Bainton later moved with his family to Coventry and he showed early signs of musical ability playing the piano; he was nine years old when he made his first public appearance as solo pianist. In he received a scholarship to study composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Bainton kept a notebook listing nearly all his compositions, the first entry being his first known surviving work, Prelude and Fugue in B minor for piano, written in He became involved in the local musical scene, composing, playing and conducting and in , he married a former student, Ethel Eales, with whom he had two daughters. He became the Principal of the Conservatory in , and acquired property for its expansion.

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And yet, if we look back 60 years to the many competitive festivals and choral society events that were a vital part of British music-making, his part-songs and choral works were part of the backbone of the repertoire. Such thoughts prompted the research for this article. Edgar Leslie Bainton was born in London on 14th February ; his father was a Congregational minister who later moved with his family to Coventry.

His abilities in music and at the piano were noticed early; he made his first public appearance as solo pianist at 9 years of age, and at 16 he won an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music to study piano with Franklin Taylor and theory with Walford Davies.

In he gained the Wilson Scholarship to study composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and thus became one of the rising generation of British composers destined to contribute extensively to the English Musical Renaissance. And this fact in itself is surely the finest tribute to his teaching that he kept his own personality in the background and helped them whether they were conscious of it or not to express themselves, to say clearly what they had to say.

His first surviving work is a Prelude and Fugue in B Minor for piano, dating from ; it is the first entry in his notebook which lists nearly all his works up to his death, and to which I shall constantly refer. In Bainton was appointed piano professor to the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Conservatory of Music it closed in , four years after his emigration to Australia - see D.

He immersed himself totally in local musical life-becoming pianist and writer of programme notes for the Northumbrian Chamber Music Society in , conductor of the Philharmonic Society amateur Orchestra in , and in the Principal of the Conservatory. He decided to enlarge the facilities there by purchasing a large house in Jesmond Road, a venture which, had it failed, would have ruined him financially.

He had married a former student, Ethel Eales, in , and their two daughters, Guendolen and Helen were born in and They lived at Stocksfield, near Hexham, where Bainton gained much inspiration from taking long country walks, often with his friend, the Lakeland poet, Wilfred Wilson Gibson; it was through Gibson that Bainton became part of the literary circle surrounding the poet and litterateur, Gordon Bottomley.

This connection was to result in Bainton setting many of his poems and writing an opera to one of his lyric dramas. He was also part of an important musical circle for introducing much new British music. Works by Holst, Bax, Vaughan Williams and many others were performed for the first time in the area, largely through the pioneering efforts of Bainton, his close friend William Gillies Whittaker right , George Dodds front, second from left and H.

Yeaman Dodds rear centre , the violinist Alfred Wall rear left , the conductor J. In the summer of , while en route to the Bayreuth Festival, he was arrested as a British civilian in wartime Germany and interned at a prison camp at Ruhleben, near Berlin.

This was a converted race-course and internees had to sleep six men to every horse-box. Despite many hardships this four-year exile proved to be a period of great creative and practical musical activity, not only for Bainton, who was placed in charge of all the music at the camp, but also for a number of other musicians interned there, including Carl Fuchs principal cellist in the Halle Orchestra, released after a few weeks , Benjamin Dale, Frederick Keel the singer-songwriter, Percy Hull assistant to G.

Bainton, whose very fine technique is better suited to pianoforte writing of a more modern character, the vigour and robustness of his playing scarcely compensating for what was lost in the way of delicacy He supervised the taking of degree examinations in the camp - Ernest Macmillan gained a D. Mus, the papers being sent to London for assessment. There were Sunday evening concerts featuring a wide range of orchestral and choral music, ranging from the classics to works by Massenet Scenes-Alsatiennes.

Composition seems to have been very therapeutic for him throughout this entire period. An Overture for orchestra was sketched at Frankfurt March saw a breakdown in his health and he was transferred along with several other internees to The Hague for convalescence.

At home, as life returned to normal he resumed his work at the Conservatory which his wife had run single-handed since the outbreak of war. He wrote an article for the Musical Times on his wartime experiences in Ruhleben, and lectured on a wide range of topics for the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, as well as undertaking frequent conducting engagements, including premieres of his own works, such as Before Sunrise and A Song of Freedom and Joy.

He became a regular examiner for the Associated Board and began to travel extensively. He went on a tour of Australia and Canada from April to January , the only time his composition ceased, and from August to December he toured India, where he gave a piano recital for the Indian Broadcasting Company and was the guest in Calcutta of the celebrated poet and musician, Rabindranath Tagore, who introduced him to the beauties of Indian music.

