Samuel Coleridge Taylor, classical music composer

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Samuel Coleridge Taylor


Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born on August 15, 1875 in Holborn, London, the son of Dr. Daniel Peter Hughes Taylor, a Sierra Leonean Creole and Alice Hare Martin, an English woman. The couple was not married and Dr. Daniel Taylor left England in February 1875 with no knowledge of leaving behind a son. The boy was named for the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, but his family called him Coleridge Taylor. He adopted Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, presumably following a printer's error.

Coleridge-Taylor was raised in Croydon by his mother and her father. His talents for music were recognized early and he eventually studied violin at the Royal College of Music and composition under Charles Villiers Stanford. As a student, his Clarinet Quintet of 1895 received critical acclaim and through the influence of Stanford, received a performance in Berlin by the Joseph Joachim Quartet. By the time of his graduation in 1897, he had established a reputation as a composer. Yet, his big break came with the help of Edward Elgar when he recommended Coleridge-Taylor for a commission from the prestigious Three Choirs Festival. There his Ballade in A minor received its premiere.

Though the recommendation of Elgar did much for Coleridge-Taylor's career, his reputation was cemented in posterity with the 1898 premiere of the cantata Hiawatha's Wedding Feast. The work was immensely successful, and almost immediately received performances throughout England, the United States, Canada, and even as far away as New Zealand and South Africa. Today, the composer's reputation rests almost entirely upon this one composition. Regretfully, however, in a time when composer's often struggled against impossible odds to receive just compensation for their work, Coleridge-Taylor sold the cantata outright for only 15 guineas to the publishing firm Novello. Novello reaped substantial profits off the work and Coleridge-Taylor, or his family, never received any royalties from the cantata that ultimately was second in popularity only to the perennial favorites of Handel and Mendelsohn. This led, in part, to the creation of the Performing Rights Society.

Coleridge-Taylor, however, did reap substantial benefits from Hiawatha's Wedding Feast. Riding the work's success, he made three fruitful tours of the United States in 1904, 1906 and 1910. These visits piqued his interest in his racial heritage and he even entertained the idea of migrating across the Atlantic. During his 1904 tour, he was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt. Though his output waned somewhat in quality after the success of his cantata, the vigor of his youthful efforts nevertheless did return in the Petite Suite de concert of 1910 and his Violin Concerto. Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia on September 1, 1912.

Composer Title Date Action
Samuel Coleridge Taylor Danse Nègre from African Suite 03/24/2009 Play Add to playlist
Samuel Coleridge Taylor Legend 03/08/2011 Play Add to playlist
Samuel Coleridge Taylor Valse-Suite, Op. 71, nos. 1, 2, 6 11/08/2013 Play Add to playlist