Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bexfield, William Richard

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BEXFIELD, WILLIAM RICHARD (1824–1853), musical composer, was born at Norwich on 27 April 1824, entered the cathedral choir at the age of seven, and studied music under the organist, Dr. Buck, to whom he was articled. He learnt the violin, trumpet, trombone, and drum, but he excelled as an organist when still quite young. On the expiration of his articles he obtained the post of organist at the parish church of Boston, Lincolnshire, and on 16 Nov. 1846 took the degree of Mus. Bac. at Oxford, where his name was entered at New College. His degree exercise was a canon in five parts. On the death of Dr. Crotch he became a candidate for the professorial chair of music at Oxford, but without success, probably on account of his youth. In February 1848 he left Boston, having obtained the post of organist at St. Helen's, Bishopsgate, the competition for which brought forward thirty-six candidates. In the following year he proceeded Mus. Doc. at Cambridge, his name being entered at Trinity College. In 1850 Dr. Bexfield married Miss Mellington, of Boston, by whom he had two children. Soon after his marriage he wrote the oratorio by which his name is best remembered, 'Israel Restored.' This work was produced by the Norwich Choral Society in October 1851, and was again performed at the Norwich Festival on 22 Sept. 1852, when the solo parts were sung by Madame Viardot, Misses Pyne, Dolby, and Alleyne, and Messrs. Sims Reeves, Gardoni, Lockey, Formes, Belletti, and Weiss. The excellence of much of the music was at once recognised; but the book was fatally dull, and the whole work suffered from being forced by a local clique into injudicious rivalry with H. H. Pierson's 'Jerusalem,' which was produced on the following day. Bexfield's other published works are a set of 'Organ fugues, a set of six songs (words by the composer), and a collection of anthems. He died at 12 Monmouth Road, Bayswater, on 28 Oct. 1853, too young to have fulfilled the expectation aroused by the talents he displayed.

[Annual Register, 1863, p. 267; Gent. Mag. for 1854, pt. i. pp. 102-3; Musical Directory, 1864 ; Grove's Dict. of Music, i. 239; Catalogue of Oxford Graduates, 1851; Luard's Graduati Cantabrigienses, 1760-1866; Musical Times, Oct. 1862.]

W. B. S.