Sargent, Sir (Harold) Malcolm (Watts)

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Sargent, Sir (Harold) Malcolm (Watts)

Sargent, Sir (Harold) Malcolm (Watts), eminent English conductor; b. Stamford, Lincolnshire, April 29, 1895; d. London, Oct. 3, 1967. He studied organ at the Royal Coll. of Organists in London, then was articled to Keeton, organist of Peterborough Cathedral (1912–14); subsequently served in the infantry during World War I. He made his first major conducting appearance on Feb. 3, 1921, in Leicester, leading the Queen’s Hall Orch. of London in his own composition, Allegro impetuoso: An Impression on a Windy Day. He then went to London, where he conducted the D’Oyly Carte Opera Co. and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes; from 1928 he was conductor-in-chief of the Royal Choral Soc. From 1929 to 1940 he was conductor of the Courtauld-Sargent Concerts in London. He toured Australia in 1936, 1938, and 1939, and Palestine in 1937. He was conductor-in-chief and musical adviser of the Hallé Orch. of Manchester (1939–42); then was principal conductor of the Liverpool Phil. (1942–48). In 1945 he made his American debut with the NBC Sym. Orch. in N.Y; then made appearances in Europe, Australia, and Japan. He was knighted in 1947. From 1950 to 1957 he was chief conductor of the BBC Sym. Orch. in London; led this ensemble on several European tours. From 1948 to 1966 he also served as chief conductor of the London Promenade Concerts. He took the London Phil, on an extensive Far Eastern tour in 1962; also led the Royal Phil, to the Soviet Union and the U.S. in 1963. His performances of the standard repertoire were distinguished for their precision and brilliance; he championed the music of Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton, and other English composers throughout his career. A commemorative stamp with his portrait was issued by the Post Office of Great Britain on Sept. 1, 1980.


C. Reid, M. S.: A Biography (London, 1968).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire