Banfield, Stephen 1951–

views updated

BANFIELD, Stephen 1951–

PERSONAL: Born July 15, 1951, in London, England; son of D. R. (a Baptist minister) and J. M. K. Banfield. Education: Clare College, Cambridge, M.A., 1972; St. John's College, Oxford, D.Phil., 1975; attended Harvard University, 1975–76. Hobbies and other interests: Literature, walking, travel, architecture.

ADDRESSES: Home—6 King's Court, 108 Livery St., Birmingham B3 1RR, England. Office—School of Humanities, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, England.

CAREER: University of Keele, Keele, England, lecturer, 1978–88, senior lecturer in music, 1988–92, department head, 1988–90; University of Birmingham, Birmingham, England, Elgar Professor of Music, 1992–. Tallis Scholars Trust, member of board of trustees.

MEMBER: Royal Musical Association, Royal Society of Arts (fellow), Viola da Gamba Society, American Musicological Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: Irving Lowens Award and Kurt Weil Prize, both 1995, for Sondheim's Broadway Musicals.


Sensibility and English Song, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1985.

Sondheim's Broadway Musicals, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1993.

(Editor and contributor) The Blackwell History of Music in Britain, Volume VI: The Twentieth Century, Blackwell Publishing (Cambridge, MA), 1995.

Gerald Finzi: An English Composer, Faber (London, England), 1997.

Member of editorial committee, Musica Britannica.

SIDELIGHTS: Stephen Banfield's book Gerald Finzi: An English Composer analyzes the musical works of Finzi, who lived from 1901 to 1956. Historically speaking, Finzi came after Edward Elgar, Vaughan Williams, and the other composers who were responsible for the so-called English renaissance. To their innovations, Finzi added the more modern elements of atonality and dissonance. He set to music many poems by Thomas Hardy and the ode "Intimations of Immortality," by William Wordsworth. A meticulous reviser, Finzi was known to keep working on his compositions almost until the moment they were premiered. Due to this trait and his relatively short lifespan, his body of work contains only forty compositions, "but each successive piece shows him maturing musically," observed Alan Hirsch in a Booklist review of Gerald Finzi. He added that while the book is of interest mainly to musicologists, "any student of modern English music will learn from it," as Finzi's music bridges the gap between the composers of the English renaissance and more contemporary composers.

Banfield's book also gives insight into Finzi's personal life. According to Peter Phillips, a reviewer for New Republic, Finzi's music "is as English as anyone could define music to be; but Banfield shows that its Englishness was in some ways a careful, even a desperate, construct." Finzi, though born in London, was a member of a distinguished Italian Jewish family. He rejected his heritage, even to the extent of destroying family papers documenting it, and his personality showed the marks of his inner conflict about his roots. His "lifelong attempt to reconcile his 'Englishness' with his Italian Jewish heritage led to an undercurrent of mystery and pathos in much of his work," reflected Larry Lipkis in a Library Journal review of Banfield's biography. Midstream reviewer George Jochnowitz summarized, "Banfield's book about Finzi is detailed and technical but always interesting. The story of Finzi's life makes us eager to hear his music; hearing his music makes us curious about his life."

Banfield once told CA: "My work is motivated by rigorous, critical scholarship—analysis, source studies, history—on the one hand, and contextual, interdisciplinary humanism on the other. These approaches are ideals, however, not attainments. I should add that I love the stuff I write about."



Booklist, June 1, 2000, Alan Hirsch, review of Gerald Finzi: An English Composer, p. 1829.

Library Journal, November 1, 1993, Diane H. Albosta, review of Sondheim's Broadway Musicals, p. 94; June 1, 2000, Larry Lipkis, review of Gerald Finzi, p. 128.

Midstream, January, 2001, George Jochnowitz, review of Gerald Finzi, p. 42.

New Republic, January 15, 2001, Peter Phillips, review of Gerald Finzi, p. 35.

Notes, March, 1995, Geoffrey Block, review of Sondheim's Broadway Musicals, p. 956.


University of Bristol, (August 26, 2004), faculty bio.