Thomas Dunhill is a composer with whom I can do business. For over forty-odd years many of his attractive piano pieces have never been far from my side. And it is not just because some of them are relatively easy to play!
Over recent years a number of the composer’s larger works have appeared on CD including the Violin Sonata, the B minor Piano Quartet, the overture to Tantivy Towers and perhaps, most importantly, the Symphony in A minor. Dunhill’s son David has written the only biography of the composer to be published so far. It is a fascinating tale, but of necessity it is not a comprehensive study of the man and his music.
The critic Marion Scott described Dunhill’s music (in 1922): “as companionable as the South Downs on a sunny day”. Vincent writes that ‘…working across many styles and genres, his formidable knowledge of the classical composers as well as first-hand experience of the leading musical influences of his day, informed Dunhill’s oeuvre which is characterised by fine melody and exceptional workmanship’.
Unfortunately, Thomas Dunhill suffers from being best known for a single song – ‘Cloths of Heaven’ from the song-cycle The Wind among the Reeds, Op. 30. It is a beautiful piece but belies the composer’s huge achievement.
Paul Vincent (a grandson of the composer) in his new website seeks to remedy this perception by creating an impressive selection of web pages. It promises to be progressively more in-depth as time allows.
Vincent has written that ‘The Thomas Dunhill Connection encourages interest in the work of composer Thomas F. Dunhill (1877 – 1946) and the musical world he inhabited’. He hopes that ‘it will be a useful resource for students, musicians, musicologists – and anyone interested in the cultural life of Britain from the late Victorian period through to the end of the 2nd World War.’
Fortunately the Dunhill scholar has a superb resource in so far as the composer maintained a diary for most of his life. Vincent has promised to provide quotes and extracts from these in the coming months.
The website already includes samples of the composer’s music, biographical material, a listing of compostions and a selection of historic texts. There is an excellent short biography which allows the reader a good introduction to the composer’s life and works.
The Thomas Dunhill Connection can be accessed here.