Joseph Horovitz

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Joseph Horovitz (born 26 May 1926) is a British composer and conductor.[1]


Horovitz was born in Vienna, Austria, into a Jewish family who emigrated to England in 1938 to escape the Nazis. His father was the publisher Béla Horovitz, the co-founder in 1923, with Ludwig Goldscheider, of Phaidon Press.[2] His sister was the classical music promoter Hannah Horovitz (1936-2010).[3]

After completing his schooling at The City of Oxford High School Horovitz studied music and modern languages at New College, Oxford, where his teachers included R. O. Morris, Percy Scholes, Bernard Rose and Egon Wellesz.[4] He later attended the Royal College of Music in London, studying composition with Gordon Jacob. Horovitz then undertook a year of further study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. His musical career began in 1950, when he became music director at the Bristol Old Vic. He was subsequently active as a conductor of ballet and opera, and toured Europe and the United States.

Horovitz married Anna in 1956, shortly after coaching at the bi-centenary celebration for Mozart and Glyndeborne. They honeymooned in Majorca, staying in Paguera and visiting Valldemossa. He later used these two names for two clarinet pieces, based on Spanish folk-tunes he had heard there. He has been Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music since 1961, and a Council Member of the Composers' Guild of Great Britain since 1970. Between 1969 and 1996 he belonged to the board of the Performing Rights Society.


His works include 16 ballets, including Alice in Wonderland (1953) written for Anton Dolin's Festival Ballet Company and the dance-drama "Miss Carter Wore Pink" (1980) Northern Ballet Theatre, based on the autobiographical paintings by Helen Bradley: Narration by Patricia Phoenix / Choreography Geoffrey Cauley / Design Philip Prowse and two one-act operas from the 1950s (The Dumb Wife, libretto Peter Shaffer, and Gentlemen’s Island, libretto Gordon Snell). There is also a more recent three-act opera, Ninotchka (2006), based on the 1939 MGM film starring Greta Garbo.

Among his nine concertos, many showing jazz influences, are the Violin Concerto (1950), one of his most serious works, directly influenced by his studies with Nadia Boulanger, the Clarinet Concerto (1948, revised 1956), the Euphonium Concerto (perhaps his most overtly popular concerto in style), and the Jazz Concerto for piano, strings and percussion (1966). The latter was originally composed for George Malcolm to play on the harpsichord and combines jazz and baroque styles.[5]

The first three string quartets were student works (the third accepted as the final part of his Oxford Bachelor of Music degree in 1948). The fourth, described by the composer as "dark and disturbing", was composed in 1953 following four years of work on mostly light-hearted music for ballet and opera.[6] His fifth string quartet,[7] which according to Daniel Snowman is "probably his most profound work", was first performed to honour the 60th birthday of Ernst Gombrich at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1969 by the Amadeus Quartet.[8][6]

The children's "pop cantata" Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo (1970) is perhaps his most popular success.[9] The libretto by Michael Flanders is an adaptation of the Biblical tale of Noah found in Genesis chapters 6–9. It is one of a series of similar cantatas commissioned for school use by the publishers Novello, including The Daniel Jazz (1963) by Herbert Chappell, Jonah-Man Jazz (1966) by Michael Hurd and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd-Webber (1968). The piece was first recorded by the Kings Singers in 1972 on an Argo LP.[10]

His more serious religious vocal works include the psalm setting Sing unto the Lord a New Song (1971), which was the first work commissioned from a Jewish composer for the choir of St Paul's Cathedral. The oratorio Samson for voices and brass band followed in 1977, a commission from the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. Many of Horovitz's most substantial works were written for wind orchestra and brass band, starting with the Sinfonietta in 1968.[1] Ad Astra for concert band was commissioned by the RAF in 1990 and draws on the composer's memory of London in The Blitz.[11]

In 1959, Horovitz was awarded the Commonwealth Medal, and since then he has received many other awards for his compositions. The city of Vienna awarded him the Gold Order of Merit in 1996.[1] His music for television has included Lillie, Rumpole of the Bailey, The Search for the Nile, The Fight Against Slavery, Wessex Tales and Partners in Crime.


