Benjamin Frankel (31 January 1906 – 12 February 1973) was a British composer. Frankel's most famous pieces include a cycle of five string quartets and eight symphonies as well as a number of concertos for violin and viola; his single best-known piece is probably the First Sonata for Solo Violin, which, like his concertos, resulted from a long association with Max Rostal. During the last 15 years of his life, Frankel also developed his own style of 12-note composition that retained contact with tonality.
Frankel was born in London on 31 January 1906, the son of Polish-Jewish parents. He started learning the violin at an early age, showing remarkable talent; at age 14, his piano-playing gifts attracted the attention of Victor Benham, who persuaded his parents to let him study music full-time. He spent a few weeks in Germany in 1922, but quickly returned to London, where he won a scholarship from the Worshipful Company of Musicians and attempted his first serious compositions while earning his income as a jazz violinist, pianist and arranger.By the early 1930s, Frankel was in high demand as an arranger and musical director in London; he gave up theatre work in 1944, though, even though he retained an interest in movie composing until his death, writing over 100 scores. Frankel also became widely-known as a serious composer after World War II; his first work to gain fame was the violin concerto dedicated "in memory of 'the six million'", a reference to the Jews murdered during the Holocaust, commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain and first performed by Max Rostal. From 1941 till 1952 he was a member of the British Communist Party, but resigned his membership in protest at the Prague show-trials.Frankel died in London on 12 February 1973 while working on the three-act opera Marching Song and a ninth symphony, which had been commissioned by the BBC. When he died, Marching Song had been completed in short score; it was orchestrated by Buxton Orr, a composer who had studied with Frankel and whose advocacy has been at least partly responsible for the revival of interest in his works.
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