Gordon Percival Septimus Jacob
(5 July 1895 – 8 June 1984) was an English composer. He is known for his wind instrument composition and his instructional writings.
Born in London, the third youngest of ten siblings, Jacob was educated at Dulwich College
Dulwich College is an independent school for boys in Dulwich, southeast London, England. The college was founded in 1619 by Edward Alleyn, a successful Elizabethan actor, with the original purpose of educating 12 poor scholars as the foundation of "God's Gift". It currently has about 1,600 boys,...
in South London
South London is the southern part of London, England, United Kingdom.According to the 2011 official Boundary Commission for England definition, South London includes the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Greenwich, Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Southwark, Sutton and...
, England. His career almost ended before it began. He enlisted in the Field Artillery to serve in World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...
when he was 19. The vagaries of war pushed him into the infantry, in the trenches in the front line. He was taken prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...
in 1917, and was one of only 60 men in his battalion of 800 to survive. He amused himself and his fellow POWs by forming a small prison camp "orchestra" of any instruments they could muster, and arranging music for it. At this period he received the news that his brother Anstey, who had enlisted with him, had died in the Somme, and this he commemorated some years later in his first Symphony.
After being released he spent a year studying journalism, but left to study composition, theory, and conducting at the Royal College of Music
The Royal College of Music is a conservatoire founded by Royal Charter in 1882, located in South Kensington, London, England.-Background:The first director was Sir George Grove and he was followed by Sir Hubert Parry...
. Because of his cleft palate and a childhood hand injury, his instrumental abilities were limited; he studied piano but never had a performing career. Jacob's first major successful piece was composed during his student years: the William Byrd Suite
for orchestra, after a collection of pieces for the virginals
The virginals or virginal is a keyboard instrument of the harpsichord family...
. It is better-known in a later arrangement for symphonic band. While a student Jacob was asked by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams OM was an English composer of symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores. He was also a collector of English folk music and song: this activity both influenced his editorial approach to the English Hymnal, beginning in 1904, in which he included many...
to arrange the latter's English Folk Song Suite
for full orchestra.
He taught at the Royal College of Music from 1924 until his retirement in 1966. Malcolm Arnold
Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold, CBE was an English composer and symphonist.Malcolm Arnold began his career playing trumpet professionally, but by age thirty his life was devoted to composition. He was ranked with Benjamin Britten as one of the most sought-after composers in Britain...
, Frank Bury
Frank James Lindsay Bury was a British composer. He studied music at Cambridge University and attended the Royal College of Music, where he was a student of Malcolm Sargent and Gordon Jacob. Bury also studied under Bruno Walter....
, Ruth Gipps
Ruth Gipps was a British composer, oboist and pianist.-Biography:Ruth Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England in 1921. She was something of a child prodigy, winning performance competitions in which she was considerably younger than the rest of the field -- and female, to boot...
, Imogen Holst
Imogen Clare Holst, CBE was a British composer and conductor, and sole child of composer Gustav Holst.Imogen Holst was brought up in west London and educated at St Paul's Girls' School, where her father was director of music...
, Cyril Smith
Cyril James Smith OBE was a virtuoso concert pianist of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and a piano teacher.-Personal life:...
, Philip Cannon
-Brief biography: Philip Cannon is a Cornish composer of Anglo-Burgundian descent. As a youth he studied at Dartington with Imogen Holst and later at the Royal College of Music with Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He scored his first success with his symphonic study Spring which received...
and Robert Turner
Robert Comrie Turner is a Canadian composer, radio producer, and music educator. He graduated with a bachelors degree in music from McGill University in 1943. While there he studied with Douglas Clarke and Claude Champagne. He continued his studies briefly at Colorado College in 1947, where he met...
were among his students. Jacob became a Fellow of the Royal College in 1946, and throughout his career often wrote pieces for particular students and faculties.
In the 1930s Jacob, along with several other young composers, wrote for the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company. His one original ballet, Uncle Remus
, was written for them, but most of his contributions were arrangements of established works, such as Les Sylphides
Les Sylphides is a short, non-narrative ballet blanc. Its original choreography was by Michel Fokine, with music by Frédéric Chopin orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov. Glazunov had already set some of the music in 1892 as a purely orchestral suite, under the title Chopiniana, Op. 46...
, for which his version remains in use, though the rival orchestration by Roy Douglas has been more often recorded for disc. Later ballet scores arranged by Jacob include Mam'zelle Angot
, (based on Charles Lecocq's music, which remains in the repertoire of the Royal Ballet) and, in 1958, London Morning
, composed for the London Festival Ballet by Noel Coward
Sir Noël Peirce Coward was an English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".Born in Teddington, a suburb of London, Coward attended a dance academy...
and orchestrated by Jacob.
Jacob also contributed light music
Light music is a generic term applied to a mainly British musical style of "light" orchestral music, which originated in the 19th century and had its heyday during the early to mid part of the 20th century, although arguably it lasts to the present day....
to a morale-boosting comedy radio show during World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
, which earned him the disdain of the musical elitists and the appreciation of the public. He also wrote music for several propaganda films.
In the 1940s he was commissioned, on the recommendation of Sir Adrian Boult
Sir Adrian Cedric Boult CH was an English conductor. Brought up in a prosperous mercantile family he followed musical studies in England and at Leipzig, Germany, with early conducting work in London for the Royal Opera House and Sergei Diaghilev's ballet company. His first prominent post was...
to orchestrate Elgar's Organ Sonata
The Sonata in G major, Op 28 is Sir Edward Elgar's first sonata composed for the organ and first performed on 8 July 1895. It also exists in an arrangement for full orchestra made after Elgar's death...
