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Macfarren, Sir George (Alexander)

Macfarren, Sir George (Alexander)

Macfarren, Sir George (Alexander), eminent English composer and pedagogue, brother of Walter (Cecil) Macfarren; b. London, March 2, 1813; d. there, Oct. 31,1887. He began his studies with his father, George Macfarren, who was a dancing-master and dramatist, and with Charles Lucas, and then studied composition with C. Potter at the Royal Academy of Music in London (1829–36). He was a tutor there (1834–37), then a prof. (1837–47; 1851–75), and subsequently its principal (1875–87). He was also a prof. of music at Cambridge Univ. (1875–87). He was knighted in 1883. He suffered from eye problems from the age of 10, becoming totally blind in 1860. However, he continued to compose by dictating to an amanuensis. He had the great satisfaction of having his early overture Chevy Chace performed by Mendelssohn in Leipzig (1843) and by Wagner in London (1855). Macfarren’s greatest ambition was to write an opera that would reflect the spirit of England, as the operas of Weber were redolent of the mythical lyricism of German folklore, but he signally failed in this endeavor. His 9 syms. enjoyed transient favor, but attempts at their revival foundered in time. His wife, Natalia Macfarren (née Clarina Thalia Andrae; b. Lübeck, Dec. 14,1826; d. Bakewell, April 9,1916), was a singer who studied with Macfarren and dutifully sang in his operas. She publ, a Vocal Method and an Elementary Course of Vocalising and Pronouncing the English Language.


dramatic: Opera: Tte Prince of Modena (1833); El Malhechor (1837–38); The Devil’s Opera (London, Aug. 13, 1838); An Adventure of Don Quixote (London, Feb. 3, 1846); King Charles II (London, Oct. 27, 1849); Allan of Aberfeldy (c. 1850); Robin Hood (London, Oct. 11, 1860); Jessy Lea, opera di camera (London, Nov. 2, 1863); She Stoops to Conquer (London, Feb. 11, 1864); The Soldier’s Legacy, opera di camera (London, July 10, 1864); Helvellyn (London, Nov. 3, 1864); Kenilworth (1880); other stage works. orch.:9 syms. (1828; 1831; 1832; 1833; 1833; 1836; 1839–40; 1845; 1874); Overture (1832); Piano Concerto (1835); Flute Concerto (1863); Violin Concerto (1871–74). overtures:The Merchant of Venice (1834); Romeo and Juliet (1836); Chevy Chace (1836); Don Carlos (1842); Hamlet (1856); Festival Overture (1874). chamber:5 string quartets (1834,1842,1846,1849,1878); Quintet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Piano (1844); Violin Sonata (1887). keyboard:3 piano sonatas (1842, 1845, 1880); various piano and organ pieces. arrangements:Popular Music of the Olden Time (1859); Popular Songs of Scotland (1874). vocal: oratorios and cantatas:The Sleeper Awakened (London, Nov. 15, 1850); Lenora (London, April 25, 1853); Christmas (London, May 9, 1860); Si. John the Baptist (Bristol, Oct. 23, 1873); The Resurrection (Birmingham, 1876); Joseph (Leeds, 1877); King David (Leeds, 1883). other:Numerous sacred and secular vocal works; choral works; part-songs; trios; duets; some 160 solo songs.


H. Banister, GA. M.: His Life, Works and Influence (London, 1891).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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