Ruth Gipps

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Ruth Dorothy Louisa Gipps MBE[1] (20 February 1921 – 23 February 1999) was an English composer, oboist, pianist and impresario. She was one of the most prolific composers in Britain at the time of her death.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England in 1921. She was a child prodigy, winning performance competitions in which she was considerably younger than the rest of the field. After performing her first composition at the age of 8 in one of the numerous music festivals she entered, the work was bought by a publishing house for a guinea and a half. Winning a concerto competition with the Hastings Municipal Orchestra began her performance career in earnest.

In 1937 Gipps entered the Royal College of Music,[1] where she studied theory, composition, piano, and eventually oboe, and where several works of hers were first performed. Continuing her studies at Durham University would lead her to teachers Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as her future husband, clarinettist Robert Baker.

She was an accomplished all-round musician, as a soloist on both oboe and piano as well as a prolific composer. Her repertoire included works such as Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto and Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande. When she was 33 a hand injury ended her performance career, and she decided to focus her energies on conducting and composition.

A turning point in Gipps' career was the Symphony No. 2, Op. 30, first performed in 1946, which showed the beginnings of her mature style. Gipps' music is marked by a skilful use of instrumental colour, and often shows the influence of Vaughan Williams, rejecting the trends in avant-garde modern music such as serialism and twelve-tone music. She considered her orchestral works, her five symphonies in particular, as her greatest works. Two substantial piano concertos were also produced.

Her early career was affected strongly by discrimination against women in the male-dominated ranks of music (and particularly composition), by professors and judges as well as the world of music criticism. (For example, she was not even considered for the post of conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where her longtime associate George Weldon vacated it, because the thought of a woman conductor was "indecent".) Because of it she developed a tough personality that many found off-putting, and a fierce determination to prove herself through her work.

She founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955 as an opportunity for young professional musicians to become exposed to a wide range of music, and the Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, a professional ensemble which included a work by a living composer in each of its programs, often a premiere performance. Later she would take faculty posts at Trinity College, London (1959 to 1966) and the Royal College of Music (1967 to 1977), and then the Kingston Polytechnic.

She died in 1999, aged 78, after suffering the effects of cancer and a stroke.

Selected works[edit]

