Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Biography

Born: August 15, 1875; Croydon, London, England   Died: September 1, 1912; Croydon, London, England  
Remembered today as the composer of the once enormously popular cantata Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, the career and music of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor are -- more, even, than Elgar's -- emblematic of the Edwardian era in its opulence and its squalor. The son of a Negro doctor from Sierra Leone and an Englishwoman, he rose above the constrictions of class and race to become one of the most acclaimed composers of his time.

Musically
Read more precocious, Coleridge-Taylor's talent was recognized early and supported by a series of patrons who saw him through composition studies with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford at the Royal College of Music. While still a student, his Clarinet Quintet (1895) achieved critical praise and, through the good offices of Stanford, performance in Berlin by the Joseph Joachim Quartet. A meeting with the American Negro poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, on a reading tour in England in 1896, prompted a lifelong preoccupation with "African" themes, including a number of songs to lyrics by Dunbar. Upon graduation from the RCM in 1897, Coleridge-Taylor embarked upon the poorly paid, precarious career of composer, teacher, adjudicator of musical competitions, and conductor which took him throughout England and Wales and led, eventually, to visits to the United States in 1904, 1906, and 1910. His marriage to Jessie Walmisley on December 30, 1899, and the birth of their children, Hiawatha in 1900 and Avril (née Gwendolen) in 1903, brought, with happiness, increased responsibilities.

His first break came when Elgar suggested Coleridge-Taylor for a commission from the prestigious Three Choirs Festival to be held at Gloucester in 1898. The performance there of his attractive orchestral Ballade in A minor proved a decisive hit while demonstrating a ready assimilation of Tchaikovsky, Grieg, and, above all, Dvorák. Meanwhile, Coleridge-Taylor had composed Hiawatha's Wedding Feast for chorus and orchestra and -- still an obscure musician -- accepted the sum of £15.15 outright for it from the music publishing firm Novello. Its premiere in a Stanford-led concert at the RCM on November 11, 1898, launched what may be said to have been a cataclysmic success, with performances following rapidly in England, throughout the United States and Canada, and in venues as unlikely as New Zealand and South Africa. Commissions and invitations to conduct poured in, though small fees and the composer's carelessness with money kept financial security an elusive goal. Pressure to produce yet other large, earnest works for the great choral festivals resulted in such stillborn efforts as The Blind Girl of Castel Cuille (1901) and Meg Blane (1902). From 1900 through 1911, he also wrote incidental music for some half-dozen plays, five of which were staged by Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Innumerable practical details inseparable from concert-giving, and the constant uphill struggle against rank amateurism, also took their toll. The year 1905 saw the publication of Twenty-four Negro Melodies for piano by the American firm Oliver Ditson, with a long, glowing preface by Booker T. Washington. In the final years of Coleridge-Taylor's brief life, the spontaneity of his early music returned with a new deftness in handling -- an impassioned blitheness rife with happy invention -- in such things as the cantata Bon-bon Suite (1909), the Petite Suite de concert (1910), and the Violin Concerto. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia, exacerbated by chronic overwork.

