the circumstances surrounding the composition
of the Trio, it is necessary
to examine details of Hurlstone's career.
In particular his interest in wind instruments,
both as performer and composer, are
The Early Years
Martin Yeates Hurlstone was born on
the 7th January 1876 at Richmond
Gardens (now Empress Place), Fulham,
London, into a well-to-do middle-class
family. He was the eldest of four siblings;:
Florence, Lucy and Katharine being his
younger sisters. His grandfather, Frederick
Yeates Hurlstone (1800-69), was an artist
of some distinction, who had held the
first presidency of the Royal Society
of British Arts.
William's father, Martin de Galway
Hurlstone, was a surgeon by profession
and held a keen interest in music and
the arts. Hurlstone's musical talents
revealed themselves from a very early
age. He would organise home concerts
in which he and his sisters would play
his compositions. Hurlstone received
piano lessons but was self-taught in
He also played the clarinet and had
a fondness for wind instrumentsii.
His father arranged for the publication
of the Five Easy Waltzes for Piano
William was just nine years old.
were to be published before Hurlstone
received any formal tuition in composition,
which he later gained at the Royal College
of Music (RCM). Two months before entering
the RCM, Hurlstone completed the first
of his two works for clarinet, bassoon
and piano; The Variations
in G Minor
dated 19th February 1894.
work, though a product of an untutored
composer, shows remarkable inventiveness:
of particular note is the variation
in 5/8 time in which the melody is set
against a duplet cross-rhythm. These
were to feature again in Hurlstone's
developments as a composer when he reused
the theme in his Variations
for Orchestra on an Original Theme
(13th June 1896).
Hurlstone entered the Royal College
of Music in April 1894 with a three-year
scholarship to study composition and
piano (second study). During his time
there, he received many commendations
including the award of £6:10s
for the Dove Prize. His principal tutors
Frederick Bridge -
Charles Stanford -
later years Sir Charles Stanford was
to recall that Hurlstone was the most
brilliantly gifted of his students.iv
It is interesting to consider this remark
knowing that among Hurlstone's
contemporaries at the RCM were:
John Ireland -
piano 1893-1897; composition 1897-1901
violin 1890; composition 1893
Vaughan Williams -
composition 1890-92, 1895-1896
Such was Hurlstone's promise that the
RCM granted him an additional scholarship
he was enjoying considerable success
with his college studies his personal
circumstances were somewhat less fortunate.
His father, some years earlier, had
contracted smallpox while pursuing his
medical studies at the Middlesex Hospital,
This resulted in his almost total blindness,
which forced him to give up surgery.
The family had been plunged into financial
difficulties, which were made worse
by Martin Hurlstone's failed investments.
In 1896 Hurlstone's father died of Bright's
had it not been for the generosity of
the close family friend, Captain Alex
the surviving family would have been
cast into penury. Beaumont was to continue
to be a major benefactor and influence
throughout Hurlstone's life. He was
an amateur violinist and composer to
whom Hurlstone dedicated a number of
compositions, including his finest and
last complete orchestral work, the Fantasie
Variations on a Swedish Air.
It was not only Hurlstone's family misfortunes
that beset him: he had been a sickly
child suffering from bronchial
asthma, which was now taking its toll
on his strength. Because of this, Hurlstone
had to forego a career as a concert
pianist. Nevertheless, his newly completed
Piano Concerto in D
received its première at St.
James' Hall in 1896 with Hurlstone as
soloist accompanied by the RCM Orchestra.
During his remaining years at the RCM
Hurlstone was to compose only two more
works for full orchestra - The
Magic Mirror Suite (1896) and the
Variations on a Hungarian Air (24th
May 1897) - before returning
to his first love, that of chamber music.
On the 30th June 1897 his
Quintet in G Minor for Piano and
Wind received its first performance
at an RCM College Concertviii.