His Australian visit had obviously made a significant impression on the governing body of the New South Wales Conservatorium at Sydney for him to be offered the Directorship in the summer of He was awarded an honorary D. Mus at Durham University by Sir Edward Bairstow, and in the family prepared to start a new and exciting life in Australia.

In her biography of her father, Remembered on Waking, Helen Bainton writes: "In , a year remembered for the deaths of Elgar, Delius and Holst, my father came to this country. He was steeped in the traditions of the English Schools of Music, with their choral, orchestral, operatic, chamber music and general scholastic training.

He came filled with enthusiasm and an abiding love for the work he was to do, and whatever he undertook was done with his whole mind and heart. His vitality was unbounded; his thoughts simple and direct. He was highly strung and very sensitive but possessed great self-control, due to his sense of discipline and rigorous physical training. His temper could quickly rise and as quickly be forgotten, and he possessed a deep philosophy of life From this he realised how precious were the small, simple, day to day tasks and was contented with his life.

He never strove for success nor wished for power, but was deeply aware of the need for spreading the understanding and appreciation of an artistic inheritance. Bach right up to the moment when he left for the Conservatorium.

On arrival he always went backstage with his tuning-fork to test each player, after the custom of Sir Henry Wood. Orchestral players often play cards before concerts, or when they have long waiting periods.

Father was horrified on entering the bandroom to find a game of cards in progress his own mind was far removed from such mundane things. In the opera was repeated, but this was the year he had to retire, owing to regulations stipulating compulsory retirement at 65; Bainton was unhappy at this ruling as he had so much more to give to his work.

His composing continued, culminating in the Third Symphony, though he also ventured into film music with a score for a short documentary film on the Australian Bush Police. However, a heart attack which followed the death of his wife, put his health under strain; he died while taking his morning swim on Point Piper beach on December 8th After his death his collection of manuscripts and personal papers were presented to the Mitchell Library, Sydney, by his daughter Helen; these form the largest part of his remaining MSS.

His music does not readily reveal itself. As Bainton travelled in life, so his music travels across the private world of the spiritual imagination which his knowledge of literature helped to create. The orchestral scores I have been able to study show a richness of melody, a clarity and fastidiousness of thought and an exceptional sensitivity and harmonic fluidity which is the hallmark of his style and which lifts his best work to a particularly heightened state of imagination.

Although Bainton was very much in close contact with contemporary musical events at the turn of the century-he was one of the first musicians in England to study Schoenberg scores, including Gurrelieder which was sent to him by Edward Clark, then a student of Schoenberg in Berlin, and he introduced his friend W.

This is seen above all in his lifelong love and reverence for the music of J. What, however, I shall never forget was when approaching his home, I heard him play Bach on the piano-just for himself. That was fulfilment for this extremely shy man Many were written as presents for his wife, and his vast knowledge of literature meant that a wide range of poets were set by him; certainly the greater part of his output is based on literature, either as vocal settings or as instrumental works with a literary programme of some kind.

Bainton set classic poets - Shelley, Browning both Robert and Elizabeth , Blake, Tennyson, Ben Jonson, Milton and Coleridge; but it is the extraordinary number of minor figures from the Georgian period and beyond, many forgotten today, that figure most often in his work. Eva Gore-Booth, Alice Meynell, Lascelles Abercrombie and Thomas Lovell Beddoes, to name just a few, may be shadowy figures, but this is not to say that they should not be rediscovered and re-evaluated; this is certainly the case with the poets he knew best of all - Gordon Bottomley and Wilfred Wilson Gibson, who figure most frequently in his vocal output.

Of the solo songs, Slow, slow, fresh fount, Ring out, wild Bells, and Valley Moonlight with its modal leanings towards C minor while the key is G minor, seem to have been reasonably well-known. Of the part-songs, The Ballad of Semmerwater was particularly famous; perhaps a change of fashion may re-introduce some of these to the repertoire.

The poet was also the critic and described the work as: " And I Saw A New Heaven completed June 13th takes pride of place in keeping his name alive at all today; of his other anthems, Open thy Gates Herrick and In the Wilderness Robert Graves retain the spiritual detachment of his more famous piece.

Many of these, such as From "Faery" and Four Tone Pictures both from Augener probably had reasonable sales, though they were very much regarded as "bread and butter music" by the rest of the family.

There is also a Miniature Suite and Dance for piano duet. His most important and substantial work for piano is undoubtedly the Concerto Fantasia for piano and orchestra, his second work to receive a Carnegie Trust award in , though he had started on it in At a performance given in Birmingham in , with the composer as soloist, the critic Alfred Sheldon wrote " The first orchestral entry opens with one of the most crucial themes of the whole work.