If his best music hovers between the concert hall, the palm court, and the drawing room, it may nevertheless be said to represent a gentility and graciousness, poise and sentiment, elegance and flair for which there will always be an ardently nostalgic audience. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 32 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    The Great Recordings / Malcolm Sargent [18-CD Set]
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 634121 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 18
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Sir William Walton,  Ralph Vaughan Williams,  Gustav Holst  ... 
    Performer:  Richard Lewis,  John [baritone (50s)] Cameron,  James Milligan,  Duncan Robertson  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent,  André Previn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Huddersfield Choral Society,  London Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 2.
    Overtures from the British Isles / Gamba
    Label: Chandos   Catalog: 10797 Release Date: 01/28/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frederic Austin,  Charles Villiers Stanford,  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Frederic H. Cowen  ... 
    Conductor:  Rumon Gamba
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC National Orchestra of Wales
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  • 3.
    Sir Malcolm Sargent Conducts Coleridge-taylor
    Label: Idi   Catalog: 6672 Release Date: 11/19/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Antonín Dvorák
    Performer:  Richard Lewis
    Conductor:  Sir Malcolm Sargent
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  • 4.
    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Undiscovered Piano Works / Hasegawa
    Label: Metropolis Group   Catalog: 1301 Release Date: 07/30/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Performer:  Waka Hasegawa
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  • 5.
    Historical Organs Of Southeastern Massachusetts
    Label: Organ Historical   Catalog: 5 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  H. Alexander Matthews,  Edward MacDowell,  Traditional,  M. Searle Wright  ... 
    Performer:  Brian Jones,  Peter Krasinski,  Cheryl Drewes,  Thomas W. D. Guthrie  ... 
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  • 6.
    Deep River
    Label: Msr   Catalog: 1372 Release Date: 04/10/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  R. Nathaniel Dett,  Howard Swanson,  Hale Smith  ... 
    Performer:  Merwin Siu,  Phoenix Park-kim
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  • 7.
    The British Symphonic Collection
    Label: Membran International Gmbh   Catalog: 233316 Release Date: 08/30/2011   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Sir Edward Elgar,  Frederic H. Cowen,  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Frederick Delius  ... 
    Performer:  Mette Christina Ostergaard,  Margaret Fingerhut,  Jan Lund
    Conductor:  Douglas Bostock
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  • 8.
    Epoch - Music For Cello & Piano / Spooner, Jones, Mosley
    Label: Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog: 7225 Release Date: 04/14/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Edgar Bainton,  Rosalind F. Ellicott,  Roger Quilter,  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor  ... 
    Performer:  Michael Jones,  Joseph Spooner,  Kathryn Mosley
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  • 9.
    Coleridge-Taylor: Hiawatha / Alwyn, Field, Davies, Terfel
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 430356 Release Date: 04/07/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Performer:  Helen Field,  Arthur Davies,  Bryn Terfel
    Conductor:  Kenneth Alwyn
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Welsh National Opera Orchestra,  Welsh National Opera Chorus
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  • 10.
    Coleridge-Taylor: Legend, Violin Concerto; Harrison / McAslan
    Label: Lyrita   Catalog: 317 Release Date: 01/08/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Julius Harrison
    Performer:  Lorraine McAslan
    Conductor:  Nicholas Braithwaite
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 11.
    Coleridge-Taylor: Piano Quintet, Etc / Nash Ensemble
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67590 Release Date: 10/09/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nash Ensemble
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  • 12.
    American Virtuosa - Tribute To Maud Powell / R. Barton Pine
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 97 Release Date: 06/12/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Traditional,  Max Liebling,  Cecil Burleigh,  Henry Holden Huss  ... 
    Performer:  Rachel Barton Pine,  Matthew Hagle,  Maud Powell
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  • 13.
    Box Of Delights - British Light Music Gems/ Wordsworth, Joly
    Label: Lyrita   Catalog: 214 Release Date: 06/12/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Elisabeth Lutyens,  Cecil Armstrong Gibbs,  Granville Bantock  ... 
    Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth,  Simon Joly
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 14.
    Coleridge-Taylor: 24 Negro Melodies / Shaffer-Gottschalk
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 930 Release Date: 05/08/2007   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Performer:  David Shaffer-Gottschalk
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  • 15.
    Golden Age Of Light Music - Light Music While You Work Vol 1
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 5128 Release Date: 04/03/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Eric Coates,  Anonymous,  Percy (Eastman) Fletcher,  Ralph Benatzky  ... 
    Conductor:  Svend Christian Felumb,  Harry Fryer,  Richard Crean,  Reginald Pursglove  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Tivoli Concert Hall Orchestra,  Harry Fryer Orchestra,  Richard Crean Orchestra  ... 
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  • 16.
    Rarities Of Piano Music 2005 - Medtner, Schubert, Et Al
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 659 Release Date: 11/21/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Nikolai Medtner,  Pancho Vladigerov,  Sergei Prokofiev,  Florent Schmitt  ... 
    Performer:  Ekaterina Derzhavina,  Ludmil Angelov,  Roland Pöntinen,  Cecile Licad  ... 
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 17.
    British Light Music Classics / Corp, New London Orchestra
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 44261 Release Date: 11/14/2006   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Frederic Curzon,  Trevor Duncan,  Marshall Ross,  Charles Ancliffe  ... 
    Conductor:  Ronald Corp
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New London Orchestra
    On sale! $53.98
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  • 18.
    Coleridge-taylor: 24 Negro Melodies / Walker
    Label: Marquis   Catalog: 83105 Release Date: 03/14/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Performer:  Frances Walker
    CD: $9.99
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  • 19.
    The Romantic Violin Concerto Vol 5 - Coleridge-Taylor & Somervell / Marwood, Brabbins, BBC Scottish SO
    Label: Hyperion   Catalog: 67420 Release Date: 03/08/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Arthur Somervell
    Performer:  Anthony Marwood
    Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
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  • 20.
    Samuel Coleridge-taylor: Chamber Music / Burke, Fadial
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2691 Release Date: 09/28/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
    Performer:  Scott Rawls,  Janet Orenstein,  Kelly Burke,  Brooks Whitehouse  ... 
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  • 21.
    Coleridge-Taylor: Violin Concerto; Dvorak: Violin Concerto
    Label: Avie   Catalog: 44 Release Date: 06/29/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Antonín Dvorák
    Performer:  Philippe Graffin
    Conductor:  Michael Hankinson
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra
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  • 22.
    Historic Organs Of Boston - Thirty-one Historic Pipe Organs
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 20 Release Date: 04/29/2003   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Robert Schumann,  Matthias Weckmann,  John Jenkins,  Louis-Nicolas Clérambault  ... 
    Performer:  Kimberly Ann Hess,  Peter Sykes,  Margaret Irwin-Brandon,  Andrew Scanlon  ... 
    Conductor:  Edith Ho
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Church of the Advent Choir
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  • 23.
    Works For Violin & Organ Vol 4 - Airs & Romances / Murray
    Label: Raven Recordings   Catalog: 510 Release Date: 11/28/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  Oreste Ravanello,  Oskar Lindberg,  Gustaf Jensen  ... 
    Performer:  Ardyth Lohuis,  Robert Murray
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Murray-Lohuis Duo
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  • 24.
    Coleridge-taylor, Sowande, Still / Paul Freeman, Et Al
    Label: Cedille Records   Catalog: 55 Release Date: 11/21/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Fela Sowande,  William Grant Still
    Conductor:  Paul Freeman
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Sinfonietta
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  • 25.
    Introducing Kevin Sharpe
    Label: Eroica Classical Recordings   Catalog: 3045 Release Date: 10/01/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Felix Mendelssohn,  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor,  Ottorino Respighi,  Maurice Ravel
    Performer:  Kevin Sharpe
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