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Arthur Butterworth (1923-2014)

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I have just happened across the music of Arthur Butterworth (not to be confused with George) and am wondering why I had never heard of him before. This is clearly my loss since his music is really rather attractive - his obituaries mention the influence of Sibelius and Nielsen, but I hear the occasional hint of impressionism too. On Googling him I find that he wrote two solo pieces for organ and several concerted works including the instrument:

Solo Organ Music
Partita on a German Chorale, Op.2 (1947)

Organ Sonata, Op.106 (1998)


Works including Organ

Concerto for organ, string orchestra and percussion, Op. 33 (1973)

The Moors, suite for large orchestra and organ, Op.26 (1962)

From the Four Winds (Horologion Andronicus) for large orchestra and organ, Op. 40 (1971)

Suivez la raison, Concert March for brass band and organ, Op. 92 (1993)

A Gabriel Sonata for trumpet and organ, Op. 59 (1976)

Wedding Music for trumpet and organ, Op. 99 (1996)


It seems that, of these, only the Gabriel Sonata is published. A (bootleg?) recording of the Organ Concerto is available on YouTube, but the sound quality is so poor and unbalanced that it almost certainly does the piece a disservice.

If the orchestral music I have been listening to is any guide (try The Quiet Tarn or The Green Wind), Butterworth might possibly be worth investigating by an adventurous organist looking for something a bit different.

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Your post has come as a bit of a shock - stuck here in the wilds of the South Charente I miss so much and I didn't know that Arthur Butterworth had died. I knew him well - he gave me some early conducting lessons and complained when I refused to use a stick!


As you say he was particularly influenced by Sibelius - his house was called 'Pohjola' and there is a wealth of music, all very accessible, out there by him. Neilsen and Bax also influenced his work. You will find a complete Opus list here:




He said that the organ always appealed to him and he would like to have been a Cathedral Organist but that his keyboard technique was worse than Berlioz! He was attracted to the North German Baroque and to Bach's predecessors. The Organ Concerto Op. 33 was first performed by Gillian Weir and I heard the performance on the mighty Willis in Huddersfield Town Hall with Arthur conducting.


He was a quiet, kind and precise man - and the third teacher of mine to die within the last year!

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Good to see that Arthur is getting some recognition now, neglected by the establishment for far too long.

Having lived in the same town for 20 years he was a very good friend and certainly knew his stuff. The Partita is a rather arid sort of piece, inspired more by Hindemith. It had been recorded at some point by Adrian Self at Catrtmel Priory. The Sonata is a rather weightier piece and I persuaded Arthur to send Kevin Bowyer a copy shortly before AB died, Kevin was preparing the Organ Concerto for a performance in Poland.

His manuscript handwriting was immaculately done, a real work of calligraphic art.

He was indeed a very kindly man even though we had completely opposite musical tastes! There are some very interesting articles he wrote on Musicweb International under a series called 'Arthur Butterworth Writes' . He had a good sense of mischief at times and was a mine of really interesting tales about many musicians.

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I feel slightly ashamed that knowledge of Arthur Butterworth's death evaded me, so as an ex-brass pupil of his, I was also as shocked as someone should be when someone has died at such a great age.

I rather hated my school, and disliked most of my teachers, yet I can say with certainty, that it was the stupendous school-choir, the excellent and amiable music teacher and the superlative brass teaching of Arthur Butterworth which made life tolerable fifty years or so ago.

He must have taught well, because he managed to get me up to standard in quite a short time, to the extent that I joined the Yorkshire Youth Orchestra playing Eb Tuba.

I was especially delighted to learn that Arthur was never an "establishment" sort of person. He was probably far too bright for that sort of thing.

Sad and belated news it may be, but we can at least delight in his wonderful legacy.

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