Sir Arthur Bliss

Paul Spicer
Arthur Bliss (1891–1975) was one of the most important British musicians of his age. Born into a family where music played a highly significant role, his talent emerged early. He served with distinction in the Great War, in which he was both injured and gassed. After the War he set the musical world alight with ultra-modern works, earning himself the soubriquet enfant terrible and leading to his first major work, the Colour Symphony. His dual American/British birthright led to a close connection with the USA and marriage to an American girl, Trudy Hoffman, who would be a mainstay of his life. Before long he became the most performed British composer abroad and his portfolio of works included ballet, film (H.G. Wells’s Things to Come remains one of the finest film scores), opera, orchestral, chamber, choral works and song. He was a diplomat, a skill that was recognized in many appointments from the Government to travel using music as soft power, notably to Russia in 1956. He served as Director of Music at the BBC from 1942–4, was knighted and soon after appointed Master of the Queen’s Music. Bliss was a private figure who stated that the only way to get to know him was through his music. Paul Spicer takes this as his starting point for this pioneering biography, which underlines the timely importance of a complete reappraisal of this important composer’s music.
Sir Arthur Bliss by Paul Spicer

About the author

PAUL SPICER is a leading authority on twentieth-century British music. He was a student of Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music and later wrote his biography, following this with an authoritative life of Sir George Dyson. His work as a choral conductor has seen him develop this work in performance, backed up by an extensive discography.

Press Reviews

I have read the book – it is quite terrific and with a quite enviable sense of flow. In fact a great read, even page turning. Many congratulations. Really wonderful sense of detail in many places.

- Dr Lewis Foreman, distinguished author and expert on British Music of the 20th century.

I’ve been a fan of the music of Sir Arthur Bliss for many years. However, reading this book made me realise how superficial was my knowledge of Bliss the man. I believe that this fine new biography will be a major factor in the re-evaluation of the music of Sir Arthur Bliss.

- John Quinn, MusicWeb International