Macfarren, Walter Cecil (DNB12)

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MACFARREN, WALTER CECIL (1826–1905), pianist and composer, born in Villiers Street, Strand, London, on 28 Aug. 1826, was youngest son of George Macfarren [q. v.], dramatist, and brother of Sir George Alexander Macfarren [q. v.]. Having from his fourth year shown gifts for music, he was a choir-boy at Westminster Abbey under James Turle (1836-41), and sang at Queen Victoria's coronation. When his voice broke, he had thoughts of becoming an artist, and took some lessons in painting, and then served as salesman in a Brighton pianoforte warehouse. At the persuasion of his brother, he entered the Royal Academy of Music in October 18i2, learning the pianoforte under W. H. Holmes and composition under his own brother and Cipriani Potter. In January 1846 he became a sub-professor of the pianoforte, and remained on the staff of the Royal Academy fifty-seven years, for many years lecturing there six times annually as well as teaching the piano. He always remained a sound performer of the older school. He also composed many small but solid pianoforte pieces, natural, pleasing, and always highly finished in style, recalling Mendelssohn and Sterndale Bennett. l£s vocal works included two church services and many short secular pieces; the part-song 'You stole my Love' proved very successful. He produced an overture to 'The Winter's Tale' (1844); an overture to 'The Taming of the Shrew' (1845); 'Beppo,' a concert overture (1847). He suffered from weak eye-sight, but did not share his brother's fate of total blindness. From 1873 to 1880 he conducted the concerts at the Royal Academy, and from 1877 to 1880 was treasurer of the Philharmonic Society. Resuming the composition of large works, he produced with success at Kuhe's Brighton Festivals his 'Pastoral Overture' (1878), 'Hero and Leander' (1897), and a complete symphony in B flat (1880); none was sufficiently original to retain a place in the concert repertory. In 1881 there followed a concert-piece for pianoforte and orchestra, written for his pupil. Miss Kuhe, and the only large composition of his to be printed, and he produced an overture to 'Henry V' at the Norwich Festival.

Macfarren was appointed musical critic to the 'Queen' newspaper in 1862, and contributed articles, moderately conservative in tone, till his death. For the music publishers Ashdown and Parry (afterwards Edwin Ashdown) he edited 'Popular Classics,' which reached 240 numbers; he also edited Mozart's complete piano-forte works and Beethoven's sonatas. His complete 'Scale and Arpeggio Manual ' (1882) took standard rank.

On the occasion of his jubilee in 1896 he founded two prizes, gold medals for piano-forte-playing, at the Royal Academy. In 1904 he retired from all active work, save that of contributor to the 'Queen'; on this occasion an illuminated address, signed by several hundreds of his friends, was publicly presented to him. He lived in Osnaburgh Terrace, usually spending his vacations at Brighton. He published in the summer of 1905 'Memories,' an auto-biography which was insufficiently revised. He died in London on 2 Sept. 1905, and was buried in St. Pancras cemetery. East Finchley.

He married in 1852 Julia Fanner, daughter of an artist; her mind gave way in 1878. She died in 1902 without issue.

[Macfarren's Memories; interviews, with portraits, in Musical Herald, April 1893, and Musical Times, Jan. 1898; Musical Herald, Dec. 1901, Sept. 1903, Nov. 1905, p. 363 (will); personal reminiscences.]

H. D.