Dora Bright

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Dora Estella Bright, married name Knatchbull, (16 August 1862 – 16 November 1951) was an English composer and pianist. She composed works for orchestra, keyboard and voice, and music for opera and ballet,[1] including ballets for performance by the dancer Adeline Genée.[2]


Dora Bright was born in Stanton Broom, Sheffield, Yorkshire. Her parents were Augustus Bright, a merchant and a captain of the Hallamshire Volunteer Rifle Corps,[3] and Katherine Coveney Pitt,[4] an actress, playwright and manager of a theatre company. In 1873, aged nine, Dora performed with her father, an amateur violinist, in a benefit concert for his military unit. He died in 1880 and his business, inherited by his widow, failed in 1882.[3]

While at the Royal Academy of Music during 1881–89,[2] her teachers included Walter Macfarren and Ebenezer Prout.[5] She was the first woman to receive the Charles Lucas Medal for musical composition, for her Air and Variations for String Quartet in 1888.[1] Her circle of close friends there included fellow students Edward German and his fiancée Ethel Boyce.[6] Boyce subsequently partnered her in concert performances of Bright's piano duet Variations on an Original Theme of Sir G. A. Macfarren, named for George Alexander Macfarren, their teacher's brother.[4]

In 1889, 1890 and 1892 she made concert tours of Germany, including Dresden, Cologne and Leipzig, with performances of her piano concerto in A minor.[4] In 1892 she married Wyndham Knatchbull (1829–1900), a captain of the 3rd Dragoon Guards and a great-grandson of Edward Knatchbull, 7th Baronet of Mersham Hatch.[7] Thereafter she lived at Babington House in Babington, Somerset,[8] and became a local leader of charitable amateur productions such as performances of Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas.[3] From around 1897, her own piano concert performances tailed off. She changed direction towards composing music for dramatic performances. An early success in this line came in 1903 when The Dancing Girl and the Idol, an oriental fantasy with words by Edith Lyttelton, was given an amateur production at a prestigious charity event in Chatsworth House.[4] In 1904, the piece was performed at Chatsworth again, by royal request, as King Edward had missed the 1903 performance through illness.[9]

She was also the composer for ballets created with Adeline Genée,[2] in a collaboration which also involved the designer C. Wilhelm. These ballets included The Dryad, La Camargo and La danse. As well as dancing these in London, Genée performed them during her successful tours of America, Australia and New Zealand.[10]

Bright's Suite bretonne was performed at the Proms in August 1917.[3] On 8 April 1937 she performed an orchestral piano concert for BBC Radio. On 28 April 1939 the BBC broadcast her playing from her home, Babington House.[4]

Beginning at some time around 1940, Bright began to work for the magazine Musical Opinion and Music Trade Review, based in Hatton Garden, London EC1. Her association with the magazine coincided with a re-directing of its editorial policy onto a sternly reactionary course, and a decline in readership.[11]

She died at Babington in 1951.[2] Many of her works have not survived.[12]


A woman in a white ballet skirt stands on the tips of her toes, arms extended upwards
Genée in La Camargo, c. 1912

Selected works include:


Piano with orchestra[edit]

  • Piano concerto No. 1 in A minor (1888)
  • Piano concerto No. 2 in D minor (1892)
  • Fantasia in G minor (1892)
  • Variations for piano and orchestra (1910)[2]


  • Concertstück for six drums and orchestra (c. 1915)[2]
  • Suite bretonne for flute and orchestra (1917)[2]




  1. ^ a b Fuller, Sophie (2001). "Bright (Knatchbull) Dora (Estella)". In Sadie, Stanley. New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 4. London: Macmillan. pp. 353–354. ISBN 0-333-60800-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Fuller, Sophie (2004). "Bright (married name Knatchbull), Dora Estella". In Matthew, H.C.G.; Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 7. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 617–618. ISBN 0-19-861357-1. OCLC 178927692. 
  3. ^ a b c d Trübger, Roz. "Dora Bright 1862 - 1951". Trübcher Music Publishing. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Wenzel, Silke (7 November 2011). "Dora Bright". Musik und Gender im Internet (MUGI). Musikvermittlung und Genderforschung (in German). Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  5. ^ Burton, Nigel (1994). "Bright, Dora (Estella)". In Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian. New Grove Dictionary of Women Composers. London: Macmillan. pp. 84–85. ISBN 0-333-51598-6. 
  6. ^ Rees, Brian (1986). A Musical Peacemaker: The Life and Work of Sir Edward German. Bourne End, Buckinghamshire: Kensal Press. p. 35. ISBN 0-946041-49-0. 
  7. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (1999). "Brabourne". Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 1. Switzerland: Burke's Peerage. pp. 348–349. ISBN 2-940085-02-1. 
  8. ^ Powell, Violet (1998). The Departure Platform: An Autobiography. London: Heinemann. pp. 25–26. ISBN 0-434-00507-X. 
  9. ^ "The King and Queen at Chatsworth." The Times, 7 January 1904
  10. ^ Pritchard, Jane (2004). "Genée (married name Isitt), Dame Adeline". In Matthew, H.C.G.; Harrison, Brian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 21. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 741–744. ISBN 0-19-861371-7. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ Fuller, Sophie (1994). Pandora Guide to Women Composers. London: Pandora. pp. 72–74. ISBN 0-04-440897-8. 
  13. ^ Lucas, John (2008). Thomas Beecham: An Obsession With Music. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-84383-402-1. 
  14. ^ "The Empire Theatre". The Times, 11 October 1910
  15. ^ "La Camargo". The Times, 21 May 1912
  16. ^ "Adeline Genée Presentation. Matinee ed. Metropolitan Opera House: 17/03/1912.". Metropolitan Opera House Archive. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  17. ^ Mlle. Genée In A New Ballet". The Times, 12 October 1915
  18. ^ "The Coliseum". The Times, 3 February 1933

External links[edit]