Ernest Bryson

Robert Ernest Bryson was born in 1867 on the 30th March in Milton, Glasgow.

He was a composer who wrote symphonies, his first in 1908, and a 1926 opera The Leper’s Flute, with words by Ian Colvin, among various other works. Harvard Library has the vocal score of this Opera. He frequently set poems by Walt Whitman, W.B. Yeats and Robert Browning to music, and was also known for organ works.

Yet today he is primarily remembered due to a spat he had with Elgar in 1924. More here.

Elgar was invited to be the President of the Rodewald chamber music society, an organisation founded in memory of businessman Alfred Rodewald, who also founded the Liverpool Orchestral Society.

Elgar however declined the offer stating he preferred Orchestral works to Chamber works: “Chamber music, in this case, is inadequate and it is a reproach to the musical taste of Liverpool that the orchestral concerts should have been allowed to disappear.”

Spurned, the Society then turned to Bryson who accepted their offer.

Bryson returned Elgar’s letter and noted: “I return Sir Edward Elgar’s letter and do not understand why he should have seen fit to combine stupidity and impertinence in his reply to the society.”

He died in 1942, 20th April in Gloucester.

I could not find any discography of any of Bryson’s works. There is however a pdf of the score of his 1921 work Fanfare for an Adventure at this site.

5 Responses to Ernest Bryson

  1. Alan Jones says:

    The Rodewald Concert Society was not founded by Alfred E Rodewald (1862-1903) but in memory of Rodewald. Ernest Bryson (another cotton merchant) was founder Chairman in 1911. He became President (on the death of Stanford) after he retired to Gloucestershire.

    The correspondence with Elgar is on display in the Rubato Cafe at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.

    Many of Bryson’s published works are held in the British Library but I have been unable to trace his manuscripts. I have also been unable to determine the occasion for which the Fanfare was written.

    Alan Jones, Honorary Secretary Rodewald Concert Society

    • Alan Jones says:

      It is perhaps worth noting that the Guardian report is ill-informed. The archives including the Elgar/Bryson letters are in fact in the Rodewald Concert Society Archives not the RLPS Archives. The confusion probably arises because both archives were housed in the same room and were a bit mixed up. They were both sorted and catalogued with the aid of a joint heritage lottery grant and displayed together when the archives were opened to the public.

      The letters are no longer displayed in the Rubato cafe as this is now closed during the refurbishment of Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool.

      The reporter was presumably making his remarks about Bryson, without ever having heard any of his music. He should note that it took Mendlessohn to bring J S Bach back into the concert repertory.

      I have still not managed to trace Bryson’s manuscripts although his sister appears to have collected them for safe keeping (musical Times).

  2. northbritain says:

    Thank you very much Alan for your input. I’ve changed the biography to reflect your comments.

  3. northbritain says:

    An article about Bryson’s missing manuscripts is found in the December 1942 edition of The Musical Times (no. 1198). The Musical Times have archived their early editions using JSTOR. The one page article can be found at

  4. northbritain says:

    December 1942 The Musical Times

    “The late Ernest Bryson: Missing Manuscripts”

    “My late brother, Ernest Bryson composed many works which were admired by his friends”.

    “He generously lent his manuscripts to friends and was perhaps rather careless about having them returned. Now that he has passed away, I am anxious to recover those manuscripts and to place them with his many unpublished works. I would greatly esteem hearing from friends who may have any of his manuscripts in their possession and ask the privilege of writing through your column”.

    Jessie Bryson, Yew Tree Cottage, St Briavels

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