The players were fellow students and
included Eli Hudson (flautist)
with whom Hurlstone was to perform regularly
in his later professional life. Most
of his remaining chamber compositions
comprised accompanied songs and melodramas,
a form now in disuse where the vocal
part would be a spoken recitation of
a piece of poetry with musical accompaniment
usually provided (in his case) by violin
leaving college, at Easter of 1898,
Hurlstone sought employment from piano
teaching and choral conducting. From
the onset of his family's misfortunes,
he and his family had moved back to
London and settled in South Norwood,
near Croydon. Hurlstone remained associated
with the Croydon district for the rest
of his lifeix
and took what opportunities he could
to involve himself with local music
making. Of particular note was his partnership
with C. W. Nightingalex
together they inaugurated the Century
Concerts in 1900xi
- Hurlstone taking charge of artistic
matters and Nightingale that of administration.
The Century Concerts were:
" Established for the Performance
of High-Class Vocal and Instrumental
Music, and especially Wind Chamber Works.
... A feature of the Concerts will
be the performance of Solos on the Flute,
Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, and Horn, and
also on the following instruments, of
which the beautiful and distinctive
tones are but little known: the Tenor
and Bass Flutes, the Oboe d'Amore, the
Cor Anglais, the Bass Oboe, the Bass
Clarinet, the Saxophone, the Corno di
patrons were drawn from distinguished
musicians of the day: Sir Hubert Parry,
Sir Charles Stanford, Sir Frederick
Bridge, Sir Frederic Cowen, Edward German
and Sir Alexander Mackenzie.
aim was to promote chamber music, in
particular that of living British composers.
Though his compositions were played
at the Century Concerts, the majority
of the programming included works by
his contemporaries - Gadsby, Cowen,
Lloyd, German, Coleridge-Taylor, Cobb,
Dunhill etc.. Such was Hurlstone's reputation
that he was able to recruit the most
talented musicians from his college
days. Of particular note were: Eli Hudson,
flute; Charles Draper, clarinet; Edward
Dubrucq, bassoon; and Bertie Muskett,
horn. Each of these became established
professional musicians in London -
flute London Symphony Orchestraxiii;
bassoon London Symphony Orchestra; Muskett,
of horn Guildhall School of Music. Draper
particular achieved great fame as a
player, soloist and teacherxiv.
With C. W. Nightingale, these
five wind players established themselves
as the Century Wind Quintet and were
frequently augmented by Hurlstone at
the piano. As far as is known, they
only performed under the auspices of
the Century Concerts. A
typical and interesting example taken
from a concert programme bill advertising
performances at the Pembroke Hallxv,
West Croydon, includes the following
- Suite Op 57
- Passacaille and Aubade
- Sextette Op 6
- Quintet K452
- Tarantelle Op 6
- Suite for Clarinet &
- Sonata for Flute &
This is possibly one of the
earliest British performances
of the Quintet by Lefebvre and
Sextette by Thuille; unfortunately
the programme bill omits the year and
lists only March 19th, April
23rd, and May 21st
as concert dates.
The Century Concerts, though popular
and continuing until Hurlstone's death,
were however not a commercial success.
Fortunately for Hurlstone,
he received three professional appointments
from which he was able to derive an
income. The first two were inauspicious:
as Professor of Music at Croydon Conservatoire;
as Examiner for Royal Academy of Music
Associated Boards for the Croydon District.
The third occurred in 1905 more or less
co-incident with his taking the £50
first prize from the inaugural Cobbett
Chamber Music Composition Competition.
He was invited by Sir Hubert Parry to
take the post of Professor of Harmony
and Counterpoint at the RCM. This was
remarkable because of Hurlstone's age
- a mere 29 - for it was the norm
for professorships to be awarded to
men of many years' professional experience.
Hurlstone's appointment was to be short-lived:
on the 21st May 1906 he caught
a chill while waiting at Victoria Station.
Nine days later he was deadxvi.
Hurlstone's demise was widely mourned.
His funeral took place on Saturday 2nd
June at the Mitcham Road Cemetery. Among
the mourners were his sisters Florence
and Katharine, Sir Hubert Parry, Sir
Charles Villiers Stanford, Sir Frederick
Bridge and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
His obituary appeared in the Musical
and the Norwood News and Penge and
the latter, some 50 column-inches were
devoted to Hurlstone, which included
a personal tribute from his friend and
composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.
