Bliss, (Sir) Arthur (Drummond)

views updated May 23 2018

Bliss, (Sir) Arthur (Drummond) (b London, 1891; d London, 1975). Eng. composer, conductor, and administrator. Served in Royal Fusiliers 1914–17, Grenadier Guards 1917–18. From 1919 earned reputation of being enfant terrible, influenced in such works as Madame Noy and Rout by Stravinsky, Satie, etc. Wrote incid. mus. for Nigel Playfair, 1919. Cond. Portsmouth Philharmonic Soc. 1921. His Colour Symphony was commissioned for the 1922 Three Choirs Fest. on Elgar's suggestion. Went to Santa Barbara, Calif., 1923–5, working as cond. Returned to Eng. 1925, writing a series of chamber works for virtuosi soloists and ensembles. His Morning Heroes (1930) was perf. at 1930 Norwich Fest., one of its movts. being a setting of a war poem by Wilfred Owen. Music for Strings followed in 1935. In 1934–5 he wrote the mus. for Korda's H. G. Wells film Things to Come and in 1937 his ballet Checkmate was produced at SW. Two other important ballet scores, Miracle in the Gorbals (1944) and Adam Zero (1946), followed. His piano concerto was first performed at the 1939 New York World Fair. From 1939 to 1941 he taught at Berkeley in California, but on return to Eng. became BBC dir. of mus., 1942–4. An opera, The Olympians, to a lib. by J. B. Priestley, failed to win approval at its 1949 CG première, but he wrote an opera for television, Tobias and the Angel, in 1960 to a lib. by Christopher Hassall. Among the best of his later works were the vn. conc. (for Campoli) and the orch. Meditations on a Theme by John Blow (both 1955) and the vc. conc. (1970). Bliss's early Stravinskyan phase gave way to works in a bold, post-Elgarian style, vigorous and rich in texture but lacking the inner poetry of his model. Some of his best music is to be found in his chamber works, notably the cl. quintet, written for Frederick Thurston, and the ob. quintet, for Léon Goossens. His sense of drama and of vivid musical imagery found their truest outlet in his ballet scores and in the excellent Things to Come suite. In 1950 he was knighted and in 1953 became Master of the Queen's Music, a post he filled with flair and energy. KCVO 1969. CH 1971. Prin. works:OPERAS: The Olympians (1948–9); The Beggar's Opera (1952–3, version of Gay– Pepusch work for film); Tobias and the Angel (1960).BALLETS: Checkmate (1937); Miracle in the Gorbals (1944); Adam Zero (1946); The Lady of Shalott (1958).ORCH.: 2 Studies (1920); Mêlée Fantasque (1921, rev. 1937 and 1965); A Colour Symphony (1921–2, rev. 1932); Introduction and Allegro (1926, rev. 1937); Hymn to Apollo (1926, rev. 1965); Music for Strings (1935); Processional, with org. (1953); Meditations on a Theme by John Blow (1955); Edinburgh Overture (1956); Metamorphic Variations (1972); 2 Contrasts, str. (1972, arr. from str. qt. No.2).CONCERTOS: 2 pianos (1924, rev. 1925–9 and 1950), also arr. for 2 pianos (3 hands) in 1968; pf. (1938–9); vn. (1955); vc. (1970).CHORAL: Pastoral: Lie Strewn the White Flocks, mez., ch., orch. (1928), Morning Heroes, sym., orator, ch., orch. (1930); A Song of Welcome, sop., bar., ch., orch. (1954); The Beatitudes, sop., ten., ch., orch. (1961); Mary of Magdala, cont., bar., ch., orch. (1962); The Golden Cantata, ten., ch., orch. (1963); The World is charged with the grandeur of God, ch., wind (1969); 2 Ballads, women's vv., orch. (1971).UNACC. VOICES: Aubade for Coronation Morning (1953); Seek the Lord (1956); Birthday Song for a Royal Child (1959); Stand up and bless the Lord your God (1960); Cradle Song for a Newborn Child (1963); O Give Thanks (1965); River Music (1967); Lord, who shall abide in Thy Tabernacle (1968); A Prayer to the Infant Jesus (1968); Ode for Sir William Walton (1972); Prayer of St Francis of Assisi (1972); Put thou thy trust in the Lord (1972); Sing, Mortals! (1974); Shield of Faith (1974).VOICE(S) & ENS.: Madam Noy, sop. (1918); Rhapsody, sop., ten. (1919); Rout, sop. (1920); 2 Nursery Rhymes, sop. (1920); The Women of Yueh, sop. (1923–4); Serenade, bar. (1929); The Enchantress, scena for cont. (1951); Elegiac Sonnet, ten. (1954); A Knot of Riddles, bar. (1963).BRASS AND MILITARY BAND: Kenilworth Suite (1936); The First Guards (1956); Belmont Variations (1963); The Linburn Air (1965); and many ceremonial fanfares for royal and other occasions.CHAMBER MUSIC: str. qt. (1914, withdrawn), str. qt. (1923–4? MS), No.1 in B♭ (1941), No.2 (1950); Conversations, fl., alto fl., ob., cor ang., vn., va., vc. (1920); pf. quintet (1919, unpubd.); ob. quintet (1927); cl. quintet (1932).INCID. MUS. (STAGE AND RADIO) AND FILM MUSIC: As You Like It (1919); King Solomon (1924); Things to Come (1934–5); Conquest of the Air (1937); Caesar and Cleopatra (1944); Men of Two Worlds (1945); Christopher Columbus (1949); Summer Day's Dream (1949).PIANO: Bliss (1923); Masks (1924); Toccata (c.1925); Interludes (1925); Suite (1926); The Rout Trot (1927); Study (1927); Sonata (1952); Miniature Scherzo (1969); Fun and Games, 2 pf. 3 hands (1970); Triptych (1970); A Wedding Suite (1974).SOLO SONGS: The Tramps (c.1916); 3 Romantic Songs (1921); 3 Songs (1923, rev. 1972); When I was One and Twenty (1923); Ballads of the 4 Seasons (1923); 3 Jolly Gentlemen (1924); The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House (1924); A Child's Prayer (1926); Rich or Poor (1925–6); Simples (1932); 7 American Poems (1940); Auvergnat (1943); Angels of the Mind, song-cycle, 7 songs (1969); Tulips (1970).

Bliss, Sir Arthur

views updated May 29 2018

Bliss, Sir Arthur (1891–1975) English composer. He was a pupil of Charles Villiers Stanford, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Gustav Holst. Bliss' works include the Colour Symphony (1932), quintets for oboe (1927) and clarinet (1931), a piano concerto (1938), two operas and a number of choral works. From 1953 he was Master of the Queen's Music.

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Sir Arthur Bliss

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