Hugh Wood


Born: June 27, 1932; Wigan, England  
English composer Hugh Wood wrote in a variety of genres, but seemed best suited to chamber music. His works are generally approachable, though somewhat modern-sounding, fusing many elements from German traditions and even from serial techniques, resulting in an eclectic mixture based on the use and development of motifs. In the end, he must be classed as a cosmopolitan composer who rarely displayed an English character in his compositions. Wood Read more was born on June 27, 1932, in Parbold, Lancashire, near Wigan. He developed an interest in music early on, being raised in a household in which his mother, a gifted amateur pianist, regularly performed. She was his first music teacher and young Hugh rapidly advanced in his childhood and teens. He also developed an interest in composition, but when he reached college age, he enrolled at Oxford University to study history. While there, he continued his musical activities, which included trying his hand at composition mainly for use in theater productions. Following graduation, Wood decided to become a music teacher and served in that capacity at several London schools. At the same time, he pursued musical training on a private basis, studying with an illustrious string of teachers: William Southcombe Lloyd Webber, Anthony Milner, Iain Hamilton, and Mátyás Seiber. His first important work appeared in 1954, Songs From Springtime, for chorus and piano. Having established his skills at teaching, Wood joined the faculty at Morley College in 1958. His String Quartet No. 1 (1962) was one of several works that clearly revealed him as one of England's most promising young composers. Wood accepted a position on the faculty at the Royal College of Music in London in 1962, retaining his post at Morley College, as well. Four years later, he accepted yet another teaching position, this at Glasgow University. Having three at one time allowed him little time to compose and Wood thus resigned from Morley College in 1967. His Cello Concerto, Op. 12, (1969) and String Quartet No. 2 (1969 - 1970) were both successful and impressed critics and public alike with the composer's growth and maturity. In 1970, Wood left his Glasgow University post and the following year joined the faculty at the University of Liverpool. He held this position until 1975, the year he also resigned from the Royal College of Music. He began teaching at Cambridge University in 1976 and was still on the faculty in 2001. Wood's 1982 symphony scored another success and in 1985, he was awarded the Koussevitzky Music Foundation Award. The death of the composer's daughter in 1988 inspired him to produce several moving works, including Marina (1988; on texts by T.S. Eliot), actually begun before her death, and Cantata (1989; on texts by D.H. Lawrence). Wood remained active in the 1990s and in the early years of the new century, writing many works on commission. Among his later efforts were the 1997 clarinet trio written for the Gemelli Trio and the String Quartet No. 5, composed for the Lindsay String Quartet, which premiered it in the fall 2001. Read less

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