Hamilton, Iain (Ellis)

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Hamilton, Iain (Ellis)

Hamilton, Iain (Ellis), remarkable Scottish composer; b. Glasgow, June 6, 1922; d. London, July 21, 2000. He was taken to London at the age of 7, and attended Mill Hill School; after graduation, he became an apprentice engineer, but studied music in his leisure time. He was 25 years old when he decidedly turned to music; won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, where he studied piano with Harold Craxton and composition with William Alwyn; concurrently studied at the Univ. of London (B.Mus., 1950). He made astonishing progress as a composer, and upon graduation from the Royal Academy of Music received the prestigious Dove Prize (1950); other awards included the Royal Phil. Soc. Prize for his Clarinet Concerto (1951), the Koussevitzky Foundation Award for his 2nd Sym. (1951), the Edwin Evans Prize (1951), the Arnold Bax Gold Medal (1957), and the Vaughan Williams Award (1974). From 1951 to 1960 he was a lecturer at Morley Coll. in London; he also lectured at the Univ. of London (1952–60). He served as Mary Duke Biddle Prof, of Music at Duke Univ. in Durham, N.C. (1961–78), where he was chairman of its music dept. (1966–67); also was composer-in-residence at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Mass, (summer, 1962). In 1970 he received an honorary D.Mus. from the Univ. of Glasgow. His style of composition is marked by terse melodic lines animated by a vibrant rhythmic pulse, creating the impression of kinetic lyricism; his harmonies are built on a set of peculiarly euphonious dissonances, which repose on emphatic tonal centers. For several years he pursued a sui generis serial method, but soon abandoned it in favor of a free modern manner; in his operas, he makes use of thematic chords depicting specific dramatic situations.


dramatic:Clerk Saunders, ballet (1951); The Royal Hunt of the Sun, opera (1966-68; 1975; London, Feb. 2, 1977); Agamemnon, dramatic narrative (1967–69); Pharsalia, dramatic commentary (1968); The Cataline Conspiracy, opera (1972-73; Stirling, Scotland, March 16, 1974); Tamburlaine, lyric drama (1976; BBC, London, Feb. 14, 1977); Anna Karenina, opera (1977-78; London, May 7, 1981); Dick Whittington, lyric comedy (1980–81); Lancelot, opera (1982-83; Arundel, England, Aug. 24, 1985); Raleigh’s Dream, opera (1983; Durham, N.C, June 3, 1984); The Tragedy of Macbeth, opera (1990); London’s Fair, opera (1992). ORCH.: 4 syms.: No. 1 (1948), No. 2 (1951), No. 3, Spring (1981; London, July 24, 1982), and No. 4 (1981; Edinburgh, Jan. 21, 1983); Variations on an Original Theme for Strings (1948); 2 piano concertos: No. 1 (1949) and No. 2 (1960; rev. 1967, 1987; BBC, Glasgow, May 1989); Clarinet Concerto (1950); Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola, and Chamber Orch. (1950); 2 violin concertos: No. 1 (1952) and No. 2, Amphion (1971); Scottish Dances (1956); Sonata per orchestra da camera (1956); Overture: 1812 (1957); Concerto for Jazz Trumpet and Orch. (1957); Sinfonia for 2 Orchestras (1958); Ecossaise (1959); Arias for Small Orch. (1962); The Chaining of Prometheus for Wind Instruments and Percussion (1963); Cantos (1964); Concerto for Organ and Small Orch. (1964); Circus for 2 Trumpets and Orch. (1969); Alastor (1970); Voyage for Horn and Chamber Orch. (1970); Commedia, concerto (London, May 4, 1973); Aurora (N.Y., Nov. 21, 1975); The Alexandrian Sequence for Chamber Orch. (1976). CHAMBER: 2 quintets for Clarinet and String Quartet: No. 1 (1948) and No. 2, Sea Music (1974); 4 string quartets (1949, 1965, 1984, 1984); Quartet for Flute and String Trio (1951); 3 Nocturnes for Clarinet and Piano (1951); Viola Sonata (1951); Capriccio for Trumpet and Piano (1951); Clarinet Sonata (1954); Piano Trio (1954); 2 octets: No. 1 for Strings (1954) and No. 2 for Winds (1983); Serenata for Violin and Clarinet (1955); 2 cello sonatas (1958, 1974); Sextet for Flute, 2 Clarinets, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1962); Sonatas and Variants for 10 Wind Instruments (1963); Brass Quintet (1964); Sonata notturna for Horn and Piano (1965); Flute Sonata (1966); Violin Sonata (1974); Hyperion for Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1977); Spirits of the Air for Bass Trombone (1977). keyboard:piano: 3 sonatas (1951, rev. 1971; 1973; 1978); 3 Pieces (1955); Nocturnes with Cadenzas (1963); Palinodes (1972); Le Jardin de Monet (1986). organ:Fanfares and Variants (1960); Aubade (1965); ThrenosIn Time of War (1966); Paraphrase of the Music for Organs in Epitaph for this World and Time (1970); Roman Music (1973); A Vision of Canopus (1975); Le Tombeau de Bach (1986). VOCAL: The Bermudas for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1956); Cinque canzone d’amore for Tenor and Orch. (1957); Nocturnal for 11 Solo Voices (1959); A Testament of War for Baritone and Small Instrumental Ensemble (1961); Dialogues for Coloratura Soprano and Small Instrumental Ensemble (1965); Epitaph for This World and Time for 3 Choruses and 3 Organs (1970); The Golden Sequence for Chorus, Congregation, and Organ (1973); Te Deum for Chorus, Winds, Brass, and Percussion (1973–74); Cleopatra, dramatic scene for Soprano and Orch. (1977); Requiem for Chorus (1979; BBC, Glasgow, May 1980); Mass for Chorus (1980; London, April 4, 1981); Vespers for Chorus, 2 Pianos, Harp, and Percussion (1980); The Morning Watch for Chorus and 10 Wind Instruments (1981); The Passion of Our Lord According to St. Mark for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Orch. (1982; London, May 6, 1983); The Bright Heavens Sounding for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, Chorus, and Instrumental Ensemble (1985; London, June 27, 1986); Prometheus for Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Tenor, Baritone, Chorus, and Orch. (1986); Paris de Crépuscule à l’aube for Voice and Orch. or Piano (1986); La Mort de Phèdre for Voice and Orch. (1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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