Hurlstone's grave is marked by a broken
column and bears Schubert's epitaph:
“Music hath here entombed
rich treasure but still fairer hopes”.
As a tribute to Hurlstone, the Society
of British Composers funded
the posthumous publicationxix
in 1907 of his Trio in G Major
for Violin, Cello and Piano
and his Sonata for Bassoon
and Piano (1904).
His close friends, Alex Beaumont and
Fritz Hart, arranged for the publication
of his Piano Quartet in E
Curwen in 1906.xxi
The Legacy Years
articles on Hurlstone have appeared
in both local and national press. His
music was promoted by his sister Katharine
until her death in 1951. Hurlstone's
orchestral compositions were performed
regularly by the BBC and Hallé
orchestras until Katharine's death.
His niece Christine Waddicor further
promoted the name of her uncle by arranging
for his Fantasie Variations on a
Swedish Air, Piano Concerto in D Major,
Trio in G Major for Violin, Cello and
Piano Quartet in E Minor to
be recorded under the Lyrita label.
More recently his Magic Mirror Suite,
Variations on an Original Theme
and Variations on a Hungarian Theme
have appeared on CD, as have several
of his chamber works (see Appendix,
Discography on page 15).
1936, Croydon musicologist H. G. Newell
produced the biographical pamphlet (27
Yeates Hurlstone Musician and Man.
Katharine Hurlstone expressed her desire
for a more comprehensive volume on her
brother. In 1947 she edited a booklet,
William Hurlstone Musician,
which she expanded Newell's material
and combined it with a series of contributions
from Hurlstone's friends and contemporaries.
One of the more significant contributions
was Thomas F. Dunhill's The
Music of William Hurlstone - A Critical
two publications form the basis of most
of the post-war writing about Hurlstone.
It is unfortunate that Katharine Hurlstone's
book can be shown to contain a number
of inaccuracies, some have found their
way into record sleeve-notes and other
more recent publicationsxxii.
K. Hurlstone p14: Hurlstone
was self-taught in composition right
up to the point where he was awarded
an RCM scholarship.
K Hurlstone p64: “The Music of
William Hurlstone” by Th. Dunhill.
Two Trios Op2 for Violin, Cello and
Piano, Lafleur & Son 1888.
K. Hurlstone p. 11 and Newell p. 6.
Bright's Disease is a necrosis of
the kidneys with no known cause nor
Captain Alexander S. Beaumont (1848-1913),
patron of the arts, composer and publisher
under the pseudonym of Charles Woolhouse.
RCM archives held by the Department
of Portraits. College Concert No 247,
30th June 1897: William
Hurlstone - piano; Eli Hudson - flute;
Frederick Moss - clarinet; Herbert
Thornton - horn; Edwin Cox - bassoon.
For reasons of failing health Hurlstone
moved to Battersea in 1906 to be nearer
to his work. However he remained strongly
associated with Croydon musical life.
His family continued to be resident
in that district.
C. W. Nightingale: composer, musical
director and self-taught oboist; born
1868, Horsham. Nightingale is credited
with having conceived the Century
Concerts. See entry in Who's Who
in Music 1913.
From the rubric printed on the programme
bills for the Century Concerts.
Weston: Clarinet Virtuosi of the
Past pp. 264-272 et al.
Archives of the London Borough of
Croydon Local Studies Library - 5
programme bills for the Century Concerts.
Musical Times July 1st
Norwood News and Penge and Anerley
Chronicle June 9th
Charles Avison Edition was the publishing
outlet for the Society of British
Composers (1905-1918). Under this
edition several of Hurlstone's works
were published (and distributed by
Novello). On demise of the Society,
Avison Ed. was transferred to Cary
and later absorbed into Novello.
Published as Opus 43. However, apart
from a very few items of juvenilia,
Hurlstone did not use opus numbers.
The Op 43 has probably been appended
K. Hurlstone p. 32 states that the
Piano Quartet in E Minor was
published by the Society of British
Composers, however the Curwen edition
of 1906 cites Beaumont and Hart as
the parties responsible. See also
The date of composition of the Trio
in G Major for Violin, Cello and Piano
has long held to have been written
around 1904. However examination of
the autograph shows this to have been
completed 30th September