H. Balfour Gardiner

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H. Balfour Gardiner
Henry Balfour Gardiner

(1877-11-07)7 November 1877
Kensington, England
Died28 June 1950(1950-06-28) (aged 72)
Salisbury, England
  • Composer
  • Music pedagogue

Henry Balfour Gardiner (7 November 1877 – 28 June 1950) was a British musician, composer, and teacher.

He was born at Kensington (London).[1] Between his conventional education at Charterhouse School and New College, Oxford, where he obtained only a pass degree, Gardiner was a piano student at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, where he was taught by Iwan Knorr and Lazzaro Uzielli [de], who had been a pupil of Clara Schumann. He belonged to the Frankfurt Group, a circle of composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in the late 1890s. With George Gardiner (no relation) Gardiner collected folk songs in Hampshire (1905-1906),[2] [3] taught music briefly at Winchester College (1907), and composed. His works included compositions in a variety of genres, including two symphonies, but many of his scores are lost and only a very limited amount of his music survives.

His best-known work Evening Hymn (1908), a setting of the compline hymn "Te lucis ante terminum", is a lush, romantic work for eight-part choir and organ, of dense harmonies. For most of the time, it sits in four parts, though the treble, alto, tenor, and bass parts all subdivide at various points. It is considered a classic of the English choral repertoire and is still regularly performed as an anthem at Evensong in Anglican churches.

The fame of this work has overshadowed his surviving orchestral works, which include Overture to a Comedy and the Delius-like A Berkshire Idyll.

Gardiner's most important work, possibly, was his promotion of the music of contemporary British and colonial composers, particularly through a series of concerts, personally financed by Gardiner, at Queen's Hall London in 1912 to 1913. The composers represented included Arnold Bax, Frederic Austin, Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, Roger Quilter, Cyril Scott and Norman O'Neill. (The last four had also studied with him at Frankfurt.) Gardiner was very generous with his personal fortune, paying for a private benefit performance of The Planets for Holst in 1918 and purchasing Frederick Delius's house at Grez-sur-Loing to enable him to continue living in it at the end of his life. In the early 1920s he also became a patron of Charles Kennedy Scott, conductor and founder of the Philharmonic Choir which was the predecessor of the present London Philharmonic Choir.[4]

Gardiner gave up composing in 1925 largely because he was intensely self-critical: much of his lost music was probably destroyed by him. Thereafter, he devoted himself to a pioneering afforestation programme on his Dorset pig farm. He died in Salisbury.

He was the great-uncle of the conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner.


  • Stephen Banfield with Stephen Lloyd New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 1980, rep 1994, vol 7, 163
  • Cyril Scott, 'The late Balfour Gardiner and our Student Days', Music Teacher xxix (1950) 396


  1. ^ "Index entry: Gardiner, Henry Balfour, Kensington, 1a 39". Transcription of England and Wales Birth and Death registrations 1837 - 1983. ONS. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  2. ^ Purslow, F; Marrowbones, English Folk Songs from the Hammond and Gardiner Collections; London; 2007 pp xvi-xvii
  3. ^ J. Simpson and S. Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (Oxford: OUP, 2000), 140.
  4. ^ The Observer, Profile - KENNEDY SCOTT. Sunday, November, 11, 1951.