Iain Hamilton was born in Glasgow, Scotland on June 6th, 1922, and died July 21st, 2000, in London. An important figure in music on both sides of the Atlantic, he was a composer of both stage and concert works, whose music has been praised for the "brilliance of its orchestral textures…uninhibited lyricism" (Anna Karenina—Opera) and "a vast terrain of color, movement, expression and invention" (Voyage—Horn and Chamber Orchestra). These quotes are typical of the critical commentaries on Mr. Hamilton’s music, which constantly refer to the color, texture, variety, lyricism and craftsmanship.
Following his schooling in London, he became an apprentice engineer, and remained in that profession for the next seven years. In his free time he undertook the study of music. After winning a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music, he decided to devote himself wholly to a musical career. He went on to win a Koussevitsky Foundation award, the Royal Philharmonic Society’s prize, and the Academy’s highest honor, the Dove Prize. He earned the Bachelor of Music degree from London University and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Music from Glasgow University.
Long important in British musical circles, Mr. Hamilton’s influence also extended to the United States, where he lived for 20 years (1961 to 1981). From his home in New York City, he commuted to Duke University, where he was Mary Duke Biddle Professor of Music. He then returned to London, where he lived until his death. In April, 2002, the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation unveiled a bas-relief commemorating the composer in the Music Department at Duke University.
Mr. Hamilton’s extensive catalogue comprises works in all genres, including orchestral, chamber, vocal, solo, and also opera, the category for which he was arguably best known. He wrote 12 operas, including The Catiline Conspiracy, Anna Karenina, and The Royal Hunt of the Sun. They received performances (and also revivals, in several cases) by such companies as Scottish Opera, English National Opera, and the BBC. The Catiline Conspiracy was hailed as "a masterpiece" in The Scotsman headline after its 1974 premiere in Stirling, the Glasgow Herald noting in addition that "there could hardly have been a member of [the] audience who was not reminded of Watergate." Anna Karenina, premiered by English National Opera in 1978, was first performed in North America in 1982 by the Los Angeles Opera Theater. Raleigh’s Dream was commissioned for the North Carolina British-American Festival at Duke University in 1983, where it was premiered at the celebrations for the tercentenary of the founding of Raleigh’s colony in 1584.
In the concert hall, Mr. Hamilton’s works have been performed by many of the leading British orchestras and ensembles; among his compositions from his final years are The Transit of Jupiter (first performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony under Jerzy Maksumiuk in 1995), and Bulgaria: Invocation/Evocation for Orchestra. In the United States, commissions included those of the Eastman School of Music for Piano Sonata No. 3 and the Library of Congress for Hyperion for chamber ensemble. In 1996, the New York Philomusica premiered the 1993 Piano Quintet with performances in Pearl River and New York City. His last works include The Wild Garden (5 pieces for Clarinet and Piano) and London: A Kaleidoscope for Piano and Orchestra, written in 2000.
In addition to composing, he
was a teacher, organizer of
contemporary music concerts, chairman of the Composers’ Guild, and
served on panels and committees for such organizations as the Music
Advisory Panel of the BBC.
-- From the website of his publisher,
Theododre Presser Company
This interview was recorded on the telephone on July 26,
1991. Portions were used (along with recordings) on WNIB in 1992
and 1997. The
transcription was made and posted on this
website in 2009.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award-winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.