Royal College of Music Composers

Royal College of Music

This exhibition highlights some of the composers who have taught and studied at the Royal College of Music during its first 50 years. It illustrates the vibrancy and impact the Royal College of Music had on British music.

Charles Villiers Stanford
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, one of the foremost composers and teachers of his generation, was the first Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music.

During his time at the Royal College of Music he taught all of the other composers in this exhibition. Stanford’s musical language is indebted to both Brahms and the folk tunes of his native Ireland.

He spoke out against the ‘crushingly chromatic’ idiom of Tristan und Isolde and developed the argument in his Ode to Discord.

Completed in 1908 and setting A Chimerical Bombination in Four Bursts by his friend Charles Larcom Graves, it is a satirical swipe at the excesses he saw in contemporary works of his day.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor entered the Royal College of Music as a violin student in 1890, but his real interest was in composition.  Two years later, with an anthem already in print, he began to study with Stanford.

His progress was rapid and within months his music was being performed in College concerts. His Clarinet Quintet, which dates from 1895, was written in response to Stanford’s challenge to his pupils to write such a work that was not influenced by Brahms’ example.

Coleridge-Taylor left the RCM in 1897 and in the following year scored a huge success with his cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast.

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Vaughan Williams had a lifelong relationship with the Royal College of Music, studying here in the 1890s and joining the teaching staff in 1919.

'The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains. A Pastoral Episode' was written in 1921, and first performed in the Parry Theatre at the college on 11th July 1922. It was later incorporated into his opera The Pilgrim’s Progress.

This score, written in Vaughan Williams’s hand, was used by the director when preparing the first production, as can be seen from the notes concerning stage directions.

It also illustrates the development of the music, including re-written sections which have been pasted into the score, obliterating the original music completely.

George Dyson
Sir George Dyson had an incredibly close relationship with the Royal College of Music. He studied at the college from 1900, became a professor here in 1921 and was RCM Director from 1938 to 1952 – he was the first director to have been taught here.

This cantata was written in 1928 and sets five of the seven verses of William Dunbar’s poem of the same name.

It was written in response to Dyson’s concern about the lack of new works being performed by choral societies.

It was his first mature choral work and marks the start of a list of works written for the wider choral tradition including The Canterbury Pilgrims, St Paul’s Voyage to Melita and Quo Vadis.

Herbert Howells
Herbert Howells (1892–1983) entered the Royal College of Music in 1912 on an open scholarship to study composition with Stanford, where he was considered outstanding, even in a class that included Arthur Bliss, Arthur Benjamin and Ivor Gurney. He later returned as a professor, teaching composition and harmony from 1920–1978.

This set of anthems was composed at the start of 1941.

The first 3 anthems were written during one week in January, when Howells was staying in Cheltenham after his London home had been destroyed in an air raid.

The last anthem was completed on Easter Day 1941.

They are dedicated to Thomas Armstrong of Christ Church, Oxford who gave the first complete performance of the set on 20th February 1944.

Credits: Story

Test: Peter Linnitt

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