Frederic Hymen Cowen

I don’t have too many Jamaican composers in my collection, but Frederic Hymen Cowen (all three names are required, as per New Groves) is one of them. Sort of. He was certainly born in Jamaica in 1852… but, of course, his parents were there on colonial duties and they were all repatriated to England by the time he was four. He was actually christened Hymen Frederic, but at some point the word-order was reversed.

He had his first composition published -published, mind you!- when he was six and had written an operetta by the time he was eight.

Before Elgar rose to prominence as the 19th Century became the 20th, there were just a handful of composers who had significance in English musical life: Standford, Parry, Sullivan are well-known to this day. Then there was Alexander Mackenzie, who most people today have never heard of. Finally, there was Frederic Cohen, who remains in almost complete obscurity, despite writing six symphonies and countless operas and orchestral works. The trouble was, of course, as ever the first world war: the cultural shock it administered made almost everyone’s music up to that point sound old-fashioned and backward-looking, and writers of that sort of stuff accordingly fell from favour fairly swiftly (even the likes of Elgar never really recovered his pre-war reputation and stature, after all).

Frederic was knighted in 1911, so he’s actually Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen (the other four musical grandees of Victorian England mentioned above were also all knighted in their turn, of course). We almost never catalogue music by composers’ acquired titles, however… so plain Frederic he is in these pages.


Back to the Music Listings


Music Plays from my collection
(since January 9th 2021)

Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLength
Date of PlayTime of PlayGenreCompositionLength