Harry Farjeon

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Harry Farjeon (6 May 1878 – 29 December 1948) was a British composer.

Early life and studies[edit]

Harry Farjeon was born on 6 May 1878 in Hohokus Township, New Jersey, United States, the eldest son of author Benjamin Farjeon, who was from the East End of London, and Margaret, the daughter of American actor Joseph Jefferson. His parents returned to Britain when he was a baby, and he lived in Hampstead in London for the rest of his life. His younger sister, Eleanor Farjeon (b. 1881), with whom he shared a rich imaginary life, wrote children's books and poetry, including the hymn, Morning Has Broken. His younger brothers were J. Jefferson Farjeon (b. 1883), novelist, and Herbert Farjeon (b. 1887), writer of theatrical revues.

Harry studied music privately with Landon Ronald and John Storer, then in 1895 he entered the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he studied composition with Battison Haynes and Frederick Corder, and piano with Septimus Webbe. There he was a contemporary of Arnold Bax, York Bowen, Adam Carse, Eric Coates and Benjamin Dale. An opera, Floretta, to a libretto by his sister, Eleanor, was produced at the Academy in 1899, and two operettas were performed at St George's Hall in 1901 and 1902.

Career in music[edit]

Farjeon left the Royal Academy of Music in 1900, but in 1901 he returned to teach composition. Two years later, at the age of 25, he became the Academy's youngest ever professor, having become the family wage-earner after the death of his father. He also taught at the Blackheath Conservatoire.

In 1903 his Piano Concerto in D minor was performed at a Promenade concert. His Hans Andersen suite for small orchestra was played with great success at a Patron's Fund concert of the Royal College of Music in 1905, and also played by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and elsewhere. His Phantasy Piano Concerto and the St. Dominic Mass both won awards from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust. In 1942 his symphonic poem Pannychis, with words by his sister Eleanor, was played at a Promenade Concert, conducted by Basil Cameron. Farjeon regarded the symphonic poem Summer Vision as his best work, but the score was sent to Germany shortly before World War I and was lost.

Harry Farjeon composed music throughout most of his life. His compositions are mostly for piano, but he also wrote songs, sonatas, concertos and a mass setting. He also wrote about music for the Daily Telegraph, the Musical Times and other periodicals. Among his pupils were George Lloyd, Christian Darnton, Phyllis Tate, Daniel Jones and Steve Race.

His eyesight had been bad since childhood, and it grew worse as he became older. His students wrote their compositions on specially printed brown paper. Steve Race has said that writing on this paper cured him of writing long rambling compositions. Farjeon taught at the Academy for 47 years, despite developing Parkinson's disease in later life. He was still teaching thirty students a week when, at the end of the July 1948 term, he fell and broke his hip. He died in Hampstead on 29 December 1948.

Selected works[edit]

  • Piano Concerto in D minor (1903)
  • Phantasy Piano Concerto
  • Miniature Piano Sonata, Op. 12 (1906)
  • Piano Sonata, Op. 43 (1920)
  • Piano Trio
  • Rhapsody for 2 pianos, Op. 70 (1931)
  • The Art of Piano Pedalling (1923); 2 volumes
  • The Art of Piano Phrasing, Op. 66 (1931)
  • The Ballet of the Trees
  • From the Three-Cornered Kingdom
  • The Four Winds
  • Moorish Idylls
  • Night Music
  • Peter Pan Sketches
  • Pictures from Greece, piano, Op. 13
  • Tone-Pictures
  • Twilight Pieces
  • Venetian Idylls
  • Vagrant Songs, baritone and piano, Op. 26 (1909)
  • The Lute of Jade (1924)
  • St Dominic Mass, Op. 51 (1923)
  • 3 violin sonatas
  • 4 string quartets
  • 2 Morceaux for viola and piano (1911)
  • Floretta, opera
  • The Registry Office, operetta
  • A Gentleman of the Road, operetta in 1 act, Op. 6
  • Hans Andersen Suite for small orchestra (1905)
  • Idyll for oboe and orchestra
  • Pannychis, symphonic poem


  • Eleanor Farjeon: A Nursery in the Nineties (Gollancz, 1935)
  • Annabel Farjeon: Morning has broken: a biography of Eleanor Farjeon (Julia MacRae, 1986)

External links[edit]