Wilford, Arthur


Wilford, Arthur

Ave Maria, op. 50 for soprano, solo violin, solo cello, organ, harp or string quartet (score and parts)


Arthur Wilford – Ave Maria, op. 50

(Temse, 8 March 1851 – Sint-Joost-ten-Node, 23 December 1926)

for soprano, solo violin, solo cello, organ, harp or string quartet

Arthur Wilford – his name betrays his English extraction – studied at the Conservatoire royal de Bruxelles, where he earned a First Prize for Piano in 1872 in the class of Louis Brassin (1840-1884). Subsequently he relocated to the Leipzig conservatoire, taking classes for two years with the music theoretician Ernst Richter (1808-1879) and Carl Reinecke (1824-1910). For Reinecke, who taught him piano and composition, Wilford cherished an ardent admiration. Indubitably the appreciation was reciprocal, for Reinecke dedicated two piano arrangements of songs by Mendelssohn and Rubinstein to his pupil. After leaving Leipzig Wilford made a name for himself as a concert pianist. From 1874 to 1876 he spent a lot of time in London, where he often performed as a soloist and in chamber music. In between, in 1875, he founded in Brussels the ‘Société Schubert’, a concert series of his own with special attention to chamber music. At the inaugural concert he programmed, among others, young Isaÿe (1858-1931) and the famous harpist and composer Charles Oberthür (1819-1895). As for his own contribution, he played work by Schumann and the two Reinecke arrangements dedicated to him. In 1877 Wilford moved to Dresden, where he was active in local music life until 1889, composing among other works his opera Mahaferid.

After a study trip to Italy he returned to Belgium, settling down in Antwerp. There he becomes friends with Peter Benoit (1834-1901), the pioneer of the Flemish music movement. He supported Benoit’s plans to turn lyrical drama (with spoken text) into a viable alternative for classical opera. He also used his international contacts to programme Benoit’s oratorios in Germany, while concurrently making piano reductions of several of Benoit’s works. For the authoritative Brussels music periodical Le Guide musical he reported on the Antwerp music life, in which he played a very active role himself: he organized numerous chamber music concerts, billing in addition to compositions of his own, works by Flemish and international contemporaries.
In 1897 he left Antwerp forever, relocating to Elsene, in the Greater Brussels Area. There he founded ‘Le Quatuor vocal et instrumental’ and started the press ‘Het Vlaamse Lied’, annually publishing twelve songs, resulting in a total output of two hundred songs. In 1904 he started ‘De Vlaamse Muziekschool’, the first music school in Brussels where music was taught in Dutch, taking his cue from Benoit’s Royal Flemish Conservatory. During the First World War Wilford, like many Belgians, sought refuge abroad: between 1914 and 1919 he stayed in Sheffield, where he composed his ‘Vlaams requiem’ as well as several works for chamber music. After his return he reopened his music school in 1923.

Wilford left behind a substantial and varied oeuvre, idiomatically situated within the sphere of influence of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms. His works are charming, melodious and richly hamonized. Only a small part of his oeuvre was published, and the great works, such as the operas, were presumably never performed. After his death the bulk of his oeuvre fell into oblivion, until the composer and conductor Vic Nees (1936-2013) highlighted Wilford’s life and work again in the years 1970-1980 through articles and recordings.

This Ave Maria was probably composed by Wilford sometime in early 1896. After performances in the Cathedral of Our Lady in Antwerp (in August 1896) under the direction of Kapellmeister Edward Keurvels (1853-1916) and in the Collegiate Church of St Michael and St Gudula (in November 1896) under the direction of Kapellmeister Joseph Fischer (1819-1897), he published the work with Katto in Brussels and Colombier in Paris. He mentioned the performances in the two main churches in Belgium as a selling point on the title page. Wilford dedicated this graceful Ave Maria to his wife Rosa Tercelin.

He donated this copy to the music library of Antwerp Cathedral on 18 September 1897. It is now kept in the library of the Royal Conservatory of Antwerp.

Jan Dewilde
(Translation: Joris Duytschaever / Jasmien Dewilde)

Reprint of a copy from the library of the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp (MM-KA-OLVKA-archief-249). This score was published in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Flemish Music (Studiecentrum voor Vlaamse Muziek www.svm.be)


Read Flemish preface / deutsches Vorwort … > HERE

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