Roger Quilter

Posted on October 25, 2010


Composer Roger Quilter, whose songs embody the spirit of Edwardian England, is rarely heard except at recitals of university voice majors. Though he wrote music for the piano as well as some orchestra pieces and incidental music for a play and even an opera, he was most known for his songs, of which he wrote more than 100.

The son of a wealthy businessman and art collector, Quilter was encouraged to study music by his mother and in the 1890s studied in Frankfurt with Ivan Knorr; he became part of what was known as the Frankfurt Group, a set of English composers who studied in Frankfurt which included Percy Grainger. He was also a friend of Delius, and had a great influence on the eccentric composer Peter Warlock.

Quilter’s songs were championed by the then-popular English tenor Gervase Elwes, which brought Quilter a wide public (recordings of Elwes singing two of Quilter’s popular settings of English poetry, Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal and Love’s Philosophy are in the clip above on the queercult Youtube channel.)

After World War Two, he became increasingly unstable and produced little music. His poor mental health has been attributed to the death of a favorite nephew in the war, and to the pressures of being homosexual during a time of repression.

He died in 1952 at age 75.

Roger Quilter has a wikipedia page, here, and Valerie Langfield has also written about Quilter at a page dedicated to him, here. Free scores of his music are available at the IMSLP Petrucci Music Library, here. Recordings, sheet music and Valerie Langfield’s biography Roger Quilter: His Life and Music can be found on Amazon, here.