JOSEPH HOLBROOKE (1878 - 1958)
The English composer Joseph Holbrooke enjoyed considerable success in his earlier career, since when his work has fallen into desuetude. He was immensely prolific as a composer, the very quantity of his work exposing occasional weaknesses. He often wrote for particularly large forces, a fact that has also militated against performance of his orchestral music.
Holbrooke wrote a trilogy of operas—The Children of Don, Dylan and Bronwen—commissioned by Lord Howard de Walden for his The Cauldron of Annwyn, based on the Mabinogion, and demanding considerable resources for any performance. His ballet scores include The Red Mask and Aucassin et Nicolette.
Choral and Orchestral Music
Holbrooke’s fascination with the work of Edgar Allan Poe is reflected in his symphonic poems The Raven, Ulalume and The Bells (for chorus and orchestra). Other works include symphonies, and concertos for piano and for violin.
Holbrooke’s chamber music, like his other compositions, belongs in the world of late Romanticism. While some of his many works for smaller ensemble may appear jejune, he nevertheless achieved much in works like his String Sextet, Op. 43 ‘Henry Vaughan’ and his Piano Quintet, Op. 44, with its Valse diabolique third movement that has provided a sobriquet for the whole work.