(b Cheam, Surrey, 20 Feb 1948). English conductor. He studied conducting with Boult at the RCM and the harpsichord with Leonhardt in Amsterdam. His first association with the Royal Ballet was as soloist in Frank Martin’s Harpsichord Concerto for Kenneth MacMillan’s Las hermanas, after which he was invited to conduct the touring company in 1973. From 1974 to 1984 he was principal conductor for Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet; he also worked as guest conductor with the Royal Ballet, the Australian Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada, and was music director of New Sadler’s Wells Opera for seasons of operetta in the 1980s. In 1991 he became music director of both the Royal Ballet in London and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, reverting to guest status with the London company in 1995. He was appointed music director of the BBC Concert Orchestra in 1989 and has appeared with other major British orchestras, making his opera début at Covent Garden with Carmen in 1991. A skilled practitioner, Wordsworth has the rare ability to display dancers to advantage without compromising the music, acting, in his own words, as ‘the company’s musical conscience’. Among his many recordings are lively, idiomatic performances of British music by Bax, Berners, Bliss, Foulds and others, Mozart’s later symphonies and a complete West Side Story.
Wordsworth, William (Brocklesby)
(b London, 17 Dec 1908; d Kingussie, 10 March 1988). English composer. A descendant of the poet’s brother, he first studied with his choirmaster George Oldroyd (1921–31); in 1934 he was invited to the University of Edinburgh for three years study with Tovey, leaving in 1936 to devote himself to composition. He won the Clements Memorial Prize in 1941 with his String Quartet no.1, and in 1944 his oratorio Dies Domine enjoyed the approbation of Vaughan Williams. In the immediate postwar years his music was widely performed, and in 1950, against worldwide competition, he won the Edinburgh International Festival symphony contest with his Symphony no.2. He chaired the Composers’ Guild in 1959; after moving from Surrey to the Scottish Highlands in 1961 he helped to form the Scottish Society of Composers, becoming its honorary president.
From Tovey he learnt to write in traditional rather than experimental forms but derived much of his musical inspiration from the expansive gestures of Sibelius and the brittle intensity of Bartók. Much of his output, particularly in chamber music, is deeply introspective. Although his music is predominantly diatonic he did not eschew atonal procedures when it suited his purpose, for instance in the opening movement of his Symphony no.2; he used tape effectively in his tightly written Symphony no.7. His use of fragmented themes and of unpredictable rhythmic contrasts, which build to form logical and distinctively original statements, is most evident in his symphonies and other large-scale works.
Choral: The Houseless Dead (D.H. Lawrence), op.14, Bar, chorus, orch, 1939; Dies Domine, op.18, S, T, B, chorus, orch, 1942–4; Hymn of Dedication (G.K. Chesterton), op.26, chorus, orch; Lucifer Yields (R. Heppenstall), op.40, T, B, chorus, orch, 1949; A Vision (W. Blake), op.46, female vv, str, 1950; A Song of Praise, op.61, chorus, orch, 1956; A Christmas Garland, op.91, female vv, pf, org, str, 1971
2–5 solo vv: 4 Seasonal Songs, op.92, 2 A, T, 2 B, 1971; The Twa Brigs (entertainment, S. Goodsir Smith), op.95, S, Bar, fl, bn, perc, pf qt, db, 1973; Adonais (P.B. Shelley), op.97, Mez, A, T, 2 B, 1974; 3 Burns Songs, op.99, Mez, A, T, 2 B, 1975; Agape, op.116, S, A, T, B, fl, str qt, db, org, 1984
Solo vocal: 3 Songs (S. Phillips, R. Brooke, W. Gibson), op.5, low v, pf, 1935; 4 Songs (W. de la Mare, R. Bridges), op.7, high v, pf, 1936; 4 Lyrics, op.17, T, str qt, 1941; The Four Seasons (Blake), op.33, medium v, str trio, 1947; 4 Blake Songs, op.35, high v, pf, 1948; 3 Wordsworth Songs, op.45, high v, str qt, 1950; Ariel’s Songs (W. Shakespeare), op.85, medium v, pf, 1968; A Pattern of Love (J. Donne), op.89, low v, str, 1969–70; 4 Shakespeare Songs, op.103, high v, va, pf, 1977; The Doors of Perception (Blake), op.108, Mez (vn, clàrsach)/(hp, pf), 1981; Psalm, op.115, high v, gui, 1984
Music for 12 radio productions; educational music; choruses; songs