In Memoriam: Sir William Glock

Musical Times, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview

In Memoriam: Sir William Glock


In recent years, Sir William Glock was notoriously the target of reproach from a paradoxical alliance of the English insular party, musical free marketers and modernday internationalists, all marching beneath the banner of anti-elitisim. No doubt Glock was sufficiently mindful of the roots of what had been his own revolutionary agenda - to bring the finest music to the greatest number of listeners, and to assume sufficient intelligence for them to relish it - to take the criticism for what it was. Besides, he himself was no stranger to opposition, being famous for the qualities both of charm and determination he brought to his most celebrated appointment, as BBC Controller, Music.

Yet Glock was also no mandarin administrator. A schoolmaster's son, he began his musical career as an organ scholar at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Encouraged by his mentor, Edward Dent (another great reformer), he went on to study piano with Schnabel in Berlin and Italy from 1930 to 1933, and between 1934 and 1945 he reviewed for The Observer, succeeding AH Fox Strangways as Chief Critic in 1939. He continued writing during his wartime RAF service, but in 1945 turned to lecturing, and in 1947 he also toured Europe for the newly launched Third Programme, to report on continental musical developments since 1939. Contacts made on this visit proved the starting point for the roster of distinguished foreign names he attracted to Britain as teachers and visitors, firstly to the Bryanston Summer School, founded in 1948, and then, when it moved location in 1953 to Darlington, the renowned summer school of that name, where he remained Director until 1979.

Founding The Score in 1949, which he edited until 1961, chairing the ICA Music Committee from 1954 to 1956, and running the International Music Association were just some of the additional ways in which Glock devoted himself to music in the 1950s. …

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