Clarence Raybould

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Clarence Raybould
Clarence Raybould conducting.jpg
Clarence Raybould conducting in 1931
Born(1886-06-28)28 June 1886
Birmingham, England
Died27 March 1972(1972-03-27) (aged 85)
Bideford, Devon, England
OccupationConductor, composer, pianist
Years active1912–1958

Robert Clarence Raybould (28 June 1886 – 27 March 1972) was an English conductor, pianist and composer who conducted works ranging from musical comedy and operetta, Gilbert and Sullivan to the standard classical repertoire. He also championed works by contemporary, particularly British, composers.


Raybould was born in Birmingham in June 1886 to Robert James Raybould (born 1862), a printer compositor, and Ellen Amelia Raybould (née Weston, born 1862). He studied under Sir Granville Bantock and in 1912 became the first person to receive a BMus degree at Birmingham University.[1]

He assisted Rutland Boughton at early Glastonbury festivals, working later with the Beecham Opera Company and the British National Opera Company. His opera The Sumida River (with a libretto by Marie Stopes adapted from the same Japanese Noh play as, and anticipating Benjamin Britten's Curlew River), was premiered in Birmingham on 25 September 1916. When Britten learned of Raybould's opera in 1958, he commented, "Actually I didn't know that C. Raybould even composed. Don't let it worry us. But what a funny coincidence."[2]

Raybould toured Britain as a pianist and accompanist and was musical advisor for the Columbia Graphophone Company between 1927 and 1931.[3] He was the Director of the Senior Orchestra at the Royal Academy of Music.

He joined the BBC in 1936 and was assistant conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra from 1939 to 1945.[4] He conducted the first British concert performance of Hindemith's opera Cardillac in 1936 as well as that of Mathis der Maler in 1939.

In 1943 Raybould was sent a score of Britten's Matinées Musicales by Erwin Stein of Boosey and Hawkes in the hope that he would conduct it. Raybould, alluding to Britten's pacifism, replied saying that "the score is of no interest to me because of the composer's personal views and behaviour, I was going to say politically, but expand this to 'nationally'. I have the utmost contempt for the whole gang of young people who are dodging the country's call."[2] Raybould later apologised to Britten for this "very angry and hot-headed communication".

On 9 May 1951, Raybould conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in their first concert in the recently opened Royal Festival Hall.[5]

Raybould became the first conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in 1945,[6] and was its principal conductor until 1966.

1956 tour to Russia[edit]

After Joseph Stalin's death in 1953 when his successor Nikita Khrushchev admitted "past mistakes", cultural exchange became a possibility, and selected Soviet artists such as David Oistrakh began to appear in Britain. So when Sir Arthur Bliss, Master of the Queen's Music, arranged for a representative group of six British musicians, including Raybould, to tour the USSR in 1956, it was a high-profile event:[7][8] the result of painstaking negotiation and cause for intense curiosity on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

According to a carefully worded Times appraisal it was "not an official mission but the outcome, with official blessing, of a personal invitation" to Bliss. Khrushchev was himself involved in the tour, and the plan was to programme modern British music alongside its Soviet equivalent in the course of sixteen concerts over three weeks.

Leaving London on 14 April 1956, the delegates were confronted with the practical consequences of the cold war: no direct flights to Russia. They flew British European Airways to Copenhagen, then a Finnish flight to Helsinki, followed by another Finnish flight to Moscow.

Soprano Jennifer Vyvyan's diary notes the "poor food" on the British European Airways flight and the gruelling length of the journey, which left her too ill and tired on arrival to do much except sleep for the next few days. But the Russians turned the arrival into a media event, with the composers Kabalevsky and Khatchaturian and the pianist Tatyana Nikolayeva welcoming the plane on its touchdown just before midnight. Every one of the sixteen concerts was sold out in advance, and the musicians found themselves instant celebrities, acknowledged in the street and pursued by journalists in their hotel rooms.