The major climax of the first movement is for orchestra alone, which is certainly unusual for a piano concerto and enhances the symphonic nature of the work. In the Finale the original first movement theme seems to appear from underground in the texture before leading to the final climax and Epilogue.

It was inevitable that Bainton, with his natural desire for word-setting, would have been drawn towards the challenge of the operatic form. Because of his interest in the Bayreuth festivals, he wished to use the music drama as his model, in which the poem, music and general stage effect form a complete picture.

Oithona, beloved of Gaul, has been carried off by Dunromath, Lord of Uthal, to a deserted island. Gaul learns of this in a dream and finds her. Determined to seek revenge, Gaul prepares to do battle with Dunromath and his warriors.

Photographs supplied by Michael Jones Through his close friendship with Rutland Boughton, Bainton was closely involved with the Glastonbury festivals. It is thought that the Wookey Hole Male-voice Choir were used for the Hymn to the Sun, and the performances were directed from the piano by Clarence Raybould. Bainton was unable to hear the work as he was interned in Germany; it was not thought to have been orchestrated and all traces of any material relating to the score have disappeared, implying perhaps that Bainton later withdrew the work.

Through his association with Gordon Bottomley, Bainton started work on another music-drama, The Crier by Night, in July , completing the vocal score in June , though the full score was not finished until January Helen tells us of a private performance of the work in Newcastle, with an "orchestra-filled room" 8 and soloists who included such distinguished names as Dorothy Silk as Blanid and Norman Allin as the Crier.

The opera is set at the time when the Danes have conquered Western Britain and taken even high-born women as slaves, such as Blanid a " jewelled queen", at present the slave of Hialti and his wife Thorgerd, who treats her cruelly. In the first scene, Blanid is preparing the meal when she is taunted by Thorgerd about singing her songs of "faery and nameless kings, and things that NEVER happened" Thorgerd also taunts her husband, accusing him of a secret liaison with Blanid, which he quietly but firmly denies.

During these arguments a distant cry is heard from outside-the warning call for "The Crier of the Ford", who lures wayfarers to their death in the lake. Scene 2 follows after a brief pause. Blanid sings of her past life of riches, and opens the door to call the Crier for the Ford, the old "father of many waters" to help her.

An old strange man appears, singing of old joys but warning her that he will bring "neither joy or misery, but only rest. Blanid then rushes into the night, a scream is heard from her as the curtain falls. It is clear why such a story appealed to Bainton, for it portrays the oppression of the free spirit by earthly materialistic forces as epitomised by the slavery of Blanid and her captors.

This opera therefore needs orchestral backing to bring out the dramatic colouring; although scored for a large orchestra this expense could be offset by the fact that the production would only require one set of scenery. A full score and vocal score are held by BMS Archives, though the orchestral parts from the broadcast are still in Australia; it still awaits its premiere production.

But surely, the Bainton opera most in need of a modern production is The Pearl Tree: an opera-phantasy in two acts, written to a libretto by Robert Calverley Trevelyan originally conceived as a stage play and completed in August the full score in November The four nights were totally sold-out.

An extra night had to be put on to accommodate people turned away previously. The entire production was repeated in Neville Cardus, at that time writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, described the opera as "spontaneously and sensitively composed," and went on to say: "The fusion of vocal melody and recitative into a continuously flowing orchestral tissue is a constant delight to the practised ear, and there are resource and invention throughout.

The orchestration produces as sustained a succession of beautiful sound as any I have heard in the theatre since I attended an opera by Richard Strauss. The story revolves around the love of Krishna, a God in human incarnation, for Radha, a humble cow-girl. His love-song in Act I forms the musical apotheosis to the whole opera, but at this point he plays his flute to attract the attention of the Rishi, an ancient hermit and yogi, who sings in one of the published songs of his final discovery of God in Krishna himself, after twenty years of waiting.

The spiritual allegory in this work seem to have appealed to one lady observer, who is reported to have commented to the composer that she enjoyed The Pearl Tree as if were an oratorio!


Edgar Bainton: And I Saw A New Heaven

Bainton later moved with his family to Coventry and he showed early signs of musical ability playing the piano; he was nine years old when he made his first public appearance as solo pianist. In he received a scholarship to study composition with Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. Bainton kept a notebook listing nearly all his compositions, the first entry being his first known surviving work, Prelude and Fugue in B minor for piano, written in He became involved in the local musical scene, composing, playing and conducting and in , he married a former student, Ethel Eales, with whom he had two daughters.


And I saw a new heaven (Revelation 21:1-4) – Edgar Bainton


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