Harold Truscott


Born: August 23, 1914; Seven Kings, Ilford, Essex   Died: October 7, 1992; Deal, Kent, England  
Harold Truscott was a little-known composer who, due to a combination of bad luck, questionable career decisions, and a tendency to leave many works unfinished, seems likely to remain obscure. However, his music has gained a trickle of recognition since the 1990s, and details about his life have emerged along with it. Truscott was born on August 23, 1914, into a family of modest means. He had surgery at three months to correct a club foot; it was Read more successful, but necessitated wearing a brace for 12 years. His physical limitations possibly contributed to the early emergence of his interest in both the piano and composition. This musical proclivity was so displeasing to his father that the elder Truscott had him briefly commtited to a psychiatric institution. However, Truscott persisted with his musical activities. Though largely self-taught, he did attended the Guildhall School of Music in 1934 (where he studied piano with Orlando Morgan) and the Royal College of Music from 1943 to 1945 (where took instruction in both piano and horn), as well as lessons in composition from Herbert Howells. In between these periods of education, he played piano and conducted a light music ensemble for the New Zealand Shipping Company on board liners at sea. He also started working the night shift for the Royal Mail Service in 1939.

Truscott began his first major works in the 1930s; a Symphony in E flat major (1936 - 1937) and a Symphony in F major (1937 - 1938) were both lost, and he abandoned a 1943 Symphony in A minor after writing only 19 pages. In the 1940s, Truscott became a reviewer for the publication Musical Survey, and in 1948 he left the Mail Service to begin teaching music at Blackheath Conservatory in London. Around this time, he began appearing on BBC Radio playing some of his completed versions of Schubert's unfinished piano sonatas as well as his own works, such as a set of Bagatelles (12). In the years 1948 - 1950, Truscott composed his Symphony in E major, his only complete symphony to survive out of the 13 in his catalog. It is thought, owing to religious superscriptions in the score, that it was around this time the composer converted to Roman Catholicism. His association with the BBC might have proved decisive in earning recognition, but it was not to be. In 1959, William Glock took over as controller of music and stopped featuring Truscott and his works. It was not until John Ogdon performed Piano Sonatas Nos. 7 and 10 in 1969 that his music was heard on the BBC again.

Truscott published a book on Beethoven's late quartets in 1968. Another, appearing in 1984, was entitled Franz Schmidt's Orchestral Music. In 1970, the composer was appointed principal lecturer at Huddersfield Polytechnic, where he began teaching in 1957. He retired from this post in 1979. Truscott received his first exposure on recordings in the 1980s, when the Altarus label issued ten of his 17 piano sonatas. The next decade saw a release by the Marco Polo label of several of his orchestral works. Truscott died on October 7, 1992. Read less

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