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Maurice Besly (Composer, Arranger)

Born: January 28, 1888 - Normanby, Yorkshire, England
Died: April 12 (?), 1945

The English composer and conductor, Maurice Besly, was educated at Tonbridge and Caius College, Cambridge. After a short stage career he studied music at the Leipzig Conservatorium under Teichmüller, Schreck and Krehl (piano and composition).

Maurice Besly became music-master at Tonbridge School (1912-1914). During World War I, he served at Belgian Croix de Guerre, despatches, taken prisoner near Amiens, 1918. After the war, he returned as Assistant Music Master at Tonbridge (1918-19), became director of music and organist of Queen’s College, Oxford (1919-1926), and took over the Oxford Orchestral Society from Sir Hugh Allen. He gave his first concert in London with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1923, and conducted also the Royal Albert Hall Orchestra, and the Scottish Orchestra for a portion of the season 1924. As an orchestral conductor he showed considerable promise. He was sometime Director of the Performing Rights Society. In his latter years he worked in legal practice as a solicitor and notary public.

Maurice Besly's compositions include orchestral works played at Oxford, Bournemouth and elsewhere, songs, short choral works and piano pieces. As a composer he is remembered today for the elegant popular ballad, The Second Minuet, and there were many similar ones, like Columbine’s Garden, Jenny’s New Hat, Dainty Little Maiden, Jenny’s New Hat, Lullaby Trees, My Heart Remembers, Love I Give You My All, and Time, You Old Gipsy Man. Some of his single songs were settings of rather better lyrics: Music When Soft Voices Die, On London Bridge and perhaps even Belloc’s poem The Rolling English Road. One of Besly’s last effusions was A Soldier - His Prayer in 1944. More ambitious vocal pieces were the Four Poems Op 24, Charivaria (5 songs) and, with orchestra, the scena Phaedra, for soprano, and The Shepherds Heard an Angel for soprano solo and chorus. He composed the operettas (or musicals) For Ever After, Luana and Khan Zala and edited the Queen’s College Hymn Book. Some of his orchestral pieces enjoyed a modest currency, especially the overture and incidental music to The Merchant of Venice, the "impression" Mist in the Valley and the two suites Chelsea China and Suite Romanesque, both published, as were the violin pieces A Tune with Disguises and Nocturne and several short piano solos, including Barge Afloat, Berceuse and the Six Preludes. He also made several successful transcriptions for orchestra from Bach's works.


Source: Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1952 Edition; Author: H.C. Colles); MusicWeb Website (Author: Philip L. Scowcroft)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2007)

Maurice Besly: Short Biography | PT: Works | Recordings | Orchestral Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

Some British Conductor-Composers by Philip L. Scowcroft (MusicWeb)




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