Cyril Smith (pianist)

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For other persons with the name Cyril Smith, see Cyril Smith (disambiguation).
Cyril Smith
Birth name Cyril James Smith
Born (1909-08-11)11 August 1909
Middlesbrough, England
Died 2 August 1974(1974-08-02) (aged 64)
East Sheen, London, England
Genres Romantic, 20th century
Occupation(s) Virtuoso pianist, pedagogue
Instruments Piano

Cyril James Smith OBE (11 August 1909 – 2 August 1974)[1] was a virtuoso concert pianist of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and a piano teacher.

Personal life[edit]

Cyril James Smith was born at Costa Street, Middlesbrough, England, the son of Charles Smith, a foundry bricklayer, and Eva Harrison, and had an older brother and sister.[2] Cyril married Andrée Antoinette Marie Paty in 1931 but the marriage ended in divorce.[2] In 1937 he married Phyllis Sellick. Cyril and Phyllis's recreational activities included long walks and sailing. They had a son and a daughter and remained married until his death. He died in 1974 at his home in East Sheen, London, the result of a stroke.[2][3]


From 1926 to 1930 Cyril Smith studied with Herbert Fryer (a student of Tobias Matthay and Ferruccio Busoni) at the Royal College of Music, winning medals and prizes[2] including the Daily Express piano contest in 1928 and made his concert début in Birmingham in 1929.[3] He performed as an off-screen piano accompanist in several of the 30-line Baird system television broadcasts of 1935[2][4][5] and joined the BBC when they took over. It was at the BBC's early television studios that he met his future second wife, the pianist Phyllis Sellick.[1][6][7][8] In 1934 Smith left the BBC to take up an appointment as professor of pianoforte at the Royal College of Music. Smith and Sellick married in 1937, pursuing solo careers. During the Second World War Cyril Smith performed concerts for ENSA but in 1941 he and his wife began performing together as a piano duo at the Proms,[9] and made many international concert tours for ENSA and the British Council. In 1945 they toured the Far East,[2] where the hazards to contend with included small animals lodged in pianos and out-of-tune instruments.

Smith's work was largely from the Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Schubert, Balakirev, and Albéniz repertoire. Malcolm Arnold, Sir Arthur Bliss, Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams also wrote music for the duo.[10][11][12] Among Cyril Smith's many performances[13] were appearances at The Barn Theatre,[3] Oxted, in the 1930s and at the Proms in 1930, 1937, 1941, 1944, 1946, 1953 and 1969.[3][14]

In 1956 while in the city of Kharkov in Ukraine at the start of a concert tour of the Soviet Union he suffered a thrombosis and stroke that paralysed his left arm.[2][3][10][12][15][16][17] However, with music arranged by themselves, or written or arranged by composer friends, Smith and Sellick were able to continue to perform concerts of three-handed music as a piano duo.[12] Notable among the works composed for them was Malcolm Arnold's Concerto for Two Pianos (3 hands), Op. 104, dedicated to the performers,[18] who premiered it at the Proms in 1969 and recorded it in 1970.[19]


Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick both taught piano at the Royal College of Music[9] - Smith was appointed professor of pianoforte in 1934.[2] Among those who studied piano with him are: Ray Alston,[20] John Barstow,[21] Clifford Benson,[22][23] Philip R Buttall,[24] Maureen Challinor, June Clark,[25] Patrick Flynn,[26] Joan Havill,[27][28] David Helfgott,[29] Peter Hill,[30] Antony Hopkins,[31] Niel Immelman,[32] Rae de Lisle,[33] Barry Morgan,[28] Thalia Myers,[34][35] Siva Oke,[36] Aydin Önaç,[37] Jennifer Pearce,[38] June Pepin,[39] Joan Ryall,[40] Stephen Savage,[41] Kimberly Schmidt,[42] Jo Spanjer,[43] Kathron Sturrock,[44] Sharon Joy Vogan,[45] David Ward,[46] Fanny Waterman,[47] Gillian Weir,[48] Kenneth Weir,[49] Frank Wibaut,[50] and Simon Young.[51] In 1973 Cyril Smith was once again appointed professor of pianoforte until his death the next year.


