Iain Hamilton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on June 6th, 1922, and died July 21st, 2000, in London. An important figure in music on both sides of the Atlantic, he was a composer of both stage and concert works, whose music has been praised for the ‘brilliance of its orchestral textures, uninhibited lyricism” (Anna Karenina: Opera) and “a vast terrain of color, movement, expression and invention” (Voyage: Horn and Chamber Orchestra). These quotes are typical of the critical commentaries on Mr. Hamilton’s music, which constantly refer to the color, texture, variety, lyricism and craftsmanship.
Following his schooling in London, he became an apprentice engineer, and remained in that profession for the next seven years. In his free time, he undertook the study of music. After winning a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, he decided to devote himself wholly to a musical career. He went on to win a Koussevitsky Foundation Award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Prize, and the Dove Prize, the highest award from the Royal Academy. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from London University and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Glasgow University.
Long important in British musical circles, Mr. Hamilton’s influence also extended to the United States, where he lived for 20 years (1961 to 1981). From his home in New York City, he commuted to Duke University, where he was Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music. He then returned to London, and lived there until his death. In April, 2002, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation unveiled a bas-relief commemorating the composer in the Music Department at Duke University.
Mr. Hamilton’s extensive catalogue comprises works in all genres, including orchestral, chamber, vocal, solo, and also opera, the category for which he was arguably best known. He wrote several operas, including The Catiline Conspiracy, Anna Karenina, and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. They received performances (and also revivals, in several cases) by such companies as Scottish Opera, English National Opera, and the BBC. The Catiline Conspiracy was hailed as “a masterpiece” in The Scotsman headline after its 1974 premiere in Stirling, the Glasgow Herald noting in addition that “there could hardly have been a member of [the] audience who was not reminded of Watergate.” Anna Karenina, premiered by English National Opera in 1978, was first performed in North America in 1982 by the Los Angeles Opera Theater. Raleigh’s Dream was commissioned for the North Carolina British-American Festival at Duke University in 1983, where it was premiered at the celebrations for the tercentenary of the founding of Raleigh’s colony in 1584.
In the concert hall, Mr. Hamilton’s works have been performed by many of the leading British orchestras and ensembles; among his compositions from his final years are The Transit of Jupiter (first performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony under Jerzy Maksumiuk in 1995), and Bulgaria Invocation: Evocation for Orchestra, as yet unperformed. In the United States, commissions included those of the Eastman School of Music for Piano Sonata No. 3 and the Library of Congress for Hyperion for chamber ensemble. In 1996, the New York Philomusica premiered the 1993 Piano Quintet with performances in Pearl River and New York City. His last works include The Wild Garden (5 pieces for Clarinet and Piano) and London: A Kaleidoscope for Piano and Orchestra, written in 2000.
In addition to composing, he was a teacher, organizer of contemporary music concerts, chairman of the Composers’ Guild, and served on panels and committees for such organizations as the Music Advisory Panel of the BBC.
Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation Solo A Book Of WatercoloursFor Piano 17:00 Piano Unaccompanied A Field Of ButterfliesFor Piano 12:00 Piano Unaccompanied A Vision Of Canopus Aubade Denislav’s DiaryScenes From Childhood – Eleven Short Pieces for Young Pianists 15:00 Piano Unaccompanied Le Jardin De MonetFor Piano 30:00 Piano Unaccompanied Le Tombeau De BachReflections On Six Chorales 20:00 Organ Unaccompanied Palinodes Paraphrase Piano Sonata #1 Piano Sonata #3 Piano Unaccompanied Piano Sonata No. 2 11:30 Piano Unaccompanied Spirits Of The AirFor Solo Bass Trombone 10:00 Bass Trombone Unaccompanied Threnos:In Time Of War Chamber Ensemble Antigonefor Wind Octet 20:00 1 0 1 2 – 0 2 2 0 Five ScenesFor Trumpet in C and Piano Trumpet, Piano Flute Quartet Flute Quartet HyperionFor Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, And Piano 20:00 Chamber Ensemble Octet 22:00 Fl. Ob. Cl. Bsn. Hn. Tpt. Tbn. Bar. Octetfor Double String Quartet 20:00 Piano Quintet 25:00 Piano Quintet Quintetto Sea Music Serenata Sextet 18:00 2Vln. 2Vla. 2Vcl. Sonata #1 Sonata #2 Sonata for Flautist & Piano Sonata for Oboe & Piano Spring DaysThree Pieces for Flute and Piano 5:00 String Quartet #3 String Quartet Vocal / Choral Bright Heavens Sounding Cradle Song From VespersS.A.T.B Piano 3:00 SATB Five Lyrics Of Torquato Tasso Requiemfor Mixed Chorus a cappella 40:00 Songs Of Summer Spirit Of Delight Voice with Piano Te DeumFor Chorus (S.A.T.B.), With Woodwind, Brass and Percussion – Choral Score 20:00 The Passion Of Our Lord According To Saint MarkVocal Score 2:00:00 The Royal Hunt Of The Sun Chorus and Ensemble Mass In A PharsaliaDramatic Commentary for Voices, Narrator and Orchestra 25:00 1 0 1 0 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Hp. Str. Prometheusfor Soprano, Mezzo, Tenor and Baritone Soloists, SATB Chorus and Orchestra 1:05:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. The Morning Watchfor Mixed Chorus and 10 Winds 22:00 SATB Chorus; 2Ob. E.H. 2Bsn. 2Tpt. 3Tbn. The Passion of Our Lord According to Saint Mark 2:00:00 SATB Soloists; SATB Chorus; 1 2 0 1 – 2 1 0 0; Str. To Columbusfor Mixed Chorus, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 3 Percussion 18:00 Vespersfor Mixed Chorus, 2 Pianos, Harp and Percussion 40:00 Orchestra Alastorfor Orchestra 20:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. 2Hp. Str. Aurorafor Orchestra 12:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. BulgariaInvocation: Evocation for Orchestra 23:00 2(Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. CommediaConcerto for Orchestra 25:00 3(Picc./Fl. in G) 3(E.H.) 3(EbCl./B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno./Cel. Hp. Str. Concerto for Harp and Small Orchestra 25:00 Solo Hp.; 1(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 1(B.Cl.) 1 – 1 1 0 0; Perc. Str. In Changing LightFour Impressions for Orchestra 22:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Str. Piano Concerto(1967 Version) 20:00 Solo Pno.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Piano Concerto No. 2 30:00 Solo Pno.; 2 2(E.H.) 2 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Cel. Hp. Str. Sinfonia concertantefor Violin, Viola and Chamber Orchestra 20:00 Vln. Vla. soli; 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 1 0; Hp. Str. Symphony No. 3 26:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str. Symphony No. 4 50:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. The Alexandrian Sequence 24:00 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; 2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb. The Transit of Jupiter 17:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; 2Perc. Hp. Str. Vers Apollinaire 26:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2(2Cornets) 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Orchestra with Soloist(s) AmphionConcerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra 25:00 Solo Vln.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 0; Perc. Pno. Str. Circusfor 2 Trumpets and Orchestra 20:00 2Tpt. soli; 2 2 2 2 – 4 0 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Gtr. Str. Cleopatrafor Soprano and Orchestra 21:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. RicordanzaSeven Settings of George Herbert, for High Voice and Orchestra 25:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Voyagefor Horn and Chamber Orchestra 18:00 Solo Hn.; 1 1 1 0 – 0 2 1 0; Perc. Pno. Single or Multiple Strings Opera / Staged Works AgamemnonDramatic narrative in 1 act 1:00:00 4 Perc. Xylo. Marimba Glock. Timp. Hp. Pno. Cel. Anna KareninaOpera in 2 acts, after Tolstoy. 2:15:00 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 3(B.Cl.) 