George Butterworth


Born: July 12, 1885; London, England   Died: August 5, 1916; Pozičres, France  
George Butterworth was the best-known of a generation of prominent musicians whose careers or lives were cut short by the hostilities of World War I. His reputation as a composer rests on a handful of exquisitely fashioned small-scale works which were strongly influenced by his studies in English folk song.

Butterworth was the son of a talented singer (Julia Wigan) and a prominent railway executive (Sir Alexander Kaye Butterworth, head of
Read more the North Eastern Railway). His mother gave him his first musical instruction as a child in Yorkshire, and so fertile was the ground in which the seed of music had been planted, that by the time Butterworth was a schoolboy at Eton, the school orchestra had given a performance of his Barcarolle, in 1903. Nevertheless, it was the gray and solemn life of a solicitor for which George was being groomed, and upon his matriculation at Trinity College, Oxford, he began the requisite study of Greats.

While at Trinity, however, Butterworth encountered two musical "greats," the seminal folk song collector and editor Cecil Sharp and the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. They encouraged his very evident musical abilities, and soon Butterworth was accompanying Vaughan Williams on folk song-collecting excursions into the English countryside. As might be expected, law was quickly abandoned in favor of music.

Leaving Oxford for London, Butterworth threw himself into a welter of activity, studying for a short time at the Royal College of Music, teaching, writing music criticism for the Times, and composing. He was also active with the English Folk Song and Dance Society. His friendship with Vaughan Williams, meantime, had deepened both personally and professionally, and it was in the latter realm that Butterworth performed an invaluable service for the older composer when he helped reconstruct, from assembled orchestral parts, the full score of Vaughan Williams' A London Symphony, the autograph of which had been sent to conductor Fritz Busch in Dresden in 1914 and had been lost at the outbreak of war. Butterworth also wrote the program notes for the symphony's premiere later that year under Geoffrey Toye. Vaughan Williams afterward dedicated his symphonic masterpiece to Butterworth's memory.

Despite his successes, Butterworth was plagued throughout his short life by a sense of purposelessness. The eruption of war in 1914, however, seems to have catalyzed him. He enlisted immediately in the Duke of Cornwall's Durham Light Infantry, and his brazen valor in battle soon brought him a lieutenant's rank. Butterworth was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for his bold defense of a strategically important trench network, which was later named for him. He was killed at Pozieres leading a raid during the Battle of the Somme.

