Edric Cundell (29 January 1893 – 19 March 1961) was a British music teacher, composer and conductor.
Early life and academic career
Born in London, Edric Cundell came from a musical family: his grandmother worked in Paris as an opera singer and both his parents were talented amateur musicians. He was educated at Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire, and went on to study at the London Trinity College of Music, taking French horn with Adolf Borsdorf and piano with Henry Richard Bird (1842-1916). He served as a lieutenant in the artillery in World War I, during which he wrote the symphonic poem Serbia, which was dedicated to King Alexander of Serbia. In Salonika his unit was attached to the Serbian Army and he was awarded the Serbian Order of the White Eagle for his distinguished conduct. While at the front line, Cundell made a cello out of petrol cans and boxes, using a horse's tail for the bow.
After the War, Cundell joined the staff of the Trinity College of Music. At this time he became involved in conducting amateur orchestras, such as the Westminster Orchestral Society, with which he performed his own piece The Tragedy of Deirdre on May 4, 1923 at Kensington Town Hall. He was appointed conductor of another London-based amateur ensemble, the Stock Exchange Orchestra, in 1924. He took guest conductorships in the United States, South Africa and New Zealand while touring as an examiner. In 1937 he joined the musical staff at Glyndebourne, specializing in the interpretation of Mozart and Verdi.
In 1938 he was appointed the principal of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, succeeding Landon Ronald. He held the post until his retirement in 1959, and was noted for conducting many student opera performances there. In 1945, in honour of Carl Flesch, he co-founded what was later known as the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition with Max Rostal. He also acted as a judge in the music competitions at the 1948 London Olympics. Other posts he held included founding President of the City Music Society, and on committees for the Royal Musical Association, Musician's Benevolent Fund, and the Arts Council.
Conductor and composer
In 1935 he founded the Edric Cundell Chamber Orchestra, which specialised in unusual repertoire. Later on he frequently conducted leading orchestras as guest conductor, such as the Royal Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. In 1946 he conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in the film The Magic Bow, a life of Paganini in which the violin was played by Yehudi Menuhin. In the early 1950s he was director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Cundell conducted the premieres of Arnold Bax's Fantasies on Polish Christmas Carols in 1945 and Malcolm Arnold’s Toy Symphony at the Savoy Hotel in 1957.
As a composer, he first came to notice through the symphonic poem Serbia, dated 'Macedonia, 1917 ' and written while the composer was in a dugout close to the Bulgar front lines. According to a note in the score the music '"is based on folk songs, which the Serbian soldiers used to sing during the time of their great trial, following their tragic retreat over the Albanian mountains. Although this work follows no definite programme, it is descriptive of the general feeling of the Serbian people during the years of the European War". The first performance was in Salonika by the Royal Orchestra. The first UK performances followed in March 1920 (London) and April (Bournemouth), and it was repeated at the Proms on 21 September 1921. Other Proms performances in the early 1920s included the sonnet for tenor and orchestra Our Dead (premiered on October 19, 1920 with the famous tenor Gervase Elwes) and various songs. On July 4, 1931 two movements of his Symphony in C minor were performed at Queen's Hall alongside a performance of Portsmouth Point by William Walton. His String Quartet No 2 won a Daily Telegraph competition in 1933 and was taken up as a repertoire piece (and recorded) by the well-known Griller String Quartet. Blackfriars (1955), as arranged by Frank Wright, became a noted test piece for brass bands.
In 1920 Cundell married the sculptress Helena Harding Scott (1891-1975). The couple had two children, and the family lived at 3 Acacia Gardens, London NW8. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1949. He died in Ashwell, Hertfordshire in 1961 at the age of 68.
Orchestral and choral
- Blackfriars, symphonic prelude (1955), arranged for brass band by Frank Wright, published Molenaar
- Hymn to Providence, op 25, for mixed chorus and orchestra (1928), published Goodwin & Tabb
- Mass for unaccompanied chorus
- Our Dead, op 11, sonnet for tenor and orchestra (1923)
- Piano Concerto
- Serbia, symphonic poem (1917)
- Serenade for strings in D major
- Symphony in C minor, op 24 (1924)
- The Tragedy of Deirdre, symphonic poem (1922)
Chamber and instrumental
- April Song for solo piano
- Aquerelle for solo piano
- L'arlesienne suites 1 and 2 (Bizet), arranged for piano (1940)
- Jesu Bleibet meine Freude (Bach Chorale transcribed for piano) published Paxton
- Londonderry Air (trad. arr. Cundell) for solo piano (1923)
- Piano Quartet (1922)
- Rhapsody for viola (or cello) and piano (c.1920), published W. Paxton & Co
- Sextet for soprano, tenor, bass, violin, viola and cello
- String Quartet No 1 in G minor, op 18 (1923), published F&B Goodwin
- String Quartet No 2 in C major, op 27 (1932), published Augener
- String Quartet No 3
- Sunny Days for solo piano
- Two Pieces for Brass Quartet (1957), published Stainer & Bell
- Valse Fantasque, op 16 (1922)
- The Water Babies: a fairy tale for piano in two parts, for young players (1922)
- A Vagabond's Song, words Kate Burnley Belt (1920)
- Boy Johnny, words Christina Rossetti
- Hold though the morn for me, words K B Belt (1920)
- I will make you brooches, words Robert Louis Stevenson
- In the silence of the night, words K B Belt (1920)
- Remembrance (1937), words A Campbell
- Summer days and nights, words K B Belt (1920)
- Scowcroft, Philip L. Some British Conductor Composers
- Biography at Olympedia
- 'The Griller Quartet play English rarities', Dutton CDBP 9762 (2006), reviewed at MusicWeb International
- 'Week-End Concerts' in The Times, May 7 1923, p 18
- 'Music in the Provinces', Musical Times Vol 70, No 1032, February 1929
- Harrison, Sidney. 'Pen Portrait: Edric Cundell' in The Musical Times Vol. 100 No. 1395 (May, 1959), p 263-4
- Biography at bach-cantatas.com
- Noël Goodwin (2001). "Rostal, Max". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.article.23914.
- Obituary, Musical Times, Vol. 102 No. 1419 (May, 1961), p. 309
- Radio Times, Issue 667, 12 July 1936, p 65
- Pristine Classical
- Radio Times, Issue 737, 14 November 1937, p 94
- 'This Week's Music' in The Times, March 8, 1920, p 12
- BBC Proms performance archive
- BBC Proms performance archive
- BBC Proms Performance archive
- The Musical Times Vol. 72 No. 1061, July 1931, p 642
- 'Contest test pieces' at Brass Band Results
- 'Helen Cundell', Artist Biographies
- Presto Sheet Music