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Str. LancelotAn opera in two acts. 2:00:00 2(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 1(B.Cl.) 1 – 2 2 0 0; Perc. Hp. Pno. Str. London’s FairA lyric comedy in two acts. 2:00:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str. On the Eve 1:50:00 PharsaliaA dramatic commentary in one act, after Lucan. 25:00 1 0 1 0 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Hp. 1Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl. Raleigh’s DreamOpera in prologue and 8 scenes. 1:25:00 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Hp. Str. TamburlaineLyric drama in one act for radio or two acts 1:30:00 (1 act) or 02:00:00 (2 acts) 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4 Perc. Pno. Cel. Hp. Str. The Catiline ConspiracyOpera in 2 acts, after Ben Jonson. 2:00:00 2 2 2 2 – 3 2 7 0; 2Perc. Hp. Str. The Royal Hunt of the SunOpera in 2 acts, based on the play by Peter Shaffer. 2:15:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 4Perc. Marimba Xylo. Org./Cel. Hp. Str. The Tragedy of MacbethOpera in 1 act. 1:40:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Band / Wind Ensemble Overture 1912for Band Te Deumfor Mixed Chorus, Wind Ensemble and Percussion 20:00 SATB Chorus; 3 3 3 2 – 5 4 5 1; Perc. The Chaining of Prometheusfor Band or Large Wind Ensemble 10:00
A BOOK OF WATERCOLORS
Hamilton exhibits a remarkable ability to create different textures through clearly defined melodies, vital rhythms, varied and distinctive harmonic languages, and an unfailing knack for idiomatic piano writing. …Hamilton’s use of different rhythmic patte
–Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association
This volume is a real ‘must play’ for exponents of modern piano music. It is demanding rhythmically and technically and consequently is destined for the advanced pianist.
A FIELD OF BUTTERFLIES
Six very colorful, less difficult concert pieces… good, short, up-to-date works.
The real thing… an immensely confident score, in its intricately worked structure of motifs, in the richness, density, and brilliance of its orchestral textures, and in its uninhibited lyricism.
–The Sunday Times, London
It is a short (12-minute) progress from from darkness to light – a nocturne and scherzo, in which tricky solo writing emerges from tenebrous, close-knit textures, and which ends in a sudden, splendid blaze. It is a strongly made, gripping composition. —”
–Andrew Porter, The New Yorker
Aurora… was designed to show off its virtuosity, which it certainly does. …In its color, brevity and clear form, it is easy to like.
–Raymond Ericson, New York Times
The melodic preoccupation with sevenths, the pervading bitter sweet lyricism, the virtuoso orchestration with bold use of brass and the strong feeling of tonality all help make Hamilton a sort of latter-day Walton.”
–Christopher Ford, New York Guardian
A brilliantly forthright, individual and framatic piece of music…a shapely communicative work.
–The Times, London
EPITAPH FOR THIS WORLD AND TIME
An impressive world premiere. Mr. Hamilton uses… avant-garde devices with imagination and restraint. There are exceptionally fine passages, where voices echo and re-echo, and towards the end, sustain a pianissimo chord endlessly.
–New York Times
…Hamilton’s work used an almost Penderecki-like palette of choral sound, calling for whispers and shouts as well as singing. One strength of Epitaph lies in the fact that he uses that palette in a consistent and disciplined way. …both vigorous and austere
–Stanley Sadie, London Times
FIVE LYRICS OF TORQUATO TASSO
Lyrically concentrated and elegantly crafted, these vignettes call for the most subtle kind of expressive nuances.
–Peter G. Davis, New York Times
The songs were atmospheric and subjective in character and still showed clarity of structure, economy, and considerable originality and inventiveness. …the cycle appealed to the majority of the audience who gave the singer a warm response and lusty appl
–Charles Horton, Chapel Hill Newspaper
Hamilton’s Five Scenes were a captivating exploration of various trumpet sonorities in a series of mood pieces …Strong, independent piano writing…
–Conrad Wilson, The Scotsman
Hamilton shows his habitual skills and imagination in the art of operatic narrative, action moving at an exhilarating rate. Musical characterization is clear-cut, the active orchestral commentary is always relevant to stage action and emotion yet never ov
–Hugo Cole , The Manchester Guardian
An intimate study in idealism, disillusionment, and stoical acceptance…the score is a very fluent and skilful essay in the neo-romantic vein, craftily structured from a mosaic of motifs and written with the same flair for atmospheric instrumentation.