  • Variations on Byrds's "Non nobis", for small orchestra, Op. 7 (1942)
  • Knight in Armour, tone poem, Op. 8 (1942)
  • Sea Nymph, ballet for small orchestra (or for two pianos), Op. 14 (1941 ?)
  • Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op. 22 (1942)
  • Death on a Pale Horse, tone poem, Op. 25 (1943)
  • Chanticleer Overture, Op. 28 (1944)
  • The Chinese Cabinet Suite for orchestra, Op. 29 (1945)
  • Symphony No. 2 (in One Movement), Op. 30 (1945)
  • Mahomet and the Cat, Op. 32 (1947)
  • Song for orchestra, Op. 33 (1948)
  • Cringlemire Garden, Impression for String Orchestra, Op. 39 (1952)
  • Coronation Procession for orchestra, Op. 41 (1953)
  • Kensington Garden Suite, Op. 2, orchestral version (1953 ; orig. for oboe and piano, 1938)
  • Pageant Overture The Rainbow, Op. 44 (1954)
  • Symphony No. 3, Op. 57 (1965)
  • Symphony No. 4, Op. 61 (1972)
  • Symphony No. 5, Op. 64 (1982)
  • Ambarvalia for small orchestra, Op. 70 (1988)
  • Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, Op. 9 (1940)
  • Jane Grey, Fantasy for Viola and String Orchestra (or piano), Op. 15 (1940)
  • Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra in D minor, Op. 20 (1941, premiered by the Modern Symphony Orchestra under Arthur Dennington in the 1941/42 season)
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in B flat major, Op. 24 (1943, premiered on 05.02.1944 with the Modern Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arthur Dennington and the composer's brother Ernest as soloist)[3]
  • Concerto for Piano and Orchestra in G minor, Op. 34 (1948)
  • Concerto for Violin, Viola and Small Orchestra, Op. 49 (1957)
  • Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, Op. 58 (1968)
  • Leviathan for Contra-Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 59 (1969)
  • Introduction and Carol: The Ox and the Ass for Double Bass and Chamber Orchestra, Op. 71 (1988)
  • Threnody for English Horn and Piano, Op. 74, version for English Horn, Strings and Harp (1990)
Chamber music
  • Kensington Garden Suite for Oboe and Piano, Op. 2 (1938)
  • Sea-Shore Suite for Oboe and Piano, Op. 3b (1939)
  • Chamois for 2 Violins and Piano, Op. 3c (1939)
  • Sonata No.1 for Oboe and Piano in G minor, Op. 5 (1939)
  • The Kelpie Of Corrievreckan for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 5b (1939)
  • Pixie Caravan for Flute and Piano (1939)
  • Rowan for Flute and Piano (1940)
  • Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 10 (1940)
  • The Piper of Dreams for Oboe Solo, Op. 12b (1940)
  • Sea-Weed Song for English Horn and Piano, Op. 12c (1940)
  • Suite for 2 Violins, Op. 12d (1940)
  • Elephant God for Clarinet and Percussion, Op. 12e (1940)
  • Sabrina, String Quartet in one movement, Op. 13 (1940)
  • Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola and Cello, Op. 16 (1941)
  • Brocade, Piano Quartet, Op. 17 (1941)
  • Rhapsody in E for Clarinet Quintet, Op. 23 (1942)
  • Rhapsody for Violin and Piano, Op. 27a (1943)
  • Scherzo: The Three Billy Goats Gruff for Oboe, Horn, and Bassoon, Op. 27b
  • Sonata for Violin and Piano, Op. 42 (1954)
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 45 (1955)
  • Lyric Fantasy for Viola and Piano, Op. 46 (1955)
  • String Quartet, Op. 47 (1956)
  • Evocation for Violin and Piano, Op. 48 (1956)
  • Prelude for Bass Clarinet Solo (or B Clarinet), Op. 51 (1958)
  • Seascape for 2 Flutes, Oboe, English Horn, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons and 2 Horns, Op. 53 (1958)
  • A Tarradiddle for 2 Horns, Op. 54 (1959)
  • Sonatina for Horn and Piano, Op. 56 (1960)
  • Triton for Horn and Piano, Op. 60 (1970)
  • Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 63 (1978)
  • Octet for 2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons and 2 Horns, Op. 65 (1983)
  • Sonata No. 2 for Oboe and Piano, Op. 66 (1985)
  • The Saint Francis Window for Alto Flute and Piano, Op. 67 (1986)
  • The Riders of Rohan for Trombone and Piano (1987)
  • Scherzo and Adagio for Cello Solo, Op. 68 (1987)
  • Sinfonietta for 10 Winds and Percussion, Op. 73 (1989)
  • Threnody for English Horn and Piano (or Organ), Op. 74 (1990)
  • The Pony Cart for Flute, Horn and Piano, Op. 75 (1990)
  • A Wealden Suite, Quartet for E, B, A and Bass Clarinets, Op. 76 (1991)
  • Cool Running Water for Bass Flute and Piano, Op. 77 (1991)
  • Pan and Apollo for 2 Oboes, English Horn and Harp, Op. 78 (1992)
  • Sonata for Alto Trombone (or Horn) and Piano, Op. 80 (1995)
  • The Fairy Shoemaker (1929)
  • Sea Nymph, ballet for small orchestra (or for two pianos), Op. 14 (1941 ?)
  • Conversation for 2 Pianos, Op. 36 (1950)
  • Theme and Variations, Op. 57a (1965)
  • Opalescence, Op. 72 (1989)
  • Mazeppa's Ride for Female Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 1
  • The Cat, Cantata for Alto, Baritone, Double Mixed Chorus and Orchestra, Op. 32 (1947)
  • Goblin Market for 2 Sopranos, Female Chorus and String Orchestra (or Piano), Op. 40 (1953)
  • An Easter Carol for Soprano, Mixed Chorus and Piano or Organ, Op. 52 (1958)
  • Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for Mixed Chorus and Organ, Op. 55 (1959)
  • Gloria in excelsis for Unison Chorus and Organ, Op. 62 (1977)
  • A Service for Holy Communion for Mixed Chorus and Organ, Op. 62a (1974)
  • Four Baritone Songs for Baritone and Piano, Op. 4b (1939)
  • Heaven for High Voice and Piano (1939)
  • Four Songs of Youth for Tenor and Piano (1940)
  • Two Songs for Soprano and Piano, Op. 11 (1940)
  • Rhapsody for Wordless Soprano and Small Orchestra, Op. 18
  • Ducks for Soprano, Flute, Cello and Piano, Op. 19 (1941)
  • The Song of the Narcissus for Soprano and Piano, Op. 37 (1951)
  • Three Incantations for Soprano and Harp, Op. 50 (1957)
  • The Lady of the Lambs for Soprano and Wind Quintet, Op. 79 (1992)


  1. ^ a b Foreman, Lewis (2 March 1999). "Obituary: Ruth Gipps". The Independent. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Halstead, Jill. Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism and Difference in English Music. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0178-4. Archived from the original on 30 August 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2016. 
  3. ^ Broeker, Tobias (2014): The 20th century violin concertante – A repertoire guide to the compositions for violin concertante written between 1894 and 2006. Stuttgart: self-published (e-book). ISBN 978-3-00-047105-6

Further reading[edit]

  • Halstead, Jill (2006). Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism And Difference in English Music. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-0178-1. 
  • Halstead, Jill, Lewis Foreman, and J.N.F. Laurie-Beckett (2001). "Gipps, Ruth (Dorothy Louisa) [Wid(dy) Gipps]". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

External links[edit]