An English symphonist has died

An English symphonist has died


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2014

We have been apprised of the death of Arthur Butterworth, composer of 7 symphonies, 8 concertos and much else in a mainstream English manner. He was 91. Arthur played trumpet in the Scottish National Orchestra, 1949–55 and in the Hallé, 1955–62.

He wrote extensively for brass band.




  • Halldor says:

    Sad news. So, would that be the “mainstream English manner” of Arnold, Finzi, Britten, Nyman, Turnage, Ades, Ferneyhough, Birtwistle, Harvey, Dove, Rutter, Tavener, Finnissy, McCabe, or…what exactly?

    • Theodore McGuiver says:

      Good point, but many would be able to identify the ‘Englishness’ of many of the composers on your list without necessarily knowing who wrote the music they were listening to (I’ll make an exception for Ferneyhough, though), despite the divergent styles. For me, Butterworth screamed ‘English’, even if I had no idea he was the composer.

  • James Hogg says:

    This a repeat of what I wrote on another thread, which wasn’t directly about Butterworth and may have been missed by some readers.

    Arthur Butterworth had a resounding success in 1959 when Barbirolli chose his 1st Symphony for a Prom performance by the Halle. The storm of applause with which it was greeted can be heard on a Dutton CD and shows how much the audience liked it.

    In the intervening 55 years not a single Butterworth composition has been played at the Proms, despite his having written plenty of worthwhile music since that early success. His remarkable career began over 80 years ago when he joined his church band near Manchester, playing trumpet. He remained musically active into his 90s.

    When I pointed out these facts to Roger Wright in a plea for a second Butterworth Prom appearance in well over 50 years I was met with stony indifference. No doubt Radio 3 will graciously “discover” Butterworth now that he’s dead, convincing itself that it has done him proud. The greatest crime at the BBC is to be out of fashion.

    – See more at:

    • Simon Gregory says:

      Hear, hear – indeed Mr Wright is now himself very much out of fashion….
      The First Symphony was premiered at the Cheltenham Festival, also under Barbirolli.
      As a long-time personal friend of Arthur Butterworth may I also mention that he had inestimable ability in terms of craft and technique,orchestration and structure and a real understanding of the workings of the symphony orchestra – a pity that those in positions of media power and glory couldn’t ever hear that.

  • James Hogg says:

    For anyone interested there is an excellent, wide-ranging obituary of Arthur Butterworth at: