Biography: John Herbert Foulds (1880-1939)

Perhaps more than most of the British composers whose talents were poorly represented by the BBC during its first half century, John Foulds is deserving of historic rehabilitation. The English musician who played cello with Richter's Hallé, and studied conducting with Mahler amongst others, was fortunate in his talent for exploring both old and new avenues of musical style, whilst unfortunate in the poor reception of some of his most prized efforts.

Famous in his day for light music, such as the 'Keltic lament' from his Keltic suite, and for his A world requiem, performed between 1923-6 at the Royal Albert Hall (London) for British Legion Armistice Night commemorations; his music career is in retrospect most notable for those aspects which failed to find much favour with the British public. His fascination with Eastern mysticism and with strictly non-diatonic modes led to a demoralising marginalisation of this side of his output, which failed to match up to the emerging taste for updated British folksong alongside Straussian romanticism. This aspect is duly explored in his publication Music to-day (1934), whose similar refusal to bow to anything other than his personal artistic responses and ideology is highlighted by its inclusion of 'op.92' on the title page.

Intellectually open to an eclectic array of musical and inspirational techniques, Foulds fused his earlier creativity forged from the romantic style of his forebears with ideas ranging from the early (Greek modes), to the modern (extreme chromaticism, bitonality, the quarter-tone scale—as early as 1896), and in turn to the exotic. And it was with the latter that he was pulled, with the encouragement of his second wife, violinist Maud McCarthy, towards India, where he died from cholera while Director of European Music at All-India Radio, Delhi (shortly to move to AIR's Calcutta station).

© Bluntinstrument (Ian Davis) from information garnered mainly from secondary sources. See other areas of this site for further avenues of research.

Created 2002.12.31