–David Cairns, The Sunday Times, London
MASS IN A
Making use of a large body of voices, the music is spacious, often restrained, but never austere in a merely negative sense, the ear being constantly beguiled. …Dr. Hamilton makes little use of overt contrast, dramatic or otherwise, establishing his point
–Max Harrison, London Times
MONTHS AND METAMORPHOSES
Hamilton crafts an extremely pianistic idiom, one that always fits the hands. He also understands uniquely pianistic overtones, neatly layering as many as three registers on top of each other, all enveloped by the pedal. As far as tonality is concerned, H
–Piano & Keyboard
The music… is fierce and desperate, full of agonized gestures, it has brief gentler moments, too… we were left feeling appalled at the horror and futility and beastliness of war.
…intensively dramatic in its range of expressive colour, inventive ideas, and vivid impact.
–London Daily Express
It is an attractive concert piece, cast in clear, light, mostly primary colours, and expertly put together.
–Dominic Gill, Financial Times, London
PIANO CONCERTO NO. 2
Relentlessly brilliant… a tour de force.
PIANO SONATA NO. 2
It is sure to appeal to adventurous pianists with a mature technique and a flair for color. …Striking in its contrast of ideas, moods, textures and figurations, it is a significant and welcome contribution from a composer who understands the piano extra
–American Music Teacher
PIANO SONATA NO. 3
It is a subtly structured, six-movement work in which variants of the first two movements return as part of the final two movements. Between these pairs is an eloquent slow movement and a brilliant cadenza. The uncomplicated harmonic language is quite neo
–John McInerney, Musical America
Iain Hamilton’s [Sonata No. 2] is an awesome work, a dissonant exploitation of the keyboard in terms that recall the linear jaggedness of Schoenberg and the motoric repetition and vitality of Bartok.
PIANO SONATA NO. 4
The Hamilton is an exceptionally effective work. It’s a piece largely of textures and colors. Filled with bravura passages, it makes some of its most telling points through the interplay of sonorities…
–Allen B. Skei, Fresno Bee
Impressive lyrical passages and… effectively stark and colourful orchestration.
–The Cambridge Weekly News
As its title suggests, Iain Hamilton’s Sea Music has a rhapsodic quality. But it is at the same time a clarinet quintet in the form of a palindrome, so that its second half repeats in general outline and reverse order the events of the first, and thus com
SONATA NO. 1 FOR VIOLIN AND PIANO
Although it makes an immediate impact, the subtleties of this very concentrated work are not to be appreciated in a single hearing… There can be little doubt that this work will come to be regarded both as one of the composer’s finest achievements and as
Hamilton has produced a well-conceived and interestingly executed twentieth-century sonata.
–American String Teacher
The composer’s language is well developed and utilised consistently throughout the work. …Students looking for something new and different in a contemporary style will find these pieces an enjoyable challenge without being too taxing. They are suitable fo
–Joanna Selleck, Australian Music Teacher
STRING QUARTET NO. 3
A three-movement piece containing an impressive variety of ideas and textures and radiating a fluency, and at times ebullience… Hamilton has created something worthwhile and beautiful simply for itself.
–The Times, London
SYMPHONY NO. 3 IN G SPRING
…a pleasant and successful essay in an undemanding and thoroughly accessible manner. …There are some ingenious passages of thematic working, and ingenuities of texture, too, in the course of this slight work, which should prove a gift to the slender moder
–Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Sunday Times, London
SYMPHONY NO. 4
The four movements of the new work carry, on the whole, not only an impressive charge of emotion but are sustained with a keen ear for timbre and a brave ear for tonality.
–Conrad Wilson, The Scotsman
The lyrical set pieces abound… with much graceful writing for voices and much attractive music for orchestra…
–The Times, London
TE DEUM, HOMAGE TO VENICE FOR
It was a model of concision. It was impeccably composed with not a single note too many. The imaginative interplay of the chorus and the striking instrumental ensemble of wind, brass and percussion not only memorably conveyed the jubilation contained in t
–Robert Henderson, London Daily Telegraph
A blazing affirmation of the human spirit… extremely accessible at an initial hearing. Its impact will surely grow with repeated hearings… and should enter into the international repertory rapidly.