The programme started on 17 April with a public rehearsal of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra under Raybould, playing Bliss's Violin Concerto (with Alfredo Campoli), Arnold Cooke's Oboe Concerto (Leon Goossens), some Elgar, some Kabalevsky, and one of Vyvyan's standard arias: Mozart's "Martern aller Arten" from Die Entführung aus dem Serail. That evening Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick played Beethoven and Vaughan Williams in the Great Hall of the Conservatory.[9] On 19 April Raybould conducted the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in the premiere of Gordon Jacob's oboe concerto with Leon Goossens as soloist.[10] The group also performed in Leningrad, Kiev and Kharkov, and returned to Moscow for a farewell concert attended by Khrushchev


Raybould's grave in the churchyard of St Margaret's church in Northam, Devon

Raybould lived at Oakdale, East-the-Water, Bideford in Devon, where he died in 1972, aged 86. He was survived by his second wife Evelyn (27 March 1907 – 10 August 1976). They are buried together in the churchyard of St Margaret's church in Northam.[11]

Selected compositions[edit]

  • The Sumida River, opera (1916)
  • Score for Paul Rotha's Rising Tide and Contact (1933)
  • Dance Serenade, for cello and piano (1937)
  • A Legend, for cello and piano (1937)
  • Three Pieces (Prelude, A Fairy Tale and Passepied) for piano solo (1938)
  • Dorothy, for six-part mixed voices (1948)
  • The Wistful Shepherd for clarinet and piano
  • Four Songs (Merciles Beautie, In the Red April, Crepuscule and The Flower Girl)

First performances[edit]


  • First complete recording of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Clarence Raybould (conductor). Decca X101-7, 1936[18]
  • Mozart Concert Rondo in A, K386. Clarence Raybould (conductor) with Eileen Joyce (piano). 5 February 1936, Parlophone[19]
  • Elgar Sea Pictures, excerpts. Clarence Raybould (conductor), Mary Jarred (contralto) and BBC Symphony Orchestra
  • Fauré Vocalise-étude in E minor. Clarence Raybould (piano) with Leon Goossens (oboe). Oboe Classics. CC2005.
  • Bax Winter Legends, Viola Sonata, A Mountain Mood, A Hill Tune. Clarence Raybould (conductor) with Harriet Cohen (piano), William Primrose (viola) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Dutton. CDBP9751.
  • Mozart "Fra gli amplessi" from Così fan tutte. Clarence Raybould (conductor) with Ina Souez (soprano) and Heddle Nash (tenor)[20][21]

Notable broadcasts[edit]

  • Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky – a play based on the film broadcast on BBC radio on 26 April 1942 with Michael Redgrave (Nevsky) and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Chorus and Theatre Chorus, Clarence Raybould, conductor[22]
  • Bliss Peace Fanfare for Children. BBC SO/Clarence Raybould. BBC Home Service. Children's Hour, broadcast 8 May 1945 (VE Day).[23]


  1. ^ Vincent Budd, A Brief Introduction to the Life and Work of Sir Granville Bantock
  2. ^ a b Letters from a Life Vol 1: 1923–39: Selected Letters and Diaries of Benjamin Britten
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ "BBC archive, "In Honour of Russia" press release". Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  5. ^ George Weldon, PDF,
  6. ^ First in the world: the story of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales; Beryl Bowen James and David Ian Allsobrook University of Wales Press 1995 ISBN 978-0-7083-1296-4
  7. ^ "Times article about 1956 tour". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  8. ^ "English Artists in Moscow". Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Jennifer Vyvyan – Cold War Diplomacy". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  10. ^ "Jennifer Vyvyan - Cold War Diplomacy".
  11. ^ "Northam Monumental Inscriptions". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  12. ^ Mitchell, Donald; Hollinghurst, Alan (2000). Donald Mitchell, "Britten and Auden in the thirties". ISBN 9780851157900. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  13. ^ "Ernest Bloch Legacy". Archived from the original on 19 May 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 January 1998. Retrieved 27 August 2010.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ "Classics Online catalogue". Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2010.
  16. ^ "The Red House, Aldeburgh". The Red House, Aldeburgh. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  17. ^ "Philip Sainton". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Naxos". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Eileen Joyce timeline" (PDF). 24 June 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 January 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  20. ^ Les Introuvables du Chant Mozartien: 50 Years of Mozart Singing on Records
  21. ^ "Fra gli amplessi" on YouTube, with Ina Souez and Heddle Nash
  22. ^ "Alexander Nevsky: A Play for Radio". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  23. ^ "BBC sound archives". Retrieved 17 September 2017.

External links[edit]