Wood, (Sir) Henry (Joseph)

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Wood, (Sir) Henry (Joseph) (b London, 1869; d Hitchin, 1944). Eng. conductor and organist. Taught by his mother, and was deputy church organist at age of 10. Org., St John's Fulham, 1887. Studied RAM under Prout and García, intending to be composer. Obtained post as cond. with Rousbey touring opera co., 1889. Helped Sullivan to rehearse Ivanhoe 1890. Cond. for Carl Rosa, 1891. Cond. f.p. in England of Eugene Onegin, 1892. Taught singing until 1894, when he was mus. adviser to Mottl's Wagner concerts at new Queen's Hall. In 1895 engaged by Robert Newman as cond. of his new series of Promenade concerts in London. These he built to be a premier feature of Eng. mus. life, retaining conductorship until year of his death. After 1896 cond. no more opera but devoted himself to concert work in London and in many provincial cities and at all the leading fests. (Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Norwich, etc.). Waged war on ‘deputy’ system, whereby orch. players could send deputy to a concert while they took a more remunerative engagement, and did as much as any Eng. cond. to raise standards of playing. Amer. début NYPO 1904. Declined conductorship of Boston SO, 1918. Tireless champion of contemp. mus. List of works of which he gave f.ps. and f.ps. in England is long and honourable. Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Strauss, Scriabin, Bartók, and Debussy were championed by him before their present popularity. Cond. first complete perf. of Schoenberg's 5 Orchestral Pieces in 1912, the f.ps. in England of Mahler's 1st, 4th, 7th, and 8th syms. and Das Lied von der Erde, and introduced the mus. of Janáček to Eng. Every major Eng. composer of his lifetime was perf. at the Proms, and he helped the careers of many Brit. singers and instrumentalists. At his golden jubilee concert, 1938, 16 leading Brit. singers took part in Vaughan Williams's Serenade to Music, ded. to Wood. Made several orch. transcriptions, incl. Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor (under the name P. Klenovsky) and arr. Fantasia on British Sea Songs perf. on last night of every Prom season, with audience participation (orig. written for Trafalgar centenary concert 1905). Knighted 1911. CH 1944.

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