Classical Music on the Web

Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Although he was a generation, or at least a half-generation, younger than such stalwarts of the English light music scene as Arthur Wood, Albert Ketelbey, Wilfrid Sanderson, Percy Fletcher, Alfred Reynolds and Eric Coates, Ernest Frederic Curzon, born in London on 4 September 1899, is to be reckoned among their number as a most attractive purveyor of tuneful, beautifully scored light music, primarily for orchestra. As a boy he studied violin, cello, piano and organ, his precocity being indicated by the fact that his settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis were performed before he was twelve. At sixteen he was a pianist in a London theatre orchestra (what sources of talent those orchestras were!) and at twenty he was conducting and composing accompaniments for silent films, then (1920) approaching their heyday as providers of live music. Curzon was also Organist at Shepherds Bush Pavilion for many years and at other places and conducted for a time during the War of 1939-45 at Llandudno Pier. (Surprisingly, I know of no organ music by him). He became President of the Light Music Society and died in Bournemouth as recently as December 1973.

As a composer he was encouraged both by Sir Dan Godfrey and by Ralph Hawkes of the music publishers Boosey and Hawkes, where Curzon was Head of the Light Music Department. Much of his output was for orchestra, but there were songs of the ballad type like I Bring My Love; In a Little Lane and, published as late as 1951, Someone a Little Like You. For piano, besides arrangements of popular orchestral movements of his own, like The Boulevardier, the march Ceremonial Occasion (written in 1953, Coronation year), the Overture Bouffe for an 18th Century Comedy, the scherzo Mischief (derived from a children's ballet suite Charm of Youth) and the very popular March of the Bowmen, he published other piano movements like a Square Dance Set (1951) and two pieces dating from 1948, Valse Impromptu and Prelude: By the Lyn, for which I have discovered no orchestral counterparts. Also from 1948 was a pleasant Elegiac Melody for cello and piano.

The most substantial items in Curzon's orchestral light music were the Spanish Suite, In Malaga, the Robin Hood Suite, which ends with the rousing March of the Bowmen - already mentioned and which was first performed on the 18 October 1937 by the BBCSO, the quarter-hour long Salon Suite, the third of whose six movements is a Period Piece in 18th Century Manner and the fifth is a brilliant Clarinetto con Moto. Curzon's music has a characteristic sparkle, apparent especially in his overtures Vanguard, Chevalier and Punchinello (which has been recorded in the LP era), all of which are most delightfully scored. One interesting feature of Curzon's orchestration is the presence of three (or sometimes two or even four) saxophones in many of his scores, apart from the more usual woodwind instruments. Examples are the march, Bonaventure, the once popular The Boulevardier, Busybodies, (described as a duet for two trumpets (or two xylophones!) and orchestra, the waltz, Cascade, the Dance of an Ostracised Imp, very frequently played at one time, Pasquinade, Serenade of a Clown, the serenade Simonetta, the march, Sons of the Soviet and Ringside, where the orchestra includes four saxes and a guitar. Another interesting formation was in the Summer Souvenir of 1958, which had single woodwind, accordion, harp and strings, but no brass. Few works were for strings alone but one may point to a Frolic for strings and the Berceuse of 1951 for harp and strings. His one concerted piece I know of, apart from the clarinet movement from the Salon Suite just mentioned, is Saltarello for piano and orchestra published in 1952. Curzon appears to have been drawn frequently to the exotic rhythms of Spain and Hungary. One thinks of the Spanish caprice, Capriciati (yet another score with a trio of saxophones). The pasodobles Bravaha and Sacramento, the Spanish serenade La Peinta (1954), later arranged for mixed chorus and orchestra by Ernest Tomlinson, the czardas La Gitana and the Gipsy caprice, Zingaresca. I have memories of gentler pieces too, such as Valse Joyeuse, the valse caprice, Water Nymph, the Rustic Scherzo, Over the Hills and Far Away, March of the Jesters, the serenade intermezzo, Norina and The Capricious Ballerina. Several of these date from the 1950s when Curzon was in his prime. As many of the foregoing titles show, he aimed at being witty as well as merely charming in his output and his success in this earned him a particular niche in British light music. Let us not forget him.

© Philip L Scowcroft.

Information recieved


I read on your site the information about Frederic Curzon. As curiosity I should like to add that a whole generation of Dutch children (between 1955 and 1965} knows the melody of "Dance of an ostricized imp".
The melody was used in the radio version of Paulus de Boskabouter by Jean Dulieu

I found English information here:

And a sample of the radio play can be found here:

Kind regards

Jan Aukes

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