Ruth Gipps

Ruth Gipps
20.02.1921 - 23.02.1999
Country:United Kingdom
Period:Contemporary classical music


 Ruth Dorothy Louisa Gipps MBE[1] (20 February 1921 – 23 February 1999) was an English composer, oboist, pianist and impresario. She was one of the most prolific composers in Britain at the time of her death
Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England in 1921. She was a child prodigy, winning performance competitions in which she was considerably younger than the rest of the field. After performing her first composition at the age of 8 in one of the numerous music festivals she entered, the work was bought by a publishing house for a guinea and a half. Winning a concerto competition with the Hastings Municipal Orchestra began her performance career in earnest.[3]

In 1937 Gipps entered the Royal College of Music,[1] where she studied oboe with Léon Goossens, piano with Arthur Alexander and composition with Gordon Jacob, and later with Ralph Vaughan Williams. Several of her works were first performed there. Continuing her studies at Durham University led her to meet her future husband, clarinettist Robert Baker.[4]

She was an accomplished all-round musician, as a soloist on both oboe and piano as well as a prolific composer. Her repertoire included works such as Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto and Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande. When she was 33 a hand injury ended her performance career, and she decided to focus her energies on conducting and composition.

An early success came when Sir Henry Wood conducted her tone poem Knight in Armour at the last night of the Proms in 1942.[5] A turning point in Gipps' career was the Symphony No. 2, Op. 30, first performed in 1946, which showed the beginnings of her mature style. Gipps' music is marked by a skilful use of instrumental colour, and often shows the influence of Vaughan Williams, rejecting the trends in avant-garde modern music such as serialism and twelve-tone music. She considered her orchestral works, her five symphonies in particular, as her greatest works. Two substantial piano concertos were also produced. After the war, Gipps turned her attention to chamber music, and in 1956 she won the Cobbett prize of the Society of Women Musicians for her Clarinet Sonata, Op. 45.[5]

Her early career was affected strongly by discrimination against women in the male-dominated ranks of music (and particularly composition), by professors and judges as well as the world of music criticism. (For example, she was not even considered for the post of conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where her longtime associate George Weldon vacated it, because the thought of a woman conductor was "indecent".) Because of it she developed a tough personality that many found off-putting, and a fierce determination to prove herself through her work.[6]

She founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955[7] as an opportunity for young professional musicians to become exposed to a wide range of music, and the Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961,[8] a professional ensemble which included a work by a living composer in each of its programs, often a premiere performance. Later she would take faculty posts at Trinity College, London (1959 to 1966), the Royal College of Music (1967 to 1977), and then Kingston Polytechnic at Gypsy Hill.[9]

On her retirement, Gipps returned to Sussex, living at Tickerage Castle near Framfield[10] until her death in 1999, aged 78, after suffering the effects of cancer and a stroke.

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