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Lambert, (Leonard) Constant

Lambert, (Leonard) Constant, remarkable English conductor, composer, and writer on music; b. London, Aug. 23, 1905; d. there, Aug. 21, 1951. He won a scholarship to the Royal Coll. of Music in London, where he studied with R.O. Morris and Vaughan Williams (1915–22). His first major score, the ballet Romeo and Juliet (Monte Carlo, May 4, 1926), was commissioned by Diaghilev. This early association with the dance proved decisive, for he spent most of his life as a conductor and composer of ballets. His interest in jazz resulted in such fine scores as Elegiac Blues for Orch. (1927), The Rio Grande for Piano, Chorus, and Orch. (1927; to a text by S. Sitwell), and the Concerto for Piano and 9 Performers (1930–31). Of his many ballets, the most striking in craftsmanship was his Horoscope (1937). In the meantime, he became conductor of the Camargo Soc. for the presentation of ballet productions (1930). He was made music director of the Vic-Wells Ballet (1931), and remained in that capacity after it became the Sadler’s Wells Ballet and the Royal Ballet, until resigning in 1947; he then was made one of its artistic directors (1948), and subsequently conducted it on its first visit to the U.S. (1949). He also appeared at London’s Covent Garden (1937; 1939; 1946-47). He was assoc. conductor of the London Promenade Concerts (1945–46), and then frequently conducted broadcast performances over the BBC. He contributed articles on music to the Nation and Athenaeum (from 1930) and to the Sunday Referee (from 1931). He also penned the provocative book Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline (London, 1934). Lambert was one of the most gifted musicians of his generation. However, his demanding work as a conductor and his excessive consumption of alcohol prevented him from fully asserting himself as a composer in his later years.


dramatic: Ballet: Romeo and Juliet (1924-25; Monte Carlo, May 4, 1926); Pomona (1926; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires, Sept. 9, 1927); Horoscope (1937; Sadler’s Wells, London, Jan. 27, 1938, composer conducting); Tiresias (1950-51; Covent Garden, London, July 9, 1951, composer conducting); also various arrangements.orch.:The Bird Actors, overture (1925; reorchestrated, 1927; London, July 5, 1931, composer conducting; orig. for Piano, 4-Hands); Champêtre for Chamber Orch. (London, Oct. 27, 1926); Elegiac Blues (1927; also for Piano); Music for Orchestra (1927; BBC, June 4, 1929); The Rio Grande for Piano, Chorus, and Orch., after S. Sitwell (1927; BBC, Feb. 27, 1928, composer conducting); Concerto for Piano, Flute, 2 Clarinets, Bass Clarinet, Trumpet, Trombone, Percussion, Cello, and Double Bass (London, Dec. 18, 1931, composer conducting); Summer’s Last Will and Testament for Baritone, Chorus, and Orch., after T. Nashe (1932-35; London, Jan. 29, 1936, composer conducting); Dirge from Cymbeline for Tenor, Baritone, Men’s Chorus, and Strings or Piano, after Shakespeare (with Piano, Cambridge, Nov. 1940; with Strings, BBC, March 23, 1947, composer conducting); Aubade héroïque (1942; London, Feb. 21, 1943, composer conducting).piano:Pastorale (1926); Elegiac Blues (1927; also for Orch.); Sonata (1928-29; London, Oct. 30, 1929); Elegy (1938); Trois pièces nègres pour les touches blanches for Piano, 4-Hands (1949). songs:8 Poems of Li-Po for Voice, and Piano or 8 Instruments (1926-29; with Instruments, London, Oct. 30, 1929).other: Film scores, incidental music, and arrangements or eds. of works by Boyce, Handel, and Purcell.


R. Shead, C. L. (London, 1973; 2nd ed., rev., 1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Lambert, (Leonard) Constant (b Fulham, London, 1905; d London, 1951). Eng. composer, conductor, and critic. Ballet Romeo and Juliet commissioned by Diaghilev and prod. Monte Carlo 1926. Series of brilliant works est. him with Walton among leading younger Eng. composers. Influenced by jazz, esp. Duke Ellington. His biggest success was with The Rio Grande, a setting of Sacheverell Sitwell (1927). Took leading part in est. of British ballet, and made th. orch. version of Vaughan Williams's Job, 1931. Cond. Camargo Society ballet 1930 and ballet and opera at SW, being mus. dir. Vic-Wells ballet from its foundation in 1931 until 1947, then mus. adviser SW Ballet from 1948. Cond. Purcell's The Fairy Queen, in a vers. by him and E. J. Dent, at CG 1946, the first post-war prod. there. Brilliant writer, his book Music, Ho! (1934) being an important and idiosyncratic commentary on contemporary mus. at that date. Witty conversationalist. Notable narrator in Walton's Façade with Edith Sitwell. Champion of mus. of Boyce, several of whose works he arr. Also advocate for Liszt when it was unfashionable in Eng. to admire him. Prin. works:BALLETS: Romeo and Juliet (1924–5); Pomona (1926); Apparitions (orch. of Liszt) (1936); Horoscope (1937); Tiresias (1950–1).INCID. MUSIC: Jew Süss (1929); Salome (1931); Hamlet (1944).ORCH.: Champêtre (1926); Elegiac Blues (1927, orch. of pf. piece); Music for Orch. (1927); pf. conc. (1931); Aubade héroïque (1942); incidental mus. for Hamlet.CHORAL: The Rio Grande, pf., ch., orch. (1927); Summer's Last Will and Testament, bar., ch., orch. (1932–5); Dirge (from Cymbeline), ten., bar., male ch., str. (or pf.) (1940).VOCAL: 8 Poems of Li-Po, v., pf. or 8 instr. (1926–9).PIANO: Pastorale (1926); Elegiac Blues (1927, also orch.); sonata (1928–9); 2 pièces nègres pour les touches blanches, 4 hands (1949).

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