1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mackenzie, Sir Alexander Campbell

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MACKENZIE, SIR ALEXANDER CAMPBELL (1847-), British composer, son of an eminent Edinburgh violinist and conductor, was born on the 22nd of August 1847. On the advice of a member of Gung'l's band who had taken up his residence in Edinburgh, Mackenzie was sent for his musical education to Sondershausen, where he entered the conservatorium under Ulrich and Stein, remaining there from 1857 to 1861, when he entered the ducal orchestra as a violinist. At this time he made Liszt's acquaintance. On his return home he won the King's Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and remained the usual three years in the institution, after which he established himself as a teacher of the piano, &c., in Edinburgh. He appeared in public as a violinist, taking part in Chappell's quartette concerts, and starting a set of classical concerts. He was appointed preceptor of St George's Church in 1870, and conductor of the Scottish vocal music association in 1873, at the same time getting through a prodigious amount of teaching. He kept in touch with his old friends by playing in the orchestra of the Birmingham Festivals from 1864 to 1873. The most important compositions of this period of Mackenzie's life were the Quartette in E flat for piano and strings, Op. 11, and an overture, Cervantes, which owed its first performance to the encouragement and help of von Bülow. On the advice of this great pianist, he gave up his Edinburgh appointments, which had quite worn him out, and settled in Florence in order to compose. The cantatas The Bride (Worcester, 1881) and Jason (Bristol, 1882) belong to this time, as well as his first opera. This was commissioned for the Carl Rosa Company, and was written to a version of Merimée's Colomba prepared by Franz Hueffer. It was produced with great success in 1883, and was the first of a too short series of modern English operas; Mackenzie's second opera, The Troubadour, was produced by the same company in 1886; and his third dramatic work was His Majesty, an excellent comic opera (Savoy Theatre, 1897). In 1884 his Rose of Sharon was given with very great success at the Norwich Festival; in 1885 he was appointed conductor of Novello's oratorio concerts; The Story of Sayid came out at the Leeds Festival of 1886; and in 1888 he succeeded Macfarren as principal of the Royal Academy of Music. The Dream of Jubal was produced at Liverpool in 1889, and in London very soon afterwards. A fine setting of the hymn “ Veni, Creator Spiritus ” was given at Birmingham in 1891, and the oratorio Bethlehem in 1894. From 1892 to 1899 he conducted the Philharmonic Concerts, and was knighted in 1894. Besides the works mentioned he has written incidental music to plays, as, for instance, to Ravenswood, The Little Minister, and Coriolanus; Concertos and other works for violin and orchestra, much orchestral music, and many songs and violin pieces. The romantic side of music appeals to Mackenzie far more strongly than any other, and the cases in which he has conformed to the classical conventions are of the rarest. In the orchestral ballad, La Belle Dame sans Merci, he touches the note of weird pathos, and in the nautical overture Britannia his sense of humour stands revealed. In the two “ Scottish Rhapsodies ” for orchestra, in the music to The Little M inister, and in a beautiful fantasia for pianoforte and orchestra on Scottish themes, he has seized the essential, not the accidental features of his native music.