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Alun Hoddinott (Composer)

Born: August 11, 1929 - Bargoed, Glamorganshire, Wales, UK

Alun Hoddinott is a prominent Welsh composer and teacher. His compostional talents developed early, and he won a university scholarshop at the age of sixteen. He was educated at Gowerton Grammar School; then studied at University College in Cardiff (BA, 1949; Ph.D., 1960). After graduating he studied for some years composion in London with the Australian composer and pianist, Arthur Benjamin.

In 1951 Alun Hoddinott was appointed lecturer in music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and served in this post until 1959. In 1959 he joinmed the staff of the University College in Cardiff, first as lecturer (1959-1965), then reader (1965-1967), and finally as Professor of Music and Head of Department (1967-1987). From 1966 to 1989 he served as artistic director of the Cardiff Festival of Twentieth Century Music.

Alun Hoddinott's works were already being performed and broadcast while he was still a student. He was awarded the Walford Davies prize for composition when he was twenty-four, and achieved his first national success a year later (1954) when his Clarinet Concerto was given its first performance at the Cheltenham Festival by Gervase de Peyer and the Hallé Orchestra, under Sir John Barbirolli. This brought Hoddinott a national profile which was followed by a string of commissions by leading orchestras and soloists. These commissions have continued to the present day and he has been championed by some of the most distinguished singers and instrumentalists of the 20th Century. These include singers including Dame Margaret Price, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Sir Thomas Allen, Jill Gomez, Sir Geraint Evans and more recently Jeremy Huw Williams. Instrumentalists have included Ruggiero Ricci, Mstislav Rostropovich, Dennis Brain, Osian Ellis, John Ogdon to name a few, and more recently Euphonium player David Childs and song pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen.

In 1957 Alun Hoddinott was awarded the Arnold Bax Medal for composers and in 1983 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He has been awarded Honourary Doctorates from numerous leading Musical Institutions including the Royal Academy of Music (of which he is an Honorary Member), Royal Northern College of Music (Fellow) and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, as well as the Walford Davies Award. In 1997 Alun Hoddinott received the Glyndwr Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales during the Machynlleth Festival. He also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts Council of Wales in 1999, Fellowship of the Welsh Music Guild and the presentation of a medal to him by Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of the official opening of the Wales Millennium Centre. Among his many awards are also the John Edwards Memorial Award, and the Hopkins Medal of the New York St David's Society.

As Professor of Music at University College, Cardiff, and Artistic Director of the Cardiff Festival, Alun Hoddinott has had considerable influence in awakening interest in contemporary music in South Wales. He has also formed close and regular contacts in both the USA and Germany.

Compositions and Style

Alun Hoddinott's extensive output displays a notable command of various styles, ranging from the traditional to serial and aleatoric techniques. He has achieved a mastery of composition which embraces almost every musical medium - symphonic, orchestral and operatic - his style evolving over a long and distinguished career. His strong creative urge, stimulated by a tremendous variety of eminent performers, is reflected in a substantial body of works. Essentially chromatic, his music often shows a dark Celtic intensity, manifested in his nocturnal slow movements. The range of his distinctive musical language is very wide. His music is always driven by an exhilarating rhythmic control and coloured by an impeccable ear for instrumental sonority. Works range from serious, highly integrated Chamber works to light-hearted scores like the popular Quodlibet on Welsh Nursery Tunes.

Alun Hoddinott is widely regarded as one of the most significant composers of his generation with a prolific output covering all major musical forms - nine symphonies (the eighth, for brass and percussion which premiered in Cardiff in September 1993), over fifteen concertante works, ten piano sonatas, five violin sonatas, three string quartets, five operas (two for television and four with leading parts for Sir Geraint Evans) and a wide range of vocal, choral, instrumental, chamber and orchestral music.

Alun Hoddinott is often stimulated to composition by extra-musical ideas both poetic and pictorial - some of his best-known works are the Sun the great luminary of the universe, the heaventree of stars, Lanterne des morts and Landscapes. Recent scores which follow these are the hugely successful Star Children, a 1989 Prom commission which the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra and Tadaaki Otaka took on tour to Japan and which they have recorded commercially, and Noctis Equi, a scena for Mstislav Rostropovich first performed at Hoddinott's 60th birthday concert at the Barbican with the London Symphony Orchestra and Kent Nagano which was recorded immediately afterwards. Philosophical quests also inspire this composer and his most recent work, his Symphony No. 9 for soprano and orchestra, A Vision Of Eternity, premiered by Dame Gwynneth Jones for whom it was written to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of St. David's Hall, Cardiff, is a prime example of this.His works are all written to commission and are performed world-wide. Recent notable premieres have been the Flute Sonata at the 1991 Harrogate International Festival and the Violin Sonata No. 5 in New York. The Piano Sonata No. 9 (heard at the 1989 Cheltenham Festival when he was composer-in-residence) has very recently been played in Miami and Louisiana.

In May 1992 Alun Hoddinott's specially composed May Song was performed at the Garden Festival Wales in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales. Many of his works have been recorded commercially including the Symphony No. 6, Scena for Strings, A Contemplation upon Flowers and Lanterne des Morts in 1989. Three Advent Carols have been issued on a disc by the Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge, directed by George Guest. In 2005, he produced a fanfare to be performed at the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, to Camilla Parker Bowles, having previously written works to celebrate Prince Charles' 16th Birthday and his investiture.

Commissions, performances and broadcasts of Alun Hoddinott's works now take place worldwide. A number of major new works will be featured at the most important Welsh Festivals and other recent scores receive their first London performances.

Other notable works

Concerto for Piano, Winds and Percussion, op. 19 (1961)
Concerto No. 2, op. 21 (1960)
Concerto No. 3, op. 44 (1966)
The Beach of Falesa (opera)

Source: Oxfird University Press Website, Wikipedia Website; ParacletePress Website; Complete Music Publishing Website; Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (April 2006)

Use of Chorale Melodies in his works


Chorale Melody


The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe
Thematic ideas originate in the chorale melody Es ist genug (used by Bach), of which the first four bars are quoted exactly, and the Dies Irae, which is heard in a shadowy outline at the climax of the work.

Es ist genug


Links to other Sites

Alun Hoddinott (Wikipedia)
OUP: Alun Hoddinott
Alun Hoddinott (Orian Publications)

Complete Music Publishing: Alun Hoddinott
ParacletePress: Alun Hoddinott
Alun Hoddinott -


Michael Kennedy (musicologist) (Editor): The Oxford Dictionary of Music (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994) ISBN 0198691629
Chambers Biographical Dictionary (Chambers, Edinburgh, 2002) ISBN 0550100512

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