1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cowen, Frederic Hymen

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COWEN, FREDERIC HYMEN (1852–  ), English musical composer, was born at Kingston, Jamaica, on the 29th of January 1852. At four years old he was brought to England, where his father became treasurer to the opera at Her Majesty’s theatre, and private secretary to the earl of Dudley. His first teacher was Henry Russell, and his first published composition appeared when he was but six years old. He studied the piano with Benedict, and composition with Goss; in 1865 he was at Leipzig under Hauptmann, Moscheles, Reinecke and Plaidy. Returning home on the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War, he appeared as a composer for the orchestra in an overture played at the Promenade Concerts at Covent Garden in September 1866. In the following autumn he went to Berlin, where he was under Kiel, at Stern’s conservatorium. A symphony and a piano concerto were given in St James’s Hall in 1869, and from that time Cowen has been recognized as primarily a composer, his talents as a pianist being subordinate, although his public appearances were numerous for some time afterwards. His cantata, The Rose Maiden, was given in London in 1870, his second symphony by the Liverpool Philharmonic Society in 1872, and his first festival work, The Corsair, in 1876 at Birmingham. In that year his opera, Pauline, was given by the Carl Rosa Company with moderate success. In 1884 he conducted five concerts of the Philharmonic Society, and in 1888, on the resignation of Arthur Sullivan, became the regular conductor of the society, resigning the post in 1892. In the year of his appointment, 1888, he went to Melbourne as the conductor of the daily concerts given in connexion with the Exhibition there. In 1896 Cowen was appointed conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Society and of the Manchester orchestra, in succession to Sir Charles Hallé. In 1899 he was reappointed conductor of the Philharmonic Society. His works include:—Operettas: Garibaldi (1860) and One Too Many (1874); operas: Pauline (1876), Thorgrim (1890), Signa (Milan, 1893), and Harold (1895); oratorios: The Deluge (1878), St Ursula (1881), Ruth (1887), Song of Thanksgiving (1888), The Transfiguration (1895); cantatas: The Rose Maiden (1870), The Corsair (1876), The Sleeping Beauty (1885), St John’s Eve (1889), The Water Lily (1893), Ode to the Passions (1898), besides short cantatas for female voices; a large number of songs, ranging from the popular “ballad” to more artistic lyrics, anthems, part-songs, duets, &c.; six symphonies, among which No 3, the “Scandinavian,” has had the greatest success; four overtures; suites, The Language of Flowers (1880), In the Olden Times (1883), In Fairyland (1896); four English dances (1896); a concerto for piano and orchestra, and a fantasia for the same played by M. Paderewski (1900); a quartet in C minor, and a trio in A minor, both early works; pianoforte pieces, &c. Cowen is never so happy as when treating of fantastic or fairy subjects; and whether in his cantatas for female voices, his charming Sleeping Beauty, his Water Lily or his pretty overture, The Butterfly’s Ball (1901), he succeeds wonderfully in finding graceful expression for the poetical idea. His dance music, such as is to be found in various orchestral suites, is refined, original and admirably instrumented; and if he is seldom as successful in portraying the graver aspects of emotion, the vogue of his semi-sacred songs has been widespread.