Frederic Cliffe

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Frederic Cliffe (2 May 1857 – 19 November 1931) was an English composer.


Cliffe was born in Bradford, Yorkshire. As a youth, he showed a promising musical aptitude and was enrolled as a scholar of the National Training School for Music, the parent of the Royal College of Music, under its first Principal Arthur Sullivan.[1]

From 1884 to 1931 he held the post of Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music.[1] Among his pupils were John Ireland and Arthur Benjamin.

Cliffe had a short career as a composer from 1889 to 1905. His principal works were two Symphonies, the first of which was produced at The Crystal Palace in 1889, and subsequently performed at a Philharmonic concert, being well received on each occasion, with The Daily Telegraph hailing it as "a masterpiece". Although not overtly programmatic, its first movement was influenced by a visit to Norway by Cliffe. It was published by Novello. His Second Symphony had its first performance at the Leeds Festival in 1892. Cliffe gave titles to each of its movements: I. At Sunset. II. Night. III. Fairy Revels. IV. Morning. It has been edited (2010) by Lionel Harrison and published by Patrick Meadows.

His 'scena', The Triumph of Alcestis, for contralto voice and orchestra, was composed for Clara Butt.

After that seventeen-year period of composing substantial works, he had no record of further major composition and his works received few subsequent performances during his lifetime.

Cliffe died in London, aged 74.


  • Symphony in C minor , 1889
  • Orchestral Picture: Cloud and Sunshine, Philharmonic Society 1890
  • Symphony in E minor, 1892 (pub. 2010 Soundpost)
  • Violin Concerto in D minor, 1896 (pub. 2007 Soundpost)
  • The Triumph of Alcestis, Scena for Contralto and Orchestra, Sheffield Festival 1902
  • Ode to the North-East Wind, Choral Ballad, Norwich Festival 1905
  • "A Silent Voice", song
  • Coronation March 1910


The Symphony No. 1 in C minor and his tone poem 'Cloud and Sunshine' have been recorded (Sterling CDS-1055-2 (2003)) by the Malmö Opera Orchestra conducted by Christopher Fifield.[2]

His Violin Concerto in D minor was edited in 2007 by Christopher Fifield and published by Patrick Meadows, and has now been recorded by Philippe Graffin on Hyperion (CDA67838) with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by David Lloyd-Jones.[3]

In 2015 musicologist Christopher Fifield led the Lambeth Orchestra in a performance of the Symphony No. 2 in E minor that was subsequencly released privately.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Frederic Cliffe (1857-1931)". Royal College of Music. 2004. Archived from the original on 2015-04-18. Retrieved 2015-12-01. 
  2. ^ Barnett 2003
  3. ^ Schaarwächter 2003
  4. ^ Barnett 2015