. A recording of this version was made in 1988 by EMI.
The height of his renown was in the 1950s, during which his Music for a Festival
was used for the 1951 Festival of Britain
The Festival of Britain was a national exhibition in Britain in the summer of 1951. It was organised by the government to give Britons a feeling of recovery in the aftermath of war and to promote good quality design in the rebuilding of British towns and cities. The Festival's centrepiece was in...
, and his trumpet-heavy fanfare arrangement of the National Anthem was used for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...
After his retirement from the Royal College in 1966, he continued to support himself by composing, often on commission. He describes many of the works as "unpretentious little pieces", though some of his most important works were published during this time, including his Concerto for Timpani
Timpani, or kettledrums, are musical instruments in the percussion family. A type of drum, they consist of a skin called a head stretched over a large bowl traditionally made of copper. They are played by striking the head with a specialized drum stick called a timpani stick or timpani mallet...
and Wind Band
Jacob married twice, once in 1924 to Sidney Gray, who died in 1958, and again a year after her death, to her niece Margaret Gray, in 1959. He had two children by Margaret, who was 42 years his junior. He died in Saffron Walden
Saffron Walden is a medium-sized market town in the Uttlesford district of Essex, England. It is located north of Bishop's Stortford, south of Cambridge and approx north of London...
There is a 1959 BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...
documentary about his life, Gordon Jacob
, directed by Ken Russell
Henry Kenneth Alfred "Ken" Russell was an English film director, known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style. He attracted criticism as being obsessed with sexuality and the church...
, as well as a 1995 book by Eric Wetherell entitled Gordon Jacob: a Centenary Biography
Jacob was one of the most musically conservative of his generation of composers. Though he studied with Vaughan Williams and Stanford
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was an Irish composer who was particularly notable for his choral music. He was professor at the Royal College of Music and University of Cambridge.- Life :...
at the Royal College, Jacob preferred the more austere Baroque
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...
and Classical models to the Romanticism
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....
of his peers, and stuck to this aesthetic even in the face of the trends toward atonality and serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...
This conservatism later caused his works to fall out of fashion when the 1960s establishment favoured the avant-garde. Jacob held the movement in little regard, saying "I personally feel repelled by the intellectual snobbery of some progressive artists... the day that melody is discarded altogether, you may as well pack up music...".
He was a skilful writer for winds, and a good deal of his present-day reputation is because he embraced the wind band
A concert band, also called wind band, symphonic band, symphonic winds, wind orchestra, wind symphony, wind ensemble, or symphonic wind ensemble, is a performing ensemble consisting of several members of the woodwind instrument family, brass instrument family, and percussion instrument family.A...
, which had begun coming into its own as a concert ensemble. Additionally, he published solo and chamber literature at various levels of difficulty for nearly all the wind instruments, many of which are now standard items in the pedagogical and performing repertoires.
Jacob was prolific, publishing over 400 pieces of music in addition to his four books and numerous essays on music.
Partial list of works
- Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (1925)
- Concerto for Piano and Strings (1927)
- An Original Suite for Military Band (1928)
- String Quartet (1928)
- Symphony no. 1 (1928–9)
- Double Concerto for Clarinet and Trumpet (1929)
- Variations on an Air by Purcell (1930), string orchestra
- Passacaglia on a Well-Known Theme (Oranges and Lemons) (1931)
- Concerto for Oboe and Strings (1933)
- Uncle Remus (1934), ballet
- Variations on an Original Theme (1936);
- Suite no. 1 on F (1939)
- Clarinet Quintet (1940)
- Symphony no. 2 (1943–4)
- Concerto for Bassoon, Strings, and Percussion (1947)
- Suite no. 2 (1948–9);
- Suite no. 3 (1949)
- Fantasia on the Alleluia Hymn (1949)
- Serenade (1950), woodwind octet
- The Nun's Priest's Tale (1951), chorus and orchestra
- Music for a Festival (1951), concert band
- Concerto for Horn and Strings (1951)
- Concerto for Flute and Strings(1952)
- Scherzo for Two Trumpets, Horn, and Trombone (1952)
- Concerto for Violin and Strings (1954)
- Concerto for Cello and Strings (1955)
- Prelude and Toccata (1955), orchestra
- Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (1956)
- Piano Trio (1956)
- Oboe Concerto no. 2 (1956)
- Piano Concerto no. 2 (1957)
- The Pied Piper, 2 unaccompanied pieces for solo flute/piccolo: The Spell (solo flute) and March to the River Weser (solo piccolo) (1958)
- Overture for Strings (1964)
- Divertimento (1968), 8 winds
- Suite for Bassoon and String Quartet (1968) for William Waterhouse
- Concerto for Piano Duet (3 hands) and Orchestra (1969)
- Partita for Bassoon (1970) for William Waterhouse
- Introduction and Rondo (1972), clarinet choir
- Suite for Tuba and Strings (1972)
- Five Pieces for Clarinet (Unaccompanied) (1973)
- Fantasia for Euphonium and Wind Band (1974)
- Pro Corda Suite (1977), string quartet and string orchestra
- Symphony AD 78 (1978), concert band
- Sonata for Viola and Piano (1978)
- Cameos (1978)
- Viola Concerto no. 2 (1979)
- Concerto for Timpani and Wind Band (1984)
- Orchestral Technique (1931)
- How to Read a Score (1944)
- The Composer and his Art (1955)
- The Elements of Orchestration (1962)