Kenneth Leighton

Kenneth Leighton
2.10.1929 - 24.08.1988
Country:United Kingdom
Period:XX age


Kenneth Leighton (2 October 1929 - August 24, 1988) was a British composer and pianist. His compositions include much Anglican church music, and many pieces for choir and for piano as well as concertos, symphonies, much chamber music and an opera. He wrote a well-known setting of the Coventry Carol. He spent his last 18 years as Professor of Music at Edinburgh University.

Leighton was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire on 2 October 1929. He attended Queen Elizabeth Grammar School and became a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral. As well as singing, he took piano lessons and gained his Licentiate of the Royal College of Music (LRAM) in piano performance in 1946. He went to Queen's College, Oxford in 1947 on a Hastings Scholarship to study Classics. At the same time, he continued to study music, his teachers including the composer Bernard Rose, and he gained two degrees: a BA in Classics in 1950, and a BMus in 1951. In 1951 he also won the Mendelssohn Scholarship for his Symphony for Strings, Opus 3, and his cantata Hippolytus. The Scholarship enabled him to travel to Rome to study with Goffredo Petrassi. In Rome he met his first wife, Lydia Vignapiano.

On his return from Italy in 1952, he began teaching at the Royal Marine School of Music in Deal, then in 1953 he became composer-in-residence at Leeds University on three-year Gregory Scholarship. In 1956 he moved to be a lecturer at Edinburgh University, becoming a senior lecturer in 1963 and a reader in 1967. After a brief spell at Worcester College, Oxford University between 1968 and 1970, he returned to Edinburgh as Reid Professor of Music.

He married his second wife Josephine Anne Prescott in 1981. He held his position at Edinburgh until his death from cancer in 1988.

Leighton's early work was influenced by English church music and by the work of English composers of the time, particularly Vaughan Williams, Britten, and Walton. His studies in Italy exposed him to the work of Schoenberg, Webern, and Berg and his later work was strongly influenced by serialism, while retaining a strong sense of melody.

He composed a wide variety of musical forms for many different configurations of musicians, often for specific occasions or performers, and his best known works include Anglican church music, choral music and piano music. His single most widely known piece is Lully, Lulla, Thou Little Tiny Child, Opus 25b, his setting of the Coventry Carol, which he composed as a student in 1948.

The premiere commercial recording of Leighton's Piano Concerto No.1 in D minor, op.11 (in its 1959 revised version publ. Novello) has been made by Cameo Classics. The soloist was British concert pianist Angela Brownridge, who studied with Leighton at Edinburgh University. The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra was conducted by its Musical Director Michael Laus for the recording made in June 2011. The CD release is in October 2011.

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