonse Mucha, who died in 1939, and recent widower of the composer Vitězslava Kaprálová, who died in 1940. Following the fall of France, Jiří along with most of the Free Czech Army succeeded in escaping to England. They came to be based at Leamington Spa, where he met Geraldine at a party. Their love kindled that night when singing The Skye Boat Song.

They married in 1945 and returned together to Prague in the autumn to live in Czechoslovakia. Things were to become difficult when the Communists came to power in 1948.

The Muchas were targeted because of their so-called bourgeois roots and they were forced to abandon the house Alphonse Mucha had built. Jiri – because of his links with the BBC and the RAF – was imprisoned because of his links to the West and interred in a uranium mine for four years. The secret police came to confiscate their belongings but as Geraldine then claimed they belonged to her – and she was still a British citizen – they left their home alone. Geraldine stated she started composing “to take my mind off things”.

On Jiri’s release from prison he was denied the right to travel. As Jiri wanted to go abroad to organise exhibitions of his father’s art, they sought a loophole. Geraldine stated in an interview:
“Somebody advised us. They said, if I would return to Scotland and simply live there, he could then apply through a different channel for a visit to his wife in our shared home in Scotland – which he did. I went to Scotland, I lived in my mother’s house in the Scottish Highlands – this is in the 70s. I had to invite him, of course, but he never came near Scotland, naturally, he went off and did an exhibition. Well, he did come occasionally but it was too remote. He was all on edge to be doing the exhibitions. And then, of course, we met up in all sorts of interesting places.” The Communists seemed to tolerate this breach on realising the revenue the exhibits brought to Czechoslovakia, though it has also been alleged that Jiri became a Czech spy.

When the Communist regime ended in Czechoslovakia in 1989, the Muchas returned to Prague. Geraldine continued to regularly visit Scotland each summer.

Jiri died in 1991 and Geraldine composed the Epitaph In memoriam Jiří Mucha. It ends with a haunting evocation of the Skye boat song.

Throughout Geraldine Mucha’s work there are strong Scottish themes. She was to write 16 Variations on a Scottish Folksong, for piano in 1957 and a ballet Macbeth in 1965. Her Orcadian descent is noted in the work Carmina Orcadiana written around 1960.

Geraldine Mucha died in Prague on 12 October 2012. She was 95 and still an active composer. She said in 2007: “I just can´t help composing. It´s what I do”.

Her Divertimento is available. Written especially for The Arlequin Trio, it features on their CD: