Tikhon Nikolayevich Khrennikov

As ever with Russians, the issues of patronymics and transliterations arise. However, in Tikhon's case (1913 - 2007), there is little argument about the specifics: New Groves includes the patronymic and so does Wikipedia. Last.fm is its usual wayward self, with at least eight possible spelling variants, including one entirely in Cyrillic that nevertheless makes a point of including the patronymic.

Thus, there is little apparent doubt that Tikhon Nikolayevich Khrennikov is the correct spelling of this particular individual, as far as we English speakers are concerned, anyway. [...] 

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William Wordsworth

His full name was, rather delightfully, William Brocklesby Wordsworth -but the New Grove has the middle name in brackets, so it's optional and is dropped in these pages. William Wordsworth the Victorian poet was an ancestor (a great-great uncle, apparently). He was born in London in 1908 and died in Scotland in 1988, having moved to Scotland before the Second World War broke out and choosing to remain there permanently thereafter. His compositional output is relatively small -but it does include eight symphonies and six string quartets. He was probably most famous for the decade or so just after World War II, but he was competing with the likes of Britten and Tippett at the time, so it is not too surprising that after a brief period in something approaching the limelight, he thereafter sank back into a degree of obscurity. It probably didn't help that he was a famously reticent man, keen to avoid making claims for -or even drawing attention to- his work.

His music is mostly tonal with a modern 'tang'. The New Grove declares his music to have 'reminders of Brahms' (but I think that's possibly a bit of a stretch!) and closes its very short article on him with the faint and damning praise that, "his music is predominantly thoughtful and unspectacular". [...] 

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Carl Friedrich Abel

There are five mentions of the Abel family in the New Grove, about whom it says, "They originated from middle and north Germany and were noted chiefly as viola da gamba players, violinists and composers; some were painters and landscape gardeners". The first notable Abel (sometimes spelled Abell for the earliest family members) dates back to the 1580s: our man, however, was born in Cöthen in 1723 and died in London in 1787.

The name Cöthen will be familiar to anyone interested in Johann Sebastian Bach, of course, as Bach worked there from 1717 until 1723. It is possible that Carl went to study with Bach in Leipzig in 1737, when his own father died. The Abel/Bach connection was subsequently maintained as Carl played viola da gamba in the Dresden at the same time as Wilhelm Friedemann Bach played organ in the same city in the mid 1740s. [...] 

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George Dyson

Born in Halifax in 1883, and died in Winchester in 1964: he had a long life, spent mostly teaching music to others, in particular at Winchester College and the Royal College of Music. In fact, he became director of the RCM in 1938 -and the time available for original composition seems to have diminished accordingly. His period of most compelling output was around the 1920s to 1930s. He was knighted in 1941.

Stylistically, he's of the Parry and Stanford school of English music, not your Walton or Britten! As he himself put it, "My reputation is that of a good technician … not markedly original. I am familiar with modern idioms but they are outside the vocabulary of what I want to say." Most critics, then and now, tend to regard his works generally as lacking in personality or personal idiom. That said, the Sir George Dyson Trust is happy enough to declare that "His compositions are  hugely attractive and cover a wide range of genres: chamber music, songs, piano music, choral music, orchestral music and perhaps most successful of all, his music for choir and orchestra, often with soloists." [...] 

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Aarre Merikanto

Born in Helsinki in 1893 and died in the same city in 1958: he was thus 30 years younger than his compatriot Sibelius, but died just a year after him. He studied music in Leipzig and Moscow, where his primary influence in matters harmonic and orchestration was Alexander Scriabin. As The New Grove puts it, "His mature style may be seen as a fusion of chromatic polyphony, Russian 'mystical' colour and Finnish folkdance rhythms; he was one of the pioneers of highly chromatic, and highly coloured, writing in Finland, and for years, even decades, his endeavours were not understood." In search of some sort of understanding, perhaps, he retreated from his complex mature style to a more crowd-pleasing national romantic style after about the mid-1930s.

Back to the Music Listings [...] 

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Marcel Poot

A curious-looking man, Marcel Poot was born near Brussels (Belgium, for our non-EU-familiar friends) in 1901 and died in 1989 (also in Brussels), meaning he was alive when my edition of the New Groves was printed! He is barely known outside of Belgium (for good reason: his music is not, I think, particularly inspiring or spectacular!), but is apparently quite well-known within it -which might unkindly be thought to be a consequence of not many composers at all, whether good or bad, coming from that particular country in the first place!

His output is quite small, in any event, with the New Groves declaring his orchestral music superior to his vocal, and with the best of his orchestral music being 'strongly rhythmic and essentially tonal... brilliant and vigorous in style, close to middle-period Stravinsky, or more particularly to Prokofiev. [...] 

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William Lawes

Having never even heard of William Lawes before, I was slightly astonished to discover that his entry in the New Groves extends to over 7 full pages: that's an unusually long article for any composer (Shostakovich only rates 10-and-a-bit, for example), but for an obscure English composer from the early part of the 17th Century, it's practically unique!

William Lawes additionally has the distinction, for me, of being about the only composer in my collection who was shot dead by Parliamentarian forces in the middle of the English Civil War (1645). No-one knows what happened to his body... but King Charles I was upset enough to posthumously declare him to be 'Father of Musick' (though seemingly not upset enough to have him buried decently! I guess it was war-time!) [...] 

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Giovanni Benedetto Platti

All three names are mandated by the New Groves. He was born in Padua around 1697 (my New Groves lists him as "c1700") and died in Bavaria in 1763. Those dates mean he was an approximate contemporary of Bach (younger by about 15 years). He moved to Würzburg in Bavaria in 1622 and there served more or less continuously in the court of the Prince-bishops of Bamberg and Würzburg until his death.

Of his music, the New Groves reports '[his sonatas from 1743] have rightly been related to the early sonatas of C. P. E. Bach, [though] nowhere in Bach's sonatas can so many dull sequences be found'! So not exactly a ringing endorsement of his musical abilities, then!! The entry for him goes on, nevertheless, to speak warmly of his music's 'rhythmic vitality', 'surprisingly extended melodic ideas', '[the] well-organised use of syncopation' and its 'sensitive, florid and wide-ranging lines'. [...] 

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Grigori Frid

One of only a handful of composers that are not listed at all in my 1980 edition of the New Groves, despite the fact that he was born in Petrograd in 1915 and only died in 2012 -on his 97th birthday, as bad luck would have it. Not having a New Groves entry, I cannot appeal to authority regarding whether it is correct to use his patronymic or not (it happens to be 'Samuilowitsch'), so I've simply chosen to catalogue him in the simplest, shortest manner -i.e., without the patronymic.

His output is extensive and was broadly 'Soviet realist' before the 1960s and increasingly atonal afterwards. He is primarily known as the composer of three symphonies and two chamber operas (one about the diary of Anne Frank and another about the letters exchanged between Vincent van Gough and his brother Theo). [...] 

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Harald Sæverud

His full name was Harald Sigurd Johan Sæverud, but the New Groves puts brackets around the 'Sigurd Johan' bit, indicating optionality: they are therefore left out when cataloguing as far as I'm concerned! You can spell the last name with a ligature between the 'a' and 'e' -though the New Groves uses two distinct letters. Perhaps there's a typographical reason for doing so, but Wikipedia is happy to use the ligature. Last.fm does not, but they're always odd -and in any case have at least 10 different ways of referencing the same man! So: on these pages, as in my collection, the ligature is very much in use, despite the New Groves' rather lackadaisical approach to typesetting his surname.

As you can tell from the photo at the left, he lived to an advanced age. His dates are actually 1897 to 1992, so he was practically 95 when he died. He was born and died in Bergen (Norway) and was, for much of the 20th Century, that country's most lauded composer. His style ranges from being (early on) quite tonal and decidedly late romantic to an astringent atonalism in the 1930s. Post-war, his style developed into what New Groves describes as 'freely tonal', with 'extensive polyphony and thematic material that often grows by degrees from concentrated motifs'. [...] 

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