William Wallace


Born: July 3, 1860; Greenock, Scotland   Died: December 16, 1940; Malmesbury  
William Wallace was born about five years before the death of another composer, then world-famous, who bore the same name, the Irishman William (Vincent) Wallace. This Scots Wallace was a latecomer to music. Although he had been interested in it throughout his life and played instruments well, he studied medicine in Glasgow, becoming an ophthalmologist. At 29, he decided to concentrate on music.

He entered the Royal Academy of Music in
Read more London and succeeded in establishing a career as a composer and a commentator on music. His sympathies were entirely with the Romantic age; he is notorious for a statement in his 1908 book The Threshold of Music, that "If Haydn and Mozart were capable of profound expression in their work they certainly gave scanty indication of it."

His admiration for Liszt led him to become a pioneer of the genre of the symphonic poem in England. These works are dramatic, original, and well-realized projects that attracted a great deal of interest when new. They faded nearly into oblivion when anti-Romantic currents in Britain virtually buried Victorian and Edwardian music not written by Elgar or Sullivan. In the last decade of the twentieth century they emerged again in sympathetic performances and a major recording project by Hyperion Records.

Among them are The Passing of Beatrice (1892), based on Dante, and works based on other European poets such as Goethe and Villon. He also wrote a series of tributes in symphonic form to his native land such as In Praise of Scottish Poesie (1894), The Massacre of the Macphersons, and a tribute to his famous namesake, Sir William Wallace, (1905). Read less

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