Iain Hamilton

  • 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
    410-41301 A Book Of Watercolours
    For Piano
    17:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    410-41290 A Field Of Butterflies
    For Piano
    12:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    113-40029 A Vision Of Canopus
    113-40022 Aubade
    410-41317 Denislav’s Diary
    Scenes From Childhood – Eleven Short Pieces for Young Pianists
    15:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    410-41279 Le Jardin De Monet
    For Piano
    30:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    413-41142 Le Tombeau De Bach
    Reflections On Six Chorales
    20:00 Organ Unaccompanied
    410-41206 Palinodes
    113-40027 Paraphrase
    410-41201 Piano Sonata #1
    110-40698 Piano Sonata #3
    Piano Unaccompanied
    410-41213 Piano Sonata No. 2
    11:30 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40501 Spirits Of The Air
    For Solo Bass Trombone
    10:00 Bass Trombone Unaccompanied
    113-40021 Threnos:In Time Of War
    Chamber Ensemble
    10602 Antigone
    for Wind Octet
    20:00 1 0 1 2 – 0 2 2 0
    114-40155 Five Scenes
    For Trumpet in C and Piano
    Trumpet, Piano
    114-40554 Flute Quartet
    Flute Quartet
    114-40555 Hyperion
    For Clarinet, Horn, Violin, Cello, And Piano
    20:00 Chamber Ensemble
    10613 Octet
    22:00 Fl. Ob. Cl. Bsn. Hn. Tpt. Tbn. Bar.
    10614 Octet
    for Double String Quartet
    114-40731 Piano Quintet
    25:00 Piano Quintet
    114-40595 Quintetto
    114-40556 Sea Music
    114-40164 Serenata
    10624 Sextet
    18:00 2Vln. 2Vla. 2Vcl.
    114-40232 Sonata #1
    114-40231 Sonata #2
    114-40160 Sonata for Flautist & Piano
    114-40681 Sonata for Oboe & Piano
    114-40848 Spring Days
    Three Pieces for Flute and Piano
    114-40596 String Quartet #3
    String Quartet
    Vocal / Choral
    412-41068 Bright Heavens Sounding
    312-41342 Cradle Song From Vespers
    S.A.T.B Piano
    3:00 SATB
    111-40080 Five Lyrics Of Torquato Tasso
    10622 Requiem
    for Mixed Chorus a cappella
    411-41061 Songs Of Summer
    111-40127 Spirit Of Delight
    Voice with Piano
    412-41060 Te Deum
    For Chorus (S.A.T.B.), With Woodwind, Brass and Percussion – Choral Score
    416-41106 The Passion Of Our Lord According To Saint Mark
    Vocal Score
    411-41065 The Royal Hunt Of The Sun
    Chorus and Ensemble
    442-41008 Mass In A
    10618 Pharsalia
    Dramatic Commentary for Voices, Narrator and Orchestra
    25:00 1 0 1 0 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    10621 Prometheus
    for 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.
    10612 The Morning Watch
    for Mixed Chorus and 10 Winds
    22:00 SATB Chorus; 2Ob. E.H. 2Bsn. 2Tpt. 3Tbn.
    10617 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.
    10630 To Columbus
    for Mixed Chorus, 3 Trumpets, 3 Trombones, 3 Percussion
    10632 Vespers
    for Mixed Chorus, 2 Pianos, Harp and Percussion
    10599 Alastor
    for Orchestra
    20:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. 2Hp. Str.
    10603 Aurora
    for Orchestra
    12:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10041 Bulgaria
    Invocation: Evocation for Orchestra
    23:00 2(Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10608 Commedia
    Concerto 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.
    10609 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.
    10611 In Changing Light
    Four Impressions for Orchestra
    22:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Hp. Str.
    10619 Piano Concerto
    (1967 Version)
    20:00 Solo Pno.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10620 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.
    10625 Sinfonia concertante
    for Violin, Viola and Chamber Orchestra
    20:00 Vln. Vla. soli; 1 1 1 1 – 2 1 1 0; Hp. Str.
    10627 Symphony No. 3
    26:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str.
    10628 Symphony No. 4
    50:00 3 3 3 3 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10600 The Alexandrian Sequence
    24:00 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; 2Vln. Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    10631 The Transit of Jupiter
    17:00 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1; 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    17316 Vers Apollinaire
    26:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2(2Cornets) 3 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    10601 Amphion
    Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra
    25:00 Solo Vln.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 0; Perc. Pno. Str.
    10606 Circus
    for 2 Trumpets and Orchestra
    20:00 2Tpt. soli; 2 2 2 2 – 4 0 3 1; Timp. Perc. Pno. Hp. Gtr. Str.
    10607 Cleopatra
    for Soprano and Orchestra
    21:00 Solo Sop.; 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10623 Ricordanza
    Seven Settings of George Herbert, for High Voice and Orchestra
    25:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 3 0; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    10633 Voyage
    for 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
    16706 Agamemnon
    Dramatic narrative in 1 act
    1:00:00 4 Perc. Xylo. Marimba Glock. Timp. Hp. Pno. Cel.
    16703 Anna Karenina
    Opera 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.
    16685 Lancelot
    An opera in two acts.
    2:00:00 2(Picc.) 1(E.H.) 1(B.Cl.) 1 – 2 2 0 0; Perc. Hp. Pno. Str.
    16704 London’s Fair
    A lyric comedy in two acts.
    2:00:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    10616 On the Eve
    16707 Pharsalia
    A dramatic commentary in one act, after Lucan.
    25:00 1 0 1 0 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Pno. Hp. 1Vln. 1Vla. 1Vcl.
    16717 Raleigh’s Dream
    Opera in prologue and 8 scenes.
    1:25:00 1 1 1 1 – 1 1 1 0; Perc. Hp. Str.
    16739 Tamburlaine
    Lyric 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.
    16705 The Catiline Conspiracy
    Opera in 2 acts, after Ben Jonson.
    2:00:00 2 2 2 2 – 3 2 7 0; 2Perc. Hp. Str.
    16728 The Royal Hunt of the Sun
    Opera 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.
    16750 The Tragedy of Macbeth
    Opera in 1 act.
    1:40:00 2 2 2 2 – 2 2 2 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str.
    Band / Wind Ensemble
    16838 Overture 1912
    for Band
    10629 Te Deum
    for Mixed Chorus, Wind Ensemble and Percussion
    20:00 SATB Chorus; 3 3 3 2 – 5 4 5 1; Perc.
    10605 The Chaining of Prometheus
    for Band or Large Wind Ensemble

    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.
    –Piano Journal

    Six very colorful, less difficult concert pieces… good, short, up-to-date works.
    –Classical Piano

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.
    –London Times

    …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

    Relentlessly brilliant… a tour de force.
    –The Scotsman

    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

    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.
    –Baltimore Sun

    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
    –London Observer

    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
    –Glasgow Herald

    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

    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

    …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

    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

    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

    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
    –Musical Times

    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

    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
    –The Observer

    [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)

    VESPERS, 1980
    …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.
    –Stereo Review

    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
    –High Fidelity

    It is undoubtedly one of Iain Hamilton’s finest achievements, and it makes a strong emotional impact.
    –Glasgow Herald

  • Piano Works PIANO WORKS
    CRI/New World Records (NWCRL407); February 1, 2011
    Work(s): Palinodes
    Music of Iain Hamilton 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 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 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 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
    Dove Prize
    Royal Philharmonic Society’s prize
    Koussevitsky Foundation award
    Royal Academy of Music scholarship

  • Symphony No. 4 in B
    for Orchestra