Arthur Somervell

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Born: 5 June 1863

Died: 2 May 1937


Sir Arthur Somervell was an English composer, and after Parry was one of the most successful and influential writers of 'art-song' in the English music renaissance of the 1890s-1900s.

He was born in Windermere, and was initially educated at Uppingham School and King's College, Cambridge, where he studied composition under Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. From 1883-1885 he studied at the High School for Music, Berlin, and from 1885-1887 at the Royal College of Music in London, under Hubert Parry. He studied composition with Friedrich Kiel. He became a professor at the Royal College of Music in 1894, and conducted his own works at the Leeds and Birmingham Festivals, 1895-97. He was appointed Inspector of Music by the Board of Education and Scottish education Department in 1901.

He achieved success in his own day as a composer of choral works such as The Forsaken Merman (1895), Intimations of Immortality (which he conducted at Leeds Festival in 1907), and The Passion of Christ (1914) but is now chiefly remembered for his song cycles such as Maud (after Tennyson, 1898) and A Shropshire Lad (the first known setting of Housman, 1904). His style was conservative, and shows the influence of Mendelssohn and Brahms. He was also active in music education, and became Principal Inspector of Music for the Board of Education in 1920. He was knighted in 1929.

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List of choral works

Sacred works

Secular works

Partsongs for Mixed Voices

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Other works

  • Wind Flowers Cycle of Quartets, Solos, and Duet
  1. Twist me a crown of wind flowers Quartet
  2. High over the breakers Quartet
  3. The wind has such a rainy sound Contralto solo
  4. Hope is like a harebell Quartet
  5. Two doves on the self-same branch Duet
  6. Music, when soft voices die Quartet
  7. When a mounting skylark sings Tenor solo and quartet
  8. Going to bed Quartet
  9. Windy nights and Finale Bass solo and quartet


  • The Forsaken Merman (1895)
  • Passion of Christ (1914)

Song Cycles

  • Maud (1898)
  • A Shropshire Lad (1904)
  • James Lee's Wife (1908)
  • A Broken Arc (1923)
  • Love in Springtime (1901)
  • Windflowers - Cycle for vocal quartet


  • Operettas: The Enchanted Prince; Princess Zara; Knave of Hearts (Novello); Golden Straw (Curwen); Thomas the Rhymer.
  • Orchestral works: Thalassa Symphony (Boosey); Helen of Kirconnel (Novello); In Arcady (Suite for small orchestra)(Donajowski)
  • Choral: Mass; Power of Sound; The Charge of the Light Brigade; Elegy (Chorus and orch.)(Novello); Song of Praise (chorus and orch.)(Metzler); To the Vanguard; Passion of Christ (chorus and orch.)(Boosey); Mass in D minor (Ricordi).
  • Concertstuck for violin and orchestra (Augener, 1913). Normandy, symphonic variations for piano and orchestra (1911, Augener). Highland concerto, pianoforte and orchestra (1920).
  • Chamber music: Quintet for clarinet and strings; Suites, studies and pieces for violin and piano (Augener, Weekes, Williams and Ashdown); Variations for 2 pianos (Augener); pianoforte pieces (Augener; Williams; Leonard; Lucas; Hatzfield; Ashdown; Boosey; Bosworth; Weekes).
  • Song-cycles: Maud (1898); A Shropshire Lad (1904); James Lee's Wife (1908); A Broken Arc (1923); Love in Springtime (1901). (Boosey). Windflowers, Cycle for vocal quartet (Boosey).
  • Songs: Six songs by Robert Burns (1885-86); Four songs of Innocence (1899); Singing Time, songs for small children (1899): (Boosey; Moore; Lucas; Leonard; Dunn; Gill; Asherberg; Ashdown; Enoch; Forsyth). Part-songs: (Boosey; Ashdown; Novello).
  • Musicological and Musical Education works: Rhythmic Gradus for pianoforte (Bosworth); Exercises in sight-reading, etc. ((Curwen); Sight-reading, 6 vols (Swan); Sight-reading exercises (Augener); Charts of the rules of Harmony and Counterpoint (Clarendon press).

External links

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