Lawrance Collingwood

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Lawrance Arthur Collingwood CBE (14 March 1887 – 19 December 1982) was an English conductor, composer and record producer.


Collingwood was born in London and attended Westminster Choir School, beginning his musical career as a choirboy at Westminster Abbey from 1897-1902.[1] Around 1903 he attended High Wycombe Royal Grammar School.[2] Appointed organist at St Thomas's Hospital and then at All Saints, Gospel Oak,[1] he studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Exeter College, Oxford (1907–1911).[3]

In the autumn of 1911 he went to Russia and enrolled at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory where he studied under Alexander Glazunov, Maximilian Steinberg and Nikolai Tcherepnin.[1] After graduating Collingwood returned to England in 1918 to begin military service but went back to Russia and worked for some years as assistant conductor to Albert Coates at the Saint Petersburg Opera.[1] He also conducted at the Mariinsky Theatre.[4] He also served as interpreter for Winston Churchill's expedition in support of White Russian forces in Northern Russia (1918-1919).[5] His two piano sonatas, which show the influence of Alexander Scriabin, were published in Saint Petersburg.[1]

In England, he built his reputation at first as a composer: his Symphonic Poem (1918) was presented by the Royal College of Music; he himself conducted its professional premiere at the Queen's Hall in 1922, and the work was later published.[1] In 1920 Lilian Baylis appointed Collingwood as the chorus master for her opera company at the Old Vic in London. Despite the poor conditions he preserved and made a significant contribution to the improved musical standards at the company.[1] He conducted opera at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatre, becoming principal conductor at Sadler's Wells in 1931.[6] His steady hand did much to establish Sadler's Wells as a viable alternative to Covent Garden.[7] He gave early British performances of operas by Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.[4] His own first opera, Macbeth, was presented there under his own direction on 12 April 1934, with Joan Cross singing Lady Macbeth.[8] Music from the opera had already been played in the Queen's Hall on 10 November 1927 and it would be revived in Hammersmith in 1970.[1] A recording of excerpts from Collingwood conducting Lohengrin during his Sadler's Wells years survives, with Henry Wendon in the title role, plus Joan Cross and Constance Willis, offering an example his work at the time.[1]

In January 1934, he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in a recording of the Triumphal March from Caractacus and the Woodland Interlude by Sir Edward Elgar, supervised by the composer himself by telephone from his sickbed before his death a month later.[9]

Collingwood made his debut at the Royal Opera House in December 1936 with Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel.[1] He conducted Sadler's Wells Opera around the UK during the Second World War in stressful and primitive conditions, and retired from the company in 1946.[1] He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1948.[3]

Although most of his professional life was spent in Britain, Collingwood travelled to Berlin to supervise recordings by Menuhin and Furtwängler, and to oversee the 1956 Meistersinger conducted by Kempe. In 1950 and the following year he played a key role in recordings involving Casals, first in Prades then in Perpignan.[1]

His second opera, The Death of Tintagiles, set to Alfred Sutro's translation of Maurice Maeterlinck's drama, was premiered on 16 April 1950. His other compositions include a piano concerto and a piano quartet.[3]

Lawrance Collingwood brought many foreign operas to the British stage for the first time.[10] His premieres as a conductor included:

Nikolai Medtner dedicated his song The Raven to Lawrance Collingwood.

Collingwood died in Killin, Perthshire, Scotland on 19 December 1982, aged 95.[3]

Record producer[edit]

Concurrently with his conducting activity Collingwood worked in the recording industry; from 1926 to 1957 he was a musical supervisor for the Gramophone Company (later EMI) and was Musical Advisor from 1938 to 1972. He remained a freelance, retained for a certain number of sessions per week for which he was sent plans each week.[1] From the 1920s he supervised nearly all Elgar's recordings for HMV and was also given the task of providing electrical orchestral accompaniments to go with acoustic recordings by Caruso and Tetrazzini.[1] He worked as a record producer from the days of Fred Gaisberg, and was later a colleague of Walter Legge. He was EMI's producer of Sir Thomas Beecham's recordings of the music of Frederick Delius from 1946 onwards. He also produced recordings conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler and Herbert von Karajan, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's recording of Gustav Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (under Furtwängler), Kindertotenlieder and songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. He produced Vittorio Gui's recording of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro.[1][14][15][16]


He recorded for HMV from 1922 until 1971.[7] His recordings include:


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Walker, Malcolm. Lawrance Collingwood. Classical Recordings Quarterly. Summer 2014, No 77, p39-44.
  2. ^ 'The Wycombiensian', September 1957, page 360 - the school magazine of the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe: "D.J. Watson (1903-09)... wondered whether he was the Lance Collingwood who was at the R.G.S. when Watson entered in 1903. It was the same person... L.A. Collingwood, a Westminster Abbey choirboy, was sent to the school by Sir Frederick Bridge, the Abbey organist and a brother-in-law of Mr. G.J. Peachell, then headmaster of the school." Lance was perhaps his school nickname.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bach Cantatas". Bach Cantatas. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Music Encyclopedia. The Concise Grove Dictionary of Music. Copyright 1994 by Oxford University Press, Inc". 19 December 1982. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Rob Wilton Theatricalia". 16 January 1931. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  7. ^ a b "All Music Guide to Classical Music, edited by Chris Woodstra, Gerald Brennan and Allen Schrott, produced by All Media Guide, LLC, and published by Backbeat Books". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  8. ^ "Britten-Pears Library: Joan Cross Papers". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  9. ^ Jerrold Northrop Moore Edward Elgar: A Creative Life: pp. 821-22
  10. ^ "Central Opera Service Bulletin" (PDF). Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  11. ^ "Prokofiev's Recording of his Third Piano Concerto". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  12. ^ Grove's Dictionary, 5th ed.: Boris Godunov
  13. ^ "Rob Wilton Theatricalia". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  14. ^ "Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  15. ^ Lyndon Jenkins, While Spring and Summer Sang. Google Books. 30 December 2005. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  16. ^ "High Beam Encyclopedia". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  17. ^ "crotchet". crotchet. 23 February 2004. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g Discographical data from 'Collingwood' search in The CHARM Discography, Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music, <>, accessed 12 January 2015.
  19. ^ "Feodor Chaliapin: A Vocal Portrait". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  20. ^ "Songs From the Emerald Isle". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  21. ^
  22. ^ "The History of Music in Sound, Vol. IX". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  23. ^ Jean Collen, Sweethearts of Song. Google Books. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  24. ^ "Bach cantatas". Bach cantatas. Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  25. ^ "Naxos Music Library". Retrieved 6 January 2012.
  26. ^ "Ernő Dohnány 125th Anniversary Commemorative Exhibit 2002". Archived from the original on 18 February 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2012.


Cultural offices
Preceded by
Charles Corri
Music Director, Sadler's Wells
Succeeded by
James Robertson