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Henry Wood (1869 - 1944)


Henry Wood’s father was a keen amateur musician, playing the cello and singing in the choir of St Sepulchre’s Church, Holborn. His son Henry showed early musical talent: he was taught the organ and piano by E. M. Lott, the organist of St Sepulchre’s, and by the age of ten was serving as his deputy there. He gained public attention in 1883 when he played the organ at the Fisheries Exhibition, and later in 1885 at the International Inventions Exhibition. He entered the Royal Academy of Music in 1886 where he studied the organ with Steggall, piano with Macfarren and composition with Prout, and accompanied singers at lessons given by García.

Wood made his debut as a professional conductor in 1887, directing one of his own works with a local music society. During the earlier part of his career he pursued the twin paths of composer and conductor: between 1888 and 1896 he composed two symphonies, a dramatic oratorio, an operetta and a mass, as well as much else. At the same time he eagerly took whatever conducting opportunities came his way: he was engaged as musical director of Arthur Rouseby’s touring opera company in 1889, later moving to the Carl Rosa Company in a similar position, and assisted Sir Arthur Sullivan in the production of his opera Ivanhoe in 1891. The previous year Wood’s father had paid for him to travel across Europe to hear the best continental orchestras: this experience helped to fix in Wood’s mind a concept of orchestral excellence to which he was to devote the rest of his life. He went on to

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