George Butterworth's most famous work is his orchestral rhapsody A Shropshire Lad, inspired by A.E. Housman's poetry and thematically related to his earlier Housman song cycle of the same name. Its premiere in 1913 at the Leeds Festival under Artur Nikisch was a gratifying success for the young composer. Other works include Two English Idylls and The Banks of Green Willow for small orchestra. The slender catalog of Butterworth's music, in which a refined and elegiac sensibility is informed with the poignancy of English folk song, was reduced further when the composer, just before leaving England for the trenches in 1915, destroyed those manuscripts which he deemed unworthy of survival. Read less
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  • 1.
    Sir Adrian Boult - A Musical Legacy
    Label: Lpo   Catalog: 119 Release Date: 12/04/2020   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Max Bruch  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Bunting,  Patricia Bishop,  Jean Pougnet,  Gwenneth Pryor  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 2.
    Sir John Barbirolli: Complete Warner Recordings
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 538608 Release Date: 08/07/2020   Number of Discs: 109
    Composer:  Henry Purcell,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  Antonio Brosa,  George Alexander,  Laurance Turner,  Peter Hecht  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  John Barbirolli Chamber Orchestra,  London Violincello School,  Royal Opera Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $179.98
    CD: $159.99
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  • 3.
    The Soldier: From Severn to Somme / Maltman, Middleton
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 592 Release Date: 11/15/2019   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Ivor Gurney,  Arthur Somervell,  Gustav Mahler  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Maltman,  Joseph Middleton
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  • 4.
    Landmarks: 40 Years of Chandos
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 40 Release Date: 07/05/2019   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Dmitri Shostakovich  ... 
    Performer:  Rostislav Dubinsky,  Luba Edlina,  Yuli Turovsky,  Dmitri Shostakovich Jr.  ... 
    Conductor:  Bryden Thomson,  Mariss Jansons,  Yuli Turovsky,  Maxim Shostakovich  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ulster Orchestra,  Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra,  Borodin Trio  ... 
    On sale! $100.98
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  • 5.
    William Boughton: A Celebration on Record
    Label: Nimbus   Catalog: NI1712 Release Date: 07/05/2019   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius,  Aaron Copland,  Dmitri Shostakovich,  Dame Elizabeth Maconchy  ... 
    Performer:  Martin Jones,  Raphael Wallfisch,  Kun Hu,  Daniel Trodden  ... 
    Conductor:  William Boughton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English String Orchestra,  English Symphony Orchestra,  South West German Chamber Orchestra Pforzheim  ... 
    CD: $29.99
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  • 6.
    Requiem - Pity of War / Bostridge, Pappano
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 573273 Release Date: 10/26/2018   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Rudi Stephan,  Kurt Weill,  Gustav Mahler
    Performer:  Ian Bostridge,  Antonio Pappano
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  • 7.
    Christmas with Canterbury Cathedral Girls Choir
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002777002 Release Date: 12/15/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Francis Wade,  Adolphe Adam,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Franz Xaver Gruber  ... 
    Conductor:  David Newsholme
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Canterbury Cathedral Girls' Choir
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  • 8.
    Celebrating English Song / Williams, Allan
    Label: Somm   Catalog: 177 Release Date: 11/17/2017   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  John Ireland,  Ian Venables,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Roderick Williams,  Susie Allan
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  • 9.
    Butterworth: Orchestral Works & Works for Voice & Orchestra
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 2195 Release Date: 07/08/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth
    Performer:  James Rutherford
    Conductor:  Kriss Russman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
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  • 10.
    Bright is the Ring of Words: Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Moeran, Finzi
    Label: Magpie (Uk)   Catalog: 502 Release Date: 05/12/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  George Butterworth,  Ernest John Moeran,  Gerald Finzi
    Performer:  Christopher Booth-Jones,  Igor Kennaway
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  • 11.
    Decca Sound  – Mono Years 1944 -1956
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002280602 Release Date: 04/07/2015   Number of Discs: 53
    Composer:  Igor Stravinsky,  Maurice Ravel,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Wilhelm Backhaus,  Clifford Curzon,  Alfredo Campoli,  Henry Datyner  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Roger Desormičre,  Karl Münchinger  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  Paris Conservatoire Orchestra,  Orchestre de la Société du Conservatoire Paris  ... 
    CD: $262.49
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  • 12.
    Love Blows as the Wind Blows / Etienne Dupuis
    Label: Atma Classique   Catalog: 22701 Release Date: 03/10/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Samuel Barber,  Geoffrey Bush,  Traditional  ... 
    Performer:  Etienne Dupuis
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Claudel-Canimex String Quartet
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  • 13.
    The End of Time - Works by Butterworth and Stephan / Ensemble Aix, Aachen Symphony
    Label: Coviello Classics   Catalog: 91418 Release Date: 01/27/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Rudi Stephan
    Conductor:  Kazem Abdullayev
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Aachen Symphony Orchestra,  Ensemble Aix
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  • 14.
    Flowers of the Field / Wetton, London Mozart Players
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8573426 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Gerald Finzi,  Ivor Gurney,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Conductor:  Hilary Davan Wetton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Mozart Players,  City of London Choir
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  • 15.
    No Exceptions, No Exemptions / Robin Trischler, Malcolm Martineau
    Label: Signum Classics   Catalog: 401 Release Date: 11/11/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Albéric Magnard,  George Butterworth,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Frederick Delius  ... 
    Performer:  Malcolm Martineau,  Robin Tritschler,  Ruth Gibbons
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  • 16.
    Vaughan Williams: A London Symphony / Hickox, London Symphony [Vinyl]
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 9902 Release Date: 06/24/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Conductor:  Richard Hickox
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
    LP: $39.99
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  • 17.
    Sir Adrian Boult - The Complete Conductor
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 1927023 Release Date: 02/25/2014   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Gustav Holst,  Robert Simpson,  Sir Arthur Bliss  ... 
    Performer:  Felicity Palmer
    Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  New Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $47.99
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  • 18.
    Britten the Performer - Complete Decca Recordings
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001922102 Release Date: 10/22/2013   Number of Discs: 27
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Henry Purcell,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Franz Joseph Haydn  ... 
    Performer:  Adrian Thompson,  John Tobin,  Jenny Hill,  Robert Tear  ... 
    Conductor:  Benjamin Britten
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Chamber Orchestra,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  Wandsworth School Choir  ... 
    CD: $120.49
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  • 19.
    Most Grand To Die / James Rutherford,  Eugene Asti
    Label: Bis   Catalog: 1610 Release Date: 07/24/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Ivor Gurney,  Frank Butterworth,  Ralph Vaughan Williams
    Performer:  James Rutherford,  Eugene Asti
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  • 20.
    Label: Heritage   Catalog: 224 Release Date: 07/17/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Thomas Ford,  Philip Rosseter,  John Dowland,  Thomas Morley  ... 
    Performer:  Julian Bream,  Peter Pears,  Benjamin Britten
    On sale! $23.98
    CD: $12.99
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  • 21.
    The Very Best Of English Song
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 80513 Release Date: 04/03/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  John Ireland,  Charles Hubert Parry,  Roger Quilter  ... 
    Performer:  Dame Janet Baker,  Gerald Moore,  Thomas Allen,  Geoffrey Parsons  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner,  Sir John Barbirolli,  Simon Rattle,  Steuart Bedford  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,  Fretwork,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $34.99
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  • 22.
    Songs Of War / Simon Keenlyside,   Malcolm Martineau
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 94424 Release Date: 12/06/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John Ireland,  Arthur Somervell,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  George Butterworth  ... 
    Performer:  Simon Keenlyside,  Malcolm Martineau
    CD: $17.99
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  • 23.
    English Classics
    Label: Hallé   Catalog: 7532 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  George Butterworth,  Frederick Delius,  Traditional,  Ralph Vaughan Williams  ... 
    Performer:  Joseph [Piano Tech] Taylor,  Lyn Fletcher,  James Gilchrist
    Conductor:  Mark Elder,  John Wilson
    CD: $34.99
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  • 24.
    Made In Britain / James Clark, John Wilson, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 2194 Release Date: 11/08/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Arnold Bax,  George Butterworth,  Frederick Delius,  Sir Edward Elgar  ... 
    Performer:  James Clark
    Conductor:  John Wilson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
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    CD: $14.99
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  • 25.
    British Composers - Guide To Britain
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 29001 Release Date: 08/23/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Herbert Howells,  Benjamin Britten  ... 
    Performer:  Garth Benson,  Felicity Palmer,  Robert Tear,  Manuel Barrueco  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli,  Boris Ord,  André Previn,  Philip Ledger  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Music Group of London,  Polyphony (Vocal Ensemble)
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