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Albert Coates (1882 - 1953)

‘An enormous man, very tall, immensely broad shouldered, immensely genial, but also immensely powerful. One got a sort of radiant heat from him and the excitement he could create for orchestras and choir was simply wonderful’: a vivid description of Albert Coates by fellow-conductor Stanford Robinson. Coates was the seventh and youngest son of a Yorkshire-born Englishman who ran the Russian branch of Thornton Woollen Mills; his mother was the Russian-born daughter of English parents. He studied the cello, violin and organ as a child and received composition lessons from Rimsky-Korsakov; when he was six he unknowingly encountered Tchaikovsky while improvising on the piano at a party to which his mother had taken him and in 1893 he travelled through thick snow to attend Tchaikovsky’s funeral. After these early years in Russia, when Coates was twelve he was sent to school in England, where his first music teacher, Henry Riding, encouraged composition as well as a general love of music. After a year Coates was transferred to another school where one of his brothers was also studying, and where his subjects included the organ, harmony and composition; but when his brother died unexpectedly, the shock was so great that Coates gave up music temporarily and studied science at Liverpool University.




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