Arthur Edward Drummond Bliss
Arthur Bliss wrote music of considerable diversity, ranging from early experimental works for a small body of players to the larger-scale powerful compositions which followed. Throughout his long creative life, the spirit of enquiry and of originality in approach was to be found in his work right up to his death in 1975. He was an accomplished conductor and administrator and was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953.
On Bliss: from Benjamin Britten, “the avant-gardist of Rout and Conversations… almost a myth!” and Michael Tippett refers to Bliss as “the most generous spirit among us”.
In 1974 Bliss told us “the composer is a man of two beings – one which, perhaps for self-preservation, he shows to the world, the other he keeps hidden… …whoever wants to know the real me must listen to my music”. Paul Spicer explores Bliss’s observation in depth in his soon-to-be-published biography Sir Arthur Bliss: Standing out from the Crowd (Crowood Press), which is a must-read for all Bliss scholars. Bliss wrote an autobiography, As I Remember (first published in 1970) where, together with an interesting account of his life in the musical world, we can gain an insight into Bliss the family man from his letters to his wife and daughters during their separation in WW2. He also wrote numerous articles and reviews and gave lectures and broadcasts, some of which can be found in Bliss on Music edited by Gregory Roscow (first published in 1991), all of which contribute to our understanding of his personality. Here we can find evidence of Bliss’s mischievous sense of humour: having been described in the 1920s as an enfant terrible, in later life he claimed to be “a bon papa“.
Bliss’s long life started in Victorian times in 1891, spanned the Edwardian period, the reigns of George V and George Vl and ended in 1975 when Elizabeth ll was on the throne. This period saw many social and political changes which included two World Wars and here we shall look at the events which shaped his life, starting with a Short Biography.