Constant Lambert

(1905—1951) composer and conductor

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(b London, 23 Aug. 1905; d London, 21 Aug. 1951)

British conductor and composer who played a seminal role in the development of English ballet. He studied at the Royal College of Music and wrote his first ballet score, Romeo and Juliet, for Diaghilev (chor. Nijinska, 1926). In 1930 he became conductor of the Camargo Society and between 1931 and 1947 was music director of the Vic-Wells Ballet (becoming Sadler's Wells Ballet) where, with his commitment to the Diaghilevian ideal of unity between dance, music, and design, he exercised a major influence on the artistic as well as musical direction of the company. His close association with Ashton began with Pomona (1930), using the score he had originally written for Nijinska in 1927, and continued with his scores for Rio Grande (1932), Horoscope (1938), and Tiresias (1951). He additionally arranged the scores for several other Ashton ballets including Les Rendezvous (mus. Auber, 1933) and Les Patineurs (mus. Meyerbeer, 1937), as well as writing the libretto and selecting Liszt's music for Apparitions (1936). Other arrangements included those for de Valois's The Prospect Before Us (mus. W. Boyce, 1940) and Helpmann's Comus (mus. Purcell, 1942). During the war he played the piano for the company's performances and after resigning his post in 1947 was re-appointed music director of Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1948, conducting their first New York performance in 1949. He was author of Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline (London, 1934). His wife Isabel designed Ashton's Tiresias and Madame Chrysanthème.

Subjects: Music — Dance.

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