Kenneth Leighton was born in Wakefield in 1929. In 1946, while still at school he gained the LRAM Piano Performer’s diploma. In 1947 he went up to The Queen’s College, Oxford, on a Hastings Scholarship in Classics; in 1951 he graduated both with a BA in Classics, and a BMus. In the same year he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship and went to Rome to study with Goffredo Petrassi.
In 1955, while only 26, he moved to Scotland and – apart from a two year spell between 1968-70 at Oxford University – Edinburgh was to remain his home. He was appointed Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh in 1955, progressing later to Senior Lecturer and then Reader. In October 1970 he was appointed Reid Professor of Music – the post once held by Donald Tovey – at the University of Edinburgh, the post which he held until his death.
Leighton had a deep love of Scotland, especially of the landscape and Celtic tradition of the Western Isles. This influenced much of his music, notably his three-act opera “St Columba” (Opus 77), which was first performed in Glasgow in June 1981.
In 1970 he was awarded the Doctorate in Music by the University of Oxford, and in 1977 was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of St Andrews for his work as a composer. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1982.
Kenneth Leighton died in Edinburgh on 24 August 1988. At Kenneth Leighton’s request, the original manuscripts of his music, both composition sketches and completed scores, were presented to the Reid Music Library of the University of Edinburgh on his death in 1988 by his widow Mrs Jo Leighton.
His compositions include three symphonies, eight concertos for various solo instruments, an important output of church music and a wide variety of chamber, and instrumental and vocal works.
The Piano Works are a boxset featuring Angela Brownridge, who studied with Kenneth Leighton at the University of Edinburgh.
And, appropriately for a man who gave so much to Edinburgh and its University, the Edinburgh Quartet have two discs showcasing Leighton’s chamber works:-