British Music: Nine Great British Composers Whom Time Forgot

Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) affirmed her unstinting support for women’s suffrage in March of the Women and also brought verismo to England in her opera The Wreckers (1906). Her style owes much to German romanticism.

Constant Lambert (1905-51) was an attractive and colourful figure in English music who introduced Jazz and Stravinsky-inspired features into once very popular works like The Rio Grande for piano, orchestra and chorus (1927).

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) achieved phenomenal success with the exotic cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast (1898). Sadly, little is heard of his music now.

Lord Berners (1883-1950) was both highly cultured and highly eccentric, qualities not uncommon in his generation. His music is related to the ironies of Les Six, and his ballets certainly deserve more attention.

Cyril Scott (1879-1970) is a fascinating figure whose music often veers towards the erotic mysticism of Scriabin. The Piano Concerto is arguably his finest achievement.

William Sterndale Bennett (1816-75) is little played today, yet his concertos and overtures were admired by Schumann and regularly played.

Henry VIII (1491-1547) added to his marital and martial accomplishments, a gift for composition manifested in some 34 works, many of which are vocal. There is a three-part motet entitled Quam pulchra es (How pure it is).

Alan Rawsthorne (1905-71) represents numerous English composers working in a fairly conservative romantic idiom who may or may not make it into the next millennium. He wrote mainly in traditional genres, often extremely well.

Hamilton Harty (1879-1941) was born in Ireland though most of his career was centred in London and he died in Brighton. As well as being a conductor of near genius he wrote several attractive works, notably the Irish Symphony.

Classic CD magazine, 1997

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