Jeffrey Green tells SCTF that by using copious contemporary comments, different aspects of the composer have been documented. Green’s discoveries over the completion and premiere of Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast may surprise many.
The “first black” influence on Coleridge-Taylor, long stated to have been in 1896 through African American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, has been dismissed as the poet was not in England until 1897, after the composer had published a poem celebrating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Liberia, West Africa.
Coleridge-Taylor’s African and English descent, his family upbringing in Croydon and the scholarship at the Royal College of Music (1893) have all been re-assessed and freshly documented. The composer’s financial contracts with publishers are contrasted to those of other composers, and his finances have also been examined through the Inland Revenue files on tax and inheritance.
The book takes a modern stance on musical analysis, leaving this to CD booklets, other commentators and the ears of the reader who can easily access much of Coleridge-Taylor’s music on CD.
The near-collapse of the music publishing industry in Edwardian Britain, Coleridge-Taylor’s several successful creations for the London stage, his associations with others of African descent in Britain and the USA, and his abilities as a conductor and judge are detailed.
This biography, published by Pickering and Chatto, is a social history told through the life of a composer whose creations gave much pleasure to many people – and still find audiences today.