Cyril Smith's autobiography is entitled Duet for Three Hands (Angus & Robertson, 1958).[1][3][52] One of the chapters was written by his wife Phyllis Sellick.


Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick were both made Officers of the Order of the British Empire in 1971.[7]

Smith was the subject of This Is Your Life in 1960 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at the BBC Television Theatre.[53]


  • Cyril Smith, Phyllis Sellick and the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Philharmonia Orchestra (conductor Malcolm Sargent), Dutton, (P)1947/48[54]
  • Phyllis Sellick, Cyril Smith, Orchestras of the Bournemouth Symphony, Philharmonia, City of Birmingham and the Royal Philharmonic, Arnold: English Dances, HMV Classics[10]
  • Cyril Smith, Phyllis Sellick and Solna Brass, including Rhapsody for Piano (3 hands) by Gordon Jacob, Granada[55]
  • Cyril Smith & Phyllis Sellick, Piano Duos: Faure Mendessohn Franck Schubert, Nimbus Records, (P)1974 (Cyril's last recording)[56]


  1. ^ a b c Eide-Altman, Rose. "Biographies and Autobiographies". Women at the Piano. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Baker, Anne Pimlott. Cyril Smith. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Past Performers". Barn Theatre. 
  4. ^ Richardson, Diana. "Talk: John Logie Baird". University of Strathclyde. 
  5. ^ Norman, Bruce. "Here's Looking at You - The Story of British Television 1908–1939" (PDF). Royal Television Society. 
  6. ^ Amis, John (30 May 2007). "Obituaries: Phyllis Sellick". The Guardian Unlimited. Manchester. 
  7. ^ a b "Obituaries: Phyllis Sellick". The Daily Telegraph. London. 28 May 2007. 
  8. ^ "Obituaries: Phyllis Sellick". The Independent. 2 July 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Eide-Altman, Rose. "Duopianists". Women at the Piano. 
  10. ^ a b c Tan, Adrian. "Malcolm Arnold". The Flying Inkpot. 
  11. ^ Schwartz, Steve (1996). "Record Review: Malcolm Arnold". Classical Net. 
  12. ^ a b c Brofeldt, Hans. "Piano Music for the Left Hand Alone". 
  13. ^ "Bermuda Festival Programme". Bermuda Musical & Dramatic Society. September 1952. ; "History". Chichester Symphony Orchestra. 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2010. ; "History". Egham & District Music Club. ; "About Us". Epsom Symphony Orchestra. ; "Leeds Classical Music". Discovering Leeds. 
  14. ^ Wilton, Rob. "Promenade Concert Prospectuses". Theatricalia. 
  15. ^ "CD Review: Malcolm Arnold". ClassicalNet. 
  16. ^ Cohn, Neville (2004). "Triumph over adversity". OZarts Review. 
  17. ^ "A Buyer's Guide to Historic Piano Recordings Reissued on Compact Discs". University of Maryland. 
  18. ^ "The Malcolm Arnold Discography". MusicWeb International. 
  19. ^ "Sir Malcolm Arnold". Pianos online. 
  20. ^ "Piano Masterclass by Ray Alston" (PDF). The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Music, 2006. 
  21. ^ "Profile: John Barstow". Royal College of Music. ; "Summer School for Pianists". ; "Lot Music". 
  22. ^ "Profile: Clifford Benson". Hyperion Records. 
  23. ^ October 2009 "Clifford Benson" Check |archiveurl= value (help). The Clifford Benson Website, Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. 
