New Look at Forgotten Composer; CLASSIAL

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), November 2, 2001 | Go to article overview

New Look at Forgotten Composer; CLASSIAL


THERE will be no camp fires or wigwams at the Liverpool Phil lunchtime concert next Wednesday, despite the appearance on the programme of the composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. For many years his massive work Hiawatha was a favourite of choral societies, and spectacular arena productions with painted braves from South Norwood dancing around the totem pole were a regular event at London's Royal Albert Hall. But in the last 40 years tastes have changed.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875 and spent most of his short life living in Croydon. Despite a fairly basic education his astonishing musical gifts were quickly realised and he was still studying a the Royal College of Music under the watchful eye of Stanford. His gifts were such that he was compared with fellow students Gustav Holst and Vaughan Williams, and initially his star far outshone them, until his early death at the age of 37 in 1912 from overwork.

Always living and working under the handicap of racial prejudice (his father was a West African doctor), his early promise as a composer was curtailed for songs, choral music and incidental scores for the theatre. He was in demand to direct London musical societies, and he taught the Royal College of Music. No wonder he burnt himself out.

His Hiawatha, composed between 1898 and 1900, was a great success at the Birmingham Festival on the same day that Elgar's Gerontius received its disastrous performance. It went on to conquer not only Britain but also the United States.

Today perhaps only the aria On away Awake Beloved remains in the memory, recorded, incidently, by the tenor Webster Booth with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra under Sir Malcolm Sargent in July 1944. …

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