Cover image for Alan Rawsthorne : portrait of a composer
Alan Rawsthorne : portrait of a composer
McCabe, John, 1939-2015.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xvii, 311 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm + 1 audio disc (digital ; 4 3/4 in.)
Reading Level:
1570 Lexile.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.R233 M33 1999 TEXT Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This is the first comprehensive study of the life and music of Alan Rawsthorne (1905-71), one of the leading British composers of the twentieth century. Rawsthorne came from the same generation of composers as Britten, Walton, Tippett, and Constant Lambert. Since his death in 1971 his music,after a period of comparative neglect, is currently enjoying a revival in performance and recording. The composer and pianist John McCabe here brings a lifetime's knowledge of the man and his music to a vivid portrait of Rawsthorne's life, drawing on conversations with his family, friends, andcolleagues as well as contemporary documentation. Almost every one of his works is discussed, many of them in detail, demonstrating the versatility and range of Rawsthorne's vision, from popular works, such as Street Corner and the piano concertos, to the remarkable power of his lesser-known laterworks. In particular McCabe draws attention to the astonishing renewal of Rawsthorne's creative enery during his later period, and the immense broadening of his emotional and technical horizons leading to such masterpieces as the Third Symphony and Carmen Vitale. He makes a powerful case for athorough reassessment of Rawsthorne's oeuvre. A complimentary CD provides the reader with a representative sample of Rawsthorne's music. Please note, customers are required to send away for the accompanying CD.

Author Notes

John McCabe is a composer and pianist

Reviews 1

Choice Review

McCabe has written a perceptive, graciously generous, yet honest tribute from one composer to another whose work he admires and considers undervalued. Rawsthorne (1905-71) was not in the Vaughan Williams "English" tradition, hence his music was at first considered "continental"; later, because he never aped the serialists or the BBC-supported avant-garde, he seemed "provincial." In truth, his style was individual. His rapidly changing tonality and harmony could seem confusing or difficult--he enjoyed both the process whereby "tonal centres as they change ... become related again to one another" and "the manipulation of small melodic units or cells." Despite developing over time, he resisted trendiness and his melodic and harmonic language remained his own, which McCabe repeatedly praises. The author describes most of Rawsthorne's works, published and unpublished (including many film scores), and includes numerous musical examples. His sections on Rawsthorne's life, character, and times are both enjoyable and apposite, and he appends a very helpful, detailed chronology. Designed to illustrate Rawsthorne's style, McCabe's analyses are extensive and superbly lucid; ultimately, however, one tires of their repetitive aspects, especially in the absence of full scores (the excellent, 14-tract CD included does help). A good editor should have encouraged trimming; a bibliography would have been useful. For serious music collections. W. Metcalfe; University of Vermont

Table of Contents

Prologue: Early Years (1905-25)
1 Apprenticeship (1925-35)
2 Making a Career (1935-8)
3 International Recognition (1937-9)
4 The War Years (1939-45)
5 Broadening the Canvas (1945-50)
6 The Fifties (1951-8)
7 Renewal (1958-63)
8 Personal Statements (1963-6)
9 The Last Years (1967-71)
Contents of the CD
1 Concertante Pastorale
2 Theme and Variations for 2 violins
3 Piano Concerto No. 1 (Second movement)
4 Overture Street Corner
5 Fantasy Overture Corteges
6 Clarinet Quartet (Finale)
7 Carol
8 Symphony No. 1 (First movement)
9 String Quartet No. 2 (Finale)
10 The Cruel Sea (Prelude and Nocturne)
11 A Rose for Lidice
12 Violin Concerto No. 2 (First movement)
13 Violin Sonata (1958) (Third movement)
14 Symphony No. 2 (Pastoral) (Finale)