  24. ^ "Biography: Philip R Buttall". Saxtet Publications. ; "The Lone Ar-ranger!". Thornes Music. ; Reift, Marc. "Philip R Buttall" (PDF). Editions. ; "Philip R Buttall". Classical Artists Worldwide. ; "Philip R Buttall - Biography". 
  25. ^ "Nick Pepin and June Clark". CDBaby. ; "Joan Ryall and June Clark in Concert". Charlemagne Music. ; "Piano Pieces by June Clark". Charlemagne Music. 
  26. ^ "Patrick Flynn, Conductor". Symphony Silicon Valley. 
  27. ^ "Profile: Joan Havill". Guildhall School of Music & Drama. ; "Profile: Joan Havill". Guildhall School of Music & Drama. 
  28. ^ a b "Expatriates - Biographies:". The Encyclopedia of New Zealand 1966. 
  29. ^ "David Helfgott's biography". Geocities. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. 
  30. ^ "Profile: Peter Hill". Music Now. ; "Profile: Peter Hill". allmusic. ; "Peter Hill - Biography". The University of Sheffield. ; "Professor Peter Hill - Biography". The University of Sheffield. 3 July 2007. ; "Biography: Peter Hill". ; "Annual Peter Gram Swing Lecture and Concert to Feature 'Music of Olivier Messiaen'". Swarthmore. 
  31. ^ Haddon, Elizabeth. Making Music in Britain. Ashgate, 2006. p. 90
  32. ^ "Fourth International Piano Festival - Niel Immelman". Oxford Philomusica. ; "Profile: Niel Immelman". Oxford Philomusica. ; "Niel Immelman Recitals". Jacques Samuels Piano. 2006. ; "Biography: Niel Immelman - Piano". Meridian Records. 
  33. ^ "The Guildhall School Alumni Newsletter" (PDF). The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. 2005. 
  34. ^ "Thalia Myers - biography". 
  35. ^ "Thalia Myers biography". ABSRM Publishing. 
  36. ^ Newman, Bill (11 March 2006). "Tete-a-Tete". Music and Vision Daily. 
  37. ^ "Chandos People: Aydin Önaç". Chandos Symphony Orchestra. 
  38. ^ "Guests: Jennifer Pierce Pianist". Unstructured Light. 
  39. ^ "Profile: June Pepin". Best Books Online. 
  40. ^ Clark, June. "Joan Ryall and June Clark in Concert". Charlemagne music. 
  41. ^ "Profile: Stephen Savage - Artist". Move Records. 
  42. ^ "News Release: Acclaimed Pianist Concludes IHM Chapel Concert Season". Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2007. 
  43. ^ Amphlett, Paul. "A Poetry Kit Interview". Poetry Kit. 
  44. ^ "Profile: Kathron Sturrock". The Royal College of Music. 
  45. ^ Ritchie, Anthony. "Piano Preludes". Atoll. 
  46. ^ "David Ward biography". ABRSM Publishing. 
  47. ^ "Fanny Waterman biography". Faber Music. 
  48. ^ "Biography: Gillian Weir". Linn Records. ; Walton, Kenneth. "Key player in the uprising". ; "Biography: Gillian Weir Biography". ; Kirk-Swindell, Kelley. "She really captivates the audience". The Daily Reflector. 
  49. ^ "Kenneth Weir biography". 
  50. ^ "Profile: Frank Wibaut". Teatro Ghione. 
  51. ^ "Simon Young, Professor of Piano, Trinity College of Music". 
  52. ^ Aldous, Richard. "Book Review: Tunes of Glory - The Life of Malcolm Sargent". MusicWeb. 
  53. ^ "Cyril Smith (1909-1974)". Big Red Book. Retrieved 3 November 2013. 
  54. ^ Yungkans, Jonathan. "Rachmaninov". The Flying Inkpot. 
  55. ^ Mutum, Tim. "Brass on record". 
  56. ^ "Castle Classics Piano". Castle Classics. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Biography: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

External links[edit]