Orchestral works[edit]

  • 1948 Concertante for Clarinet and Strings
  • 1950 Violin Concerto, op 11
  • 1956 Clarinet Concerto
  • 1963 Trumpet Concerto
  • 1965 Jazz Concerto (Harpsichord or Piano)
  • 1971 Sinfonietta for Light Orchestra
  • 1972 Horizon Overture
  • 1973 Adagio Cantabile
  • 1973 Valse
  • 1976 Bassoon Concerto
  • 1977 Jubilee Toy Symphony
  • 1993 Oboe Concerto

Works for wind orchestra and brass band[edit]

  • 1964 Three Pieces From Music Hall Suite for brass band
  • 1968 Sinfonietta for brass band
  • 1972 Euphonium Concerto for euphonium and brass band
  • 1975 The Dong with a Luminous Nose for brass band
  • 1977 Samson oratorio for baritone, mixed chorus and brass band
  • 1983 Ballet for Band for brass band
  • 1984 Bacchus on Blue Ridge: Divertimento for wind orchestra
  • 1985 Concertino Classico for 2 cornets (or trumpets) and brass band
  • 1990 Ad Astra for concert band
  • 1991 Fete Galante for wind orchestra
  • 1992 Dance Suite
  • 1994 Theme and Cooperation for brass band
  • Tuba Concerto for tuba and brass band

Film scores[edit]

Other works[edit]

  • 1952 Les Femmes d'Alger: Ballet in one act
  • 1953 The Dumb Wife: Comic opera in one act
  • 1953 Alice in Wonderland: Ballet in two acts
  • 1958 Concerto for Dancers: Ballet in one act
  • 1958 Gentleman's Island (libretto by Gordon Snell) in English or German for tenor, baritone and chamber orchestra
  • 1961 Horrortorio (words by Alistair Sampson from a scenario by Maurice Richardson) for soloists, chorus and orchestra. It was performed at the Hoffnung Astronautical Musical Festival
  • 1962 Fantasia on a Theme of Couperin for wind nonet or 11 solo strings
  • 1965 Let's Make a Ballet: Ballet in one act
  • 1970 Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo: Cantata (text by Michael Flanders) for mixed chorus with piano, double bass and percussion
  • 1970 Lady Macbeth Scena for mezzo-soprano and piano
  • 1975 Summer Sunday: a comical-tragical-ecological Pastoral for mixed choir and piano
  • 1980 Miss Carter Wore Pink: Ballet in one act

Chamber music[edit]

  • 1948 String Quartet No. 3
  • 1953 String Quartet No. 4
  • 1964 Music Hall Suite for brass quintet
  • 1976 Brass Polka for brass quartet
  • 1969 String Quartet No. 5
  • Sonatina, op. 3 for oboe and piano
  • Quartet for oboe and strings, op. 18
  • Ghetto Song for solo guitar
  • 1981 Sonatina For Clarinet and Piano


  1. ^ a b c Bradbury, Ernest (revised Miller, Malcolm). Horovitz, Joseph, in Grove Music Online (2001)
  2. ^ "About Phaidon". Phaidon.
  3. ^ Miller, Malcolm (5 May 2010). "Hannah Horovitz obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  4. ^ Conway, Paul. 'Joseph Horovitz at 90', in Musical Opinion, October 2016
  5. ^ 'Horovitz Four Concertos', reviewed in Gramophone
  6. ^ a b Notes to Carducci Classics CS CSQ 6482 (2007)
  7. ^ "Carducci Quartet plays Horovitz, String Quartet No 5".
  8. ^ Snowman, Daniel. "The Hitler Emigrés".
  9. ^ Captain Noah and his Floating Zoo, Wise Music
  10. ^ Dutton Vocalion CDLF8120, reissued 2005
  11. ^ Miller, Dr Malcolm. 'From Noah to Ninotchka via Samson and psalms', in Jewish Renaissance, July 2006, p 31

External links[edit]