'Any natural composer is a product of his background, experience and training,' observed Kenneth Leighton, 'and I like to think that my music has the characteristic Yorkshire qualities which have been described as vigour, forthrightness and emotionalism tempered with common sense.'
Leighton was born in Wakefield on 2 October 1929 and gained his early musical experiences as a chorister at the city's cathedral. Here he was particularly drawn to the music of Palestrina and late 16th-century vocal polyphony, which surfaced in the austerity of his musical language during his middle years and marked the textural clarity of his mature works. 'Church music,' he wrote, 'is undoubtedly a channel of communication for me' - one that remained open throughout his working life.
In 1947 Leighton received a Hastings Scholarship in Classics, which allowed him to study at Queen's College, Oxford. He graduated in 1951 with a BA and qualified with a BMus degree the same year, studying composition in Oxford with Bernard Rose. Leighton's musical talents were recognised when he received a Mendelssohn Scholarship to study in Rome with Goffredo Petrassi, a devotee of Hindemith's music and Stravinskyan neo-Classicism.
Fugue and counterpoint preoccupied Leighton in the years following his return from Rome. His Fantasia contrappuntistica for piano won the 1956 Busoni Prize, while his understanding of complex contrapuntal forms earned him a lectureship at the University of Edinburgh in the same year. Other influences drawn into Leighton's music in the early 1950s were supplied by the Italian serialist composer Luigi Dallapiccola and members of the Second Viennese School. Lyricism and romanticism were blended by Leighton to supply the essential character of his 12-tone compositions. Hailed as the 'musician's composer', he was recognised with the award of many prizes and honours, the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize and the Cobbett Medal for distinguished services to chamber music among them.
Leighton was appointed senior lecturer at Edinburgh University in 1963, briefly served as Reader and Fellow in Music at Worcester College, Oxford, in the late 1960s, and returned to Edinburgh as Reid Professor of Music in 1970, teaching there until his death. His Oboe Concerto received its posthumous world premiere at the Three Choirs Festival in Hereford in 2001.
Tracks (31)Last Played on BBCLully, lulla, thou little tiny child
MoreSimilar Artists, Official Links