The British Library Homepage
homeHome  >   Online Gallery  >   Online exhibitions  >   Features  >   Black Europeans  >
 
print



First successes. and Hiawatha

Enlarged image Enlarged image
Manuscript page from 'Ballade in A minor'   Cartoon drawing
'Ballade in A minor', Coleridge-Taylor's first great success
British Library Add. MS 63802, f.1
Copyright © The British Library Board
  Caricature indicative of Coleridge-Taylor's growing fame
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
     
Enlarged image Enlarged image
Review of Hiawath's Wedding Feast   Samuel Coleridge-Taylor at the piano
Review of 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast'
Daily Graphic 14/11/1898
Copyright © The British Library Board
  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor at the piano: music from 'Hiawatha' on the stand (1901)
Copyright © Royal College of Music, London
Enlarged image  
Review of Hiawath's Wedding Feast    
Manuscript of 'Hiawatha', setting the words "Such was Hiawatha's wedding, Thus the wedding banquet"
British Library Add. MS 62519, ff.77v-78
Copyright © The British Library Board
 

Coleridge-Taylor's talents were recognised and promoted almost immediately. His first major commission came via the composer Edward Elgar, who described him as "the cleverest fellow going amongst the young men”, and recommended him for a commission at the famous and influential Three Choirs Festival, which rotates between Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester.

In September 1898 it was the turn of Coleridge-Taylor's Ballade in A minor. A melodic piece, with echoes of the great Romantics Tchaikovsky and Dvorak, the Ballade furthered the composer's reputation, and reinforced his confidence for his next composition and his greatest success, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, based on the poem by Henry Longfellow. Novello & Co. published the score in advance of the performance, and various luminaries committed themselves to attend. Sir Arthur Sullivan, although not far from death, insisted - “I'm always an ill man now, my boy, but I'm coming to hear your music tonight even if I have to be carried”.

Hiawatha was a breath of fresh air in a choral repertoire which was intensely serious or religious. It was secular fun, superficial and familiar exoticism, a matter of feathers and skins and colourful names, but it was at the same time a big, lovely orchestral sound buoying up the excitement of a massed bank of voices singing a melody which flowed more or less continuously. In a time when amateur choirs and sheet music were part of popular culture Hiawatha's Wedding Feast was a score to enjoy, but it was hard act to follow, and the composer's reputation never again reached the same heights. Listen to 'Onaway!' from Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, conducted by Sir Malcolm Sargent in 1944.

Guest-curated for the British Library by Mike Phillips

After Hiawatha Next - 'After Hiawatha'

Introduction Introduction
Alexander Pushkin Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Dumas Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor John Archer
 
 
 
Discover more:
Introduction
Introduction
Alexander Pushkin
Alexander Pushkin
Alexandre Dumas
Alexandre Dumas
George Polgreen Bridgetower
George Polgreen Bridgetower
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Background and early life
Background and early life
Early days at the RCM
Early days at the RCM
First successes... and Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
After Hiawatha
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Coleridge-Taylor in private
Pan Africanism, race and the USA
Pan-Africanism, race and the USA
The music ends
The music ends
John Archer
John Archer
Accessibility Terms of use Site map
Copyright The British Library Board