Sir Henry Joseph Wood

(1869—1944) conductor

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British conductor, organist, and composer, best remembered as the founder of the annual London Promenade Concerts. He was knighted in 1911 and created a CH in 1944.

Having worked as an organist in various London churches, Wood studied at the Royal Academy of Music (1886–88); he intended to become a composer, but turned to conducting when he realized his ability. He then toured as a conductor of opera (1889), supervised rehearsals of Sullivan's Ivanhoe (1890), and oversaw a season of Italian opera at the Olympic Theatre, London. In 1894 he organized a series of Wagner concerts at the newly built Queen's Hall, and the following year conducted the first series of Promenade Concerts there. Over the next fifty years that he conducted the ‘Proms’, Wood systematically broadened the popular repertory to include such contemporary composers as Debussy, Scriabin, and Bartók. In 1927 the BBC took over the management of the concerts and began to broadcast them. When the Queen's Hall was bombed in World War II (1941), the ‘Proms’ made the Albert Hall their permanent home. Although he was criticized by some for his arrangements for symphony orchestra of pieces by Bach, Handel, Debussy, and others, Wood's achievement in popularizing orchestral music in Britain has never been questioned. Vaughan Williams wrote A Serenade to Music for sixteen solo voices and orchestra in honour of his jubilee concert at the Albert Hall (1938).

Subjects: Music.

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