William Wallace (Scottish composer)

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

William Wallace (3 July 1860 – 16 December 1940) was notable as a Scottish classical composer and writer. He served as Dean of the Faculty of Music in the University of London.

Early life and education

Born at Greenock, Wallace studied ophthalmology at the University of Glasgow, and in Vienna and Paris. He became a qualified ophthalmic surgeon.

In 1889 he entered the Royal Academy in London to study music.


Wallace was greatly influenced by Franz Liszt, and was an early (though not the first) composer of symphonic poems in Britain.

His compositions include the symphonic poem, Sir William Wallace (1905; based on his namesake, the freedom fighter William Wallace, one of Scotland's national heroes); a cantata, The Massacre of the Macpherson; and an overture, In Praise of Scottish Poesie (1894). He also wrote a Creation Symphony (1899), influenced by numerology. He was inspired by Maurice Maeterlinck's play, Pelléas and Mélisande, to write music by the same name.

Wallace wrote several books on music, including the following:

  • The Threshold of Music: An Inquiry into the Development of the Musical Sense (1908);
  • The Musical Faculty (1914);
  • Richard Wagner as he lived (1925)
  • Liszt, Wagner and the Princess (1927)

He served as secretary of the Royal Philharmonic Society from 1911 to 1913, during which time the society received its royal appointment.[1] Wallace later served as Dean of the Faculty of Music in the University of London. He would frequently use the Hebrew letter shin in his artwork, due to its resemblance to a W.

During the First World War, he served as inspector of ophthalmic units in Eastern Command, at the rank of Captain.[2]

In the late 20th century, there was a revival of interest in his work. The BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra recorded several of his orchestral pieces on the Hyperion record label.

Compositions (selective list)


  • 1891 - An American Rhapsody
  • 1891 - A Scots Fantasy
  • 1891-92 - Suite in A, The Lady of the Sea (fp. Stock Exchange Orchestral Society, London, 18 February 1892)
  • 1892 - The Passing of Beatrice, symphonic poem [No.1] (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 26 November 1892)
  • 1893 - Prelude to The Eumenides (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 21 October 1893)
  • 1894 - In Praise of Scottish Poesie, concert overture (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 17 November 1894)
  • 1896 - Amboss oder Hammer, symphonic poem [No.2] (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 17 October 1896) (lost)
  • 1898 - Asperges, symphonic poem (unfinished)
  • 1898 - The Covenanters, symphonic poem (unfinished)
  • 1898 - The Forty-Five, symphonic poem (unfinished)
  • 1896-99 - The Creation, symphony (fp. The Tower, New Brighton, 30 July 1899)
  • 1899 - Sister Helen, symphonic poem [No.3] (fp. Crystal Palace, London, 25 February 1899)
  • 1900-01 - Greeting to the New Century, symphonic poem [No.4] (fp. Queen's Hall, London, 27 March 1901)
  • 1905 - William Wallace AD 1305-1905, symphonic poem [No.5] (fp. Queen’s Hall, London, 19 September 1905)
  • 1909 - Villon, symphonic poem [No.6] (fp. Queen’s Hall, London, 10 March 1909)
  • Annie Laurie

Choral and vocal

  • 1886-88 - A Festival Mass, for chorus and orchestra
  • 1890 - Lord of Darkness, scena for baritone and orchestra (fp. Royal Academy of Music, London, 1890)
  • 1896 - The Rhapsody of Mary Magdalen, for soprano and orchestra (fp. Queen’s Hall, London, 15 December 1896)
  • 1899 - Freebooter Songs, for baritone and orchestra (fp. The Tower, New Brighton, 30 July 1899)
  • 1900 - Jacobite Songs, for voice and orchestra
  • 1908 - The Outlaw, ballad for baritone, (optional) male chorus and orchestra
  • 1910 - The Massacre of the Macpherson, burlesque ballad for male chorus and orchestra (fp. Leeds Musical Union, 1910)
  • Keholeth, symphony for chorus and orchestra (unfinished)


  • 1896 - Brassolis, lyrical tragedy in one act

Incidental music

  • 1896 - Romeo and Juliet
  • 1897 - Pelléas et Mélisande (suite fp. at The Tower, New Brighton, 19 August 1900)


  1. Foreman, Lewis (ed.) (1987) From Parry to Britten: British Music in Letters 1900-1945, Batsford
  2. Music Web International

External links