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Biography

To understand 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 discussed.

The Early Years

William 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 compositioni. 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 when William was just nine years old. Other juvenile worksiii 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. This 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 Variations 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).


College Years

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 were:

Algernon Ashton - piano

Edward Dannreuther - piano

(Sir) Frederick Bridge - composition

James Higgs - composition

Wilfred Paris - composition

Sir Charles Stanford - composition


In 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:


Thomas Dunhill - composition 1893

John Ireland - piano 1893-1897; composition 1897-1901

Haydn Wood - composition 1897

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor - violin 1890; composition 1893

Ralph Vaughan Williams - composition 1890-92, 1895-1896

Gustav Holst - composition 1893

Fritz Hart - composition 1893

Such was Hurlstone's promise that the RCM granted him an additional scholarship year.


While 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, Londonv. 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 disease;vi had it not been for the generosity of the close family friend, Captain Alex S. Beaumontvii 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 Major 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 and piano.


Professional Years

On 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 (oboist); 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 Basetto[sic.], etc."xii


Their 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.


Hurlstone's 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 - Hudson, principal flute London Symphony Orchestraxiii; Dubrucq, principal bassoon London Symphony Orchestra; Muskett, professor of horn Guildhall School of Music. Draper in 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 works:


Lefebvre - Suite Op 57

Barthe - Passacaille and Aubade

Thuille - Sextette Op 6

Mozart - Quintet K452

Dunhill - Quintet

Saint-Saëns - Tarantelle Op 6

Hurlstone - Suite for Clarinet & Piano [Four Characteristics Pieces]

Bach - Sonata for Flute & Piano


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:


Appointment as Professor of Music at Croydon Conservatoire;


Appointment 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.



Tragically, 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 Timesxvii and the Norwood News and Penge and Anerley Chroniclexviii. In the latter, some 50 column-inches were devoted to Hurlstone, which included a personal tribute from his friend and fellow Croydonian 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 (1901) 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 Minorxx (1904) through Curwen in 1906.xxi


The Legacy Years

Periodically 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 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).


In 1936, Croydon musicologist H. G. Newell produced the biographical pamphlet (27 pages) William 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, in 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 Appreciation. These 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.



i K. Hurlstone p14: Hurlstone was self-taught in composition right up to the point where he was awarded an RCM scholarship.

ii K Hurlstone p64: “The Music of William Hurlstone” by Th. Dunhill.

iii Two Trios Op2 for Violin, Cello and Piano, Lafleur & Son 1888.

iv K. Hurlstone, p. 38.

v K. Hurlstone p. 11 and Newell p. 6.

vi Bright's Disease is a necrosis of the kidneys with no known cause nor cure.

vii Captain Alexander S. Beaumont (1848-1913), patron of the arts, composer and publisher under the pseudonym of Charles Woolhouse.

viii 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.

ix 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.

x 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.

xi Newell p. 15

xii From the rubric printed on the programme bills for the Century Concerts.

xiii Fairley p. 68.

xiv Weston: Clarinet Virtuosi of the Past pp. 264-272 et al.

xv Archives of the London Borough of Croydon Local Studies Library - 5 programme bills for the Century Concerts.

xvi Newell p. 20.

xvii Musical Times July 1st 1906.

xviii Norwood News and Penge and Anerley Chronicle June 9th 1906.

xix 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.

xx 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 posthumously.

xxi 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 endnote 25.

xxii 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 1901.

 



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