Thomas, Arthur Goring (DNB00)

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THOMAS, ARTHUR GORING (1850–1892), musical composer, born at Ratton Park, Sussex, on 20 Nov. 1850, was the youngest son of Freeman Thomas of Ratton Park, by his wife Amelia, eldest daughter of Colonel Thomas Frederick. After being educated at Haileybury College, he was destined for the civil service, but his health failed. In early life he showed musical proclivities; when about ten years old his power of extemporisation was remarkable. This power he lost after he began to study seriously. In 1873 he went to Paris, where, on Ambroise Thomas's advice, he studied for two years with Emile Durand. After returning to England in 1875, he began on 13 Sept. 1877 a three years' course at the Royal Academy of Music under Sullivan and Prout, and he twice won the Lucas medal for composition. Later on he studied for a time orchestration under Dr. Max Bruch. While still a pupil of the Royal Academy of Music Thomas composed an opera, ‘The Light of the Harem,’ which was played at that institution with such success as to induce Carl Rosa to commission him to write ‘Esmeralda.’ That opera was produced at Drury Lane on 26 March 1883. It was also played at Cologne in the following November, and at Hamburg in 1885. In this latter year Carl Rosa produced his ‘Nadeshda,’ also at Drury Lane (16 April), Mme. Valleria playing the title rôle. It was given at Breslau in 1890. On 12 July 1890 ‘Esmeralda’ was performed at Covent Garden in French. Another opera, ‘The Golden Web,’ which was left unfinished so far as regards the scoring, was completed by Sydney P. Waddington, and was produced posthumously at the Court Theatre, Liverpool, on 15 Feb. 1893.

In 1881 Thomas's choral ode, ‘The Sun Worshippers,’ was brought out at the Norwich festival. His unfinished cantata, ‘The Swan and the Skylark,’ which Professor Villiers Stanford completed, was given at the Birmingham festival in 1894. Thomas died prematurely on 20 March 1892.

In addition to the works already mentioned Thomas composed a cantata, ‘Out of the Deep;’ a ‘suite de ballet’ for orchestra, produced at Cambridge on 9 June 1887; a violin sonata, several vocal scenas, and a very large number of songs, many of which enjoy a well-merited vogue. On 13 July 1892 a concert (in which most of the leading operatic singers of the day took part) was given at St. James's Hall, London, to help to found a scholarship in memory of Thomas at the Royal Academy of Music. The effort was successful, and the Goring Thomas scholarship is now competed for annually.

Thomas was one of the most richly gifted of the British school of musical composers. His works, which show traces of their author's French training, are melodious and refined, while his orchestration is beautiful.

[Times, 22 March 1892; Dict. of British Musical Biogr.; The Overture, iii. 21; the programme-book of the concert mentioned in the text gives an authentic list of Thomas's works, published and unpublished; information from the composer's brother, Mr. Charles Thomas.]

R. H. L.