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Anne-Marie Forbes and Rob Barnett

[Josef] (Charles)

(b Croydon, England, July 5, 1878; d London, England, Aug 5, 1958). English composer, critic, conductor, and pianist. A prominent figure in British musical life in the early decades of the 20th century, he was a great publicist and advocate for the cause of the British composer and for his own works. Throughout his life he railed against public and institutional apathy towards native composition, becoming progressively disillusioned.

After studying at the RAM, Holbrooke’s career was launched with the first performance of his dramatic musical representation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven at the Crystal Palace in 1900. Commissions of large-scale choral works for provincial festivals further established him as a young composer of great promise. Henry Wood, Thomas Beecham, and Dan Godfrey conducted premières of a number of his early orchestral and choral works, although later in life he became estranged from many of his earlier supporters. It was Lord Howard de Walden (T.E. Ellis) who was the most influential figure in Holbrooke’s career. Present at the ...