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Constant Lambert (1905 - 1951)


The bohemian character of Constant Lambert’s family (his father was the artist George Washington Thomas Lambert) stimulated in him an interest in the arts that was unusually wide: he was as equally at home with literature, the theatre, the visual arts and the cinema as with music. Having been educated at Christ’s Hospital in London, he won a scholarship in 1922 to the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Vaughan Williams and R.O. Morris, whom he respected, and George Dyson, whom he did not; and also studied conducting with Malcolm Sargent and piano with Herbert Fryer. Lambert frequented the artistic circles of the time and soon came into contact with other composers such as Philip Heseltine (Peter Warlock) and William Walton. A great admirer of Russian music, during the 1920s he composed several works informed by Russian culture and ideas and after being introduced to Diaghilev was commissioned by him to write a ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, for his Ballets Russes. However Lambert and Diaghilev could not agree on either the set designs or the choreography, and the ballet had a mixed reception, although it was successful in London. The late 1920s saw the composition of several notable works, including the Eight Poems of Li-Po, inspired by the film actress Anna May Wong, and the popular The Rio Grande, which set to music verse by Sacheverell Sitwell. These were followed by Lambert’s Piano Sonata and Piano Concerto, both of which inhabited a tougher musical world, one to which the public

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