Tag Archives: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer and conductor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the son of a doctor from Sierra Leone and an English woman, was born in Croydon, England on 15 August 1875. At the age of 15, he was accepted into a violin class at the Royal College of Music in London and studied composition before being awarded a composition scholarship in March 1893. As a composer he progressed far more quickly than his fellow students. At a young age, Coleridge-Taylor became familiar with the works of the African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who had a strong influence on Coleridge-Taylor, especially on his compositions Seven African romances op. 17 (1897), A corn song (1897), African suite op. 35 (1897) and the opera Dream lovers op. 25 (1898). He was also familiar with the writings of Frederick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, and W. E. B. Du Bois, whose collection of essays, The souls of Black folk, he called “the finest book I have ever read by a colored man, and one of the best by any author, White or Black”.

At the age of 23, Coleridge-Taylor was commissioned to write his Ballade in A minor for Britain’s Three Choirs Festival; although he is best known for Hiawatha’s wedding feast, based on a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The overture Coleridge-Taylor wrote for the piece was inspired by the African American spiritual Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. In 1904, he made the first of three trips to the United States where he toured during the post-Reconstruction era and met notable African American figures such as the poet James Weldon Johnson and the statesman Booker T. Washington. During this period, he also conducted performances of his works at the Washington Festival and Litchfield Festival on the East Coast. Later, Coleridge-Taylor became a professor of composition at Trinity College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music. In addition to cantatas, chamber music, and orchestral works, he also wrote popular songs and incidental music. Coleridge-Taylor passed away at the age of 37 from pneumonia.

Read the full entry on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor in MGG Online.

Listen to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha overture below.

A related Bibliolore post:

A new Coleridge-Taylor edition

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Filed under Black studies, Europe, Musicology, North America, Opera, Performers

A new Coleridge-Taylor edition

samuel coleridge-taylor

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor began his only symphony when he was a student of Charles Villiers Stanford, as his major project for the 1895–96 season.

A new edition by John L. Snyder of Coleridge-Taylor’s symphony in A minor, op. 8, includes the finale later added in 1900, as well as the two surviving discarded finales from 1896 and the revision of the slow movement issued in 1901 as Idyll, op. 44 (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2013).

The edition of the symphony is based on the autograph MSS, including autograph parts, now in the Royal College of Music Library and in the British Library. The extensive critical notes document the changes made by the composer, both in the score and in the process of copying parts. Coleridge-Taylor was concerned to make his symphony cyclic and struggled with how to accomplish that most effectively, as evidenced by the three finales.

The Idyll is edited on the basis of a copyist’s score formerly in the Novello rental library and now in the Fleisher Collection of the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Above, Coleridge-Taylor around the time he wrote the symphony; below, a brief tribute to the composer, narrated by his daughter, Avril Coleridge-Taylor.

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Filed under New editions, Romantic era