Anthony Payne (born 2 August 1936) is an English composer, most famous for the work published as Edward Elgar: The Sketches for Symphony No. 3 elaborated by Anthony Payne. His career as a composer might be described as a continuous attempt to reconcile his personal affinity with British composers of the early 20th century (especially Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederick Delius, Edward Elgar and Frank Bridge) with the stylistic innovations of post-war contemporary music.
Born in London, Payne was interested in composing music from an early age. After studying Music at St Cuthbert's Society, Durham University, he spent a period as a freelance musicologist. Since the mid-1960s, when he composed his Phoenix Mass, he has received commissions for new works from several important ensembles, including the English Chamber Orchestra and the Nash Ensemble. Three major orchestral works: The Spirit's Harvest (1985), Time's Arrow (1990), Visions and Journeys (2002) and Of Land, Sea and Sky (2016) were all premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at The Proms in London. He has also composed a Concerto for Orchestra (1974) and other orchestral pieces, as well as chamber, instrumental and choral works. His String Quartet No. 2 (2010) won the Chamber category of the 2011 British Composer Awards.
In 1988 he co-founded the "questing young ensemble" Jane's Minstrels with his wife, the soprano Jane Manning. Amongst his ensemble pieces, A Day in the Life of a Mayfly and Symphonies of Wind and Rain (composed for and recorded by Jane's Minstrels) are considered particularly effective. Although Payne's realisations of several works by Elgar have brought him considerable notice and acclaim, he has also composed a Frederick Delius paraphrase entitled Spring's Shining Wake (1981) and has transcribed songs by Peter Warlock for Jane's Minstrels.
Alongside his distinguished career as a composer, Payne has simultaneously built up a substantial reputation as a writer on music, both as an author of books about Arnold Schoenberg and Frank Bridge and also as a well regarded music critic for the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Country Life. He has been a visiting lecturer at a number of universities in Britain, Australia and the U.S.A.
Payne's realisation of the sketches for Edward Elgar's Third Symphony took several years to complete. When Elgar died in 1934, he left more than 130 pages of incomplete score for a third symphony. Although initially reluctant to allow anyone to use this material (Elgar himself had expressed a wish that no-one should "tinker" with the sketches), the Elgar family realised that in 2005 they would come out of copyright. They therefore approved Payne's elaboration of the sketches, on which he had been working and lecturing intermittently since 1993, and he subsequently completed the piece. Payne's version of the symphony was first performed in 1998 to immediate acclaim, and has received numerous subsequent performances and several recordings.
Payne has subsequently also composed a version of Pomp and Circumstance March No. 6 from Elgar's incomplete sketches for the work, which received its first performance under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis at a Prom concert on 2 August 2006 - Payne's 70th birthday. In a radio interview on the BBC's Today programme on 28 April 2006 when he was asked about the March, Payne said that he had composed about 43% of the music and carried out all of the orchestration, amounting to well over half the piece. In the same interview he said that to carry out his completions he felt that he had to try to "become" Elgar, in much the same way that an actor would assume a stage role.
Payne was awarded an Elgar Medal by the Elgar Society and holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Birmingham, Durham and Kingston. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music, where he was Arts Research Fellow for 2 years.
Payne is married to the distinguished soprano Jane Manning, for whom he has composed a number of striking vocal works including the song cycle Evening Land. In 2007, the couple were jointly awarded Honorary Doctorates by Durham University.
- British Composer Awards winners announced (2011). The Gramophone website, Thursday 1 December 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
- Bayan Northcott, 1997, sleeve note to the CD, A Day in the Life of a Mayfly