He was a leading broker on the London Stock Exchange and a prominent amateur musician. He was a leading figure in the Jewish community during the period of the emancipation of the Jews from civil disabilities.
He contributed many letters to The Times under the signature W. London. His letters on A tour in Auvergne, published in the Daily News in 1858, were incorporated into John Murray's Handbook for Travellers in France.
Waley was a highly gifted musician. He began to compose as a child. His first published work, L'arpeggio (for piano), was published in 1848. He had piano lessons from Ignaz Moscheles, William Sterndale Bennett and George Alexander Osborne, and lessons in theory and composition from William Horsley and Bernhard Molique. As well as being a brilliant pianist (he performed regularly at concerts of the Amateur Musical Society conducted by Henry Leslie), Waley was a prolific composer. His published compositions include a piano concerto (op. 16), two piano trios (in B flat and G minor, op. 15 and op. 20), marches and caprices for piano, and many songs, including "Angels' voices" and "Sing on, sing on, ye little birds". He also wrote orchestral pieces, which were not published. One of his finest works is a setting of Psalms 117 and 118 for the synagogue service.
- "Waley, Simon Waley". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/28459. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.). The first edition of this text is available as an article on Wikisource: "Waley, Simon Waley". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
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