–Durham Morning Herald
THE CATILINE CONSPIRACY
A masterpiece. It starts with the advantage of a subject—political cut and thrust in ancient Rome—which seems as topical today as it has ever been. And it rises to the challenge with music which is as strong and communicative as it is structurally convinc
–Conrad Wilson, The Scotsman
The great quality of the score is the musical gesture, the orchestra sound or phrase or rhythmic motif which makes an instant dramatic point.
–Gerald Larner, The Manchester Guardian
It is greatly impressive, a real evening of musical theatre…
–William Mann, The London Times
The music proves constantly engrossing as the tautly proportioned score proceeds
THE PASSION OF OUR LORD ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK
The most haunting musical impression of this Easter’s music-making remains that of Iain Hamilton’s extraordinarily beautiful The Passion of Our Lord According to Saint Mark.
–Sunday Times, London
THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN
A model of how to trim a play for purposes of musical composition… Mr. Hamilton has deftly provided opportunities for spectacular climactic scenes and the stretches of lyrical repose that no opera can do without… such skill and intelligence and such an ac
[Hamilton] uses the orchestra brilliantly… the orchestra’s role is generally to underpin Hamilton’s brand of free-flowing cantilena, admirably flexible so that more than usual in opera the pace of dialogue varies as it does in the play.
–The Manchester Guardian
… immensely impressive… it was the best new work added to the English National Opera’s repertory for some seasons past. …If I were directing the ENO, I would be commissioning Hamilton to write another opera right now.
–Music and Musicians (London)
…thoroughly British, thoroughly magnificent… The varied, impressive score substantiates clearly Hamilton’s rank as the foremost of contemporary composers in England and possibly in the world. Vespers, 1980 is a major new work that will endure.
–The Durham Sun
…an introspective, impassioned and humanistic testament to hope and serenity of the spirit… Vespers is a work of real beauty, holding the listeners attention and proving to be both moving and persuasive. It is a fine addition to the repertoire of choral c
–Chapel Hill Newspaper
…a virtuoso piece of utterly contemporary demeanor. It is extraordinarily refined. The textures are glowingly transparent and loaded with vigor and color. The degree of musical intelligence and technical facility are impressive in the extreme.
The thematic material is fragmentary but unbelievably rich in substance and amount. The work builds and builds and builds, exacting the utmost virtuosity from all concerned; it voyages over a vast terrain of color, movement, expression, and invention, nev
It is undoubtedly one of Iain Hamilton’s finest achievements, and it makes a strong emotional impact.
CRI/New World Records (NWCRL407); February 1, 2011
MUSIC OF IAIN HAMILTON
CRI/New World Records (NWCRL280); September 1, 2010
Work(s): Epitaph for This World and Time
MUSIC OF THE 1960’S AND 1970’S
New York Philomusica Records (NYPm30003); October 1, 2002
Performer(s): Susan Gregory, Paige Brook, David Krakauer, Joseph Rabbai, Robert Johnson, Cynde Iverson, Neil Balm, Allan Dean, Vernon Post, Seymour Bernstein, Robert Levin, Guillermo Figeruoa, Felix Galimir, Todd P…
Work(s): Five Scenes
Sonata for Flautist and Piano
THE MODERN HORN
Crystal Records (CD 670); January 1, 1999
Performer(s): Douglas Hill, horn
Work(s): Threnos: In Time of War
LE JARDIN DE MONET; PALINODES; QUARTET NO. 3
Symposium Records (1121); October 24, 1994
Performer(s): Delme String Quartet, Katharina Wolpe
Work(s): Le Jardin de Monet
String Quartet No. 3
2002: Mary Duke Biddle Foundation bas-relief commemorating composer in the Music Department at Duke University
Royal Philharmonic Society’s prize
Koussevitsky Foundation award
Royal Academy of Music scholarship
Symphony No. 4 in B