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Bliss, Sir Arthur (Drummond)

Bliss, Sir Arthur (Drummond)

Bliss, Sir Arthur (Drummond), eminent English composer; b. London, Aug. 2, 1891; d. there, March 27, 1975. He studied counterpoint with Charles Wood at the Univ. of Cambridge (Mus.B., 1913), and then pursued training with Stanford, Vaughan Williams, and Hoist at the Royal Coll. of Music in London (1913–14). While serving in the British Army during World War I, he was wounded in 1916 and gassed in 1918. After the Armistice, he gained recognition as something of an enfant terrible with his Madame Noy for Soprano and 7 Instruments (1918) and Rout for Soprano and 10 Instruments (1920). With such fine scores as A Colour Symphony (1921–22), the Introduction and Allegro for Orch. (1926), the Oboe Quintet (1927), and the Clarinet Quintet (1932), he rose to prominence as a composer of great distinction. His music for H.G. Well’s film Things to Come (1934–35) and the Music for Strings (1935) added luster to his reputation, which was further enhanced by his outstanding ballets Checkmate (1937), Miracle in the Gorbals (1944), and Adam Zero (1946). After a sojourn as a teacher in Berkeley, Calif. (1939–41), Bliss served as director of music for the BBC in London (194244). In 1950 he was knighted and in 1953 he was made the Master of the Queen’s Music. In 1969 he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order and in 1971 a Companion of Honour. G. Roscow ed. Bliss onMusic: Selected Writings of Arthur Bliss (1920–1975) (Oxford, 1991).


DRAMATIC: Opera: The Olympians (1944–49; London, Sept. 29, 1949); Tobias and the Angel (1958–59; BBC-TV, London, May 19, 1960). ballet:Checkmate (Paris, June 15, 1937); Miracle in the Gorbals (London, Oct. 26, 1944); Adam Zero (London, April 10, 1946); The Lady of Shalott (1957–58; Berkeley, Calif., May 2, 1958). Incidental Music: As You Like It (1919); The Tempest (1921); King Solomon (1924). F i 1 m : Things to Come (1934–35); Conquest of the Air (1936–37); Caesar and Cleopatra (1944); Men of Two World (1945); Presence au combat (1945); Christopher Columbus (1949); The Beggar’s Opera (1952–53); Seven Waves Away (1956). ORCH.: 2 Studies (1920; London, Feb. 17, 1921); Mêlée fantasque (London, Oct. 13, 1921); A Colour Symphony (1921–22; Gloucester, Sept. 7, 1922; rev. version, London, April 27, 1932); Twone, the House of Felicity (London, March 15, 1923); Elizabethan Suite for Strings (1923); Introduction and Allegro (London, Sept. 8, 1926); Hymn to Apollo (Amsterdam, Nov. 28, 1926); Music for Strings (Salzburg, Aug. 11, 1935); Piano Concerto (1938–39; N.Y., June 10, 1939); The Phoenix March: Homage to France, Aug. 1944 (Paris, March 11, 1945); Processional for the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II (London, June 2, 1953); Violin Concerto (1953–54; London, May 11, 1955); Meditations on a Theme by John Blow (Birmingham, Dec. 13, 1955); Edinburgh, overture (Edinburgh, Aug. 20, 1956); Discourse (Louisville, Oct. 23, 1957; rev. version, London, Sept. 28, 1965); March of Homage in Honour of a Great Man for Sir Winston Churchill (1961–62; BBC, London, March 30, 1962); Cello Concerto (1969–70; Aldeburgh, June 24, 1970); Metamor–phic Variations (1972; London, April 21, 1973). Brass and Military Band: Kenilworth Suite (1936); The First Guards, march (1956); The Belmont Variations (1962); The Linburn Air, march (1964); various fanfares for royal and other occasions. CHAMBER: Violin Sonata (c. 1914); 4 string quartets: No. 1 (Cambridge, May 30, 1914), No. 2 (1923–24), No. 3 (1940–41; N.Y., Jan. 13, 1944), and No. 4 (Edinburgh, Sept. 1, 1950); Piano Quartet (London, April 22, 1915); Piano Quintet (Paris, Nov. 26, 1919); Conversations for Flute, Oboe, Violin, Viola, and Cello (1920; London, April 20, 1921); Allegro for 2 Violins, Viola, and Piano (1923–24); Andante tranquillo e legato for Clarinet (1926–27); Oboe Quintet (Venice, Sept. 11, 1927); Clarinet Quintet (London, Dec. 19, 1932); Viola Sonata (London, May 9, 1933). Piano: Bliss (1923); Masks (1924); Toccata (c. 1925); 2 Interludes (1925); Suite (1925); The Rout Trot (1927); Study (1927); Sonata (1952; London, April 24, 1953); Miniature Scherzo (1969); Triptych (1970); A Wedding Suite (1973). VOCAL: Madame Noy for Soprano and 7 Instruments (1918; London, June 23, 1920); Rhapsody for Mezzo-soprano, Tenor, and 7 Instruments (1919; London, Oct. 6, 1920); Rout for Soprano and 10 Instruments (London, Dec. 15, 1920); 2 Nursery Rhymes for Soprano, Clarinet, and Piano (1920); Concerto for Piano, Tenor, Strings, and Percussion (London, June 11, 1921); The Women of Yueh, song cycle for Voice and Ensemble (N.Y., Nov. 11, 1923); Pastoral: Lie Strewn the White Flocks for Mezzosoprano, Chorus, Flute, Timpani, and String Orch. (1928–29; London, May 8, 1929); Serenade for Baritone and Orch. (1929; London, March 18, 1930); Morning Heroes, sym. for Orator, Chorus, and Orch., dedicated to the composer’s brother and all others who perished in battle (1929–30; Norwich, Oct. 22, 1930); The Enchantress, scene for Contralto and Orch. (Manchester, Oct. 2, 1951); A Song of Welcome for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (London, May 15, 1954); The Beatitudes, cantata for Soprano, Tenor, Chorus, Organ, and Orch. (1960–61; Coventry, May 25, 1962); Mary of Magdala, cantata for Contralto, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1962; Worcester, Sept. 2, 1963); The Golden Cantata for Tenor, Chorus, and Orch. (1963; Cambridge, Feb. 18, 1964); A Knot of Riddles, song cycle for Baritone and 11 Instruments (Cheltenham, July 11, 1963); The World Is Charged with the Grandeur of God, cantata for Chorus, 2 Flutes, 3 Trumpets, and 4 Trombones (Blythburgh, June 27, 1969); 2 Ballads for Children’s or Women’s Chorus and Piano or Small Orch. (1970); Shield of Faith, cantata for Soprano, Baritone, Chorus, and Organ (1974; Windsor, April 26, 1975); also unaccompanied vocal pieces.


S. Craggs, A. B.: A Bio-Bibliography (N.Y., 1988); idem, A. B.: A Source Book (Aldershot, 1996); J. Sugden, Sir A. B. (London, 1997).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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