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Image of the Month

Siegfried Sassoon. Signature, bookplate and contents list, photographed from the endpapers of a volume of Bach keyboard works bound c.1923. (Background shows the front board)

Siegfried Sassoon. Signature, bookplate and contents list, photographed from the endpapers of a volume of Bach keyboard works bound c.1923. (Background shows the front board)

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SIEGFRIED SASSOON AS PIANIST
(b.Brenchley, Kent, 8 September 1886; d.Heytesbury, Wiltshire, 1 September 1967)

 

"For me piano-playing and writing poetry have always been closely connected", wrote Siegfried Sassoon, and the instrument's "emotionally enrichening companionship" remained essential throughout his life.  He acknowledged music to have been "the handmaid of the muse" from his very earliest verse.

Siegfried was born into an artistic and musical milieu.  His father (who died when he was eight) was a serious violinist, a 'brilliant player' who had studied with Sarasate and owned two Strads, while he owed his own Christian name to his mother's passion for Wagner's Ring.  Early piano lessons were followed by organ study at Marlborough and, although he was always modest about his keyboard attainments, a priority after the war was the purchase by instalments of a grand piano.

Bach, Beethoven and Schumann were lifelong enthusiasms and his keen interest in contemporary music was reflected in friendships with the composers Elgar, Berners, Lambert and Walton. (The latter's Portsmouth Point Overture is dedicated to him.)

The Museum holds eight volumes of piano music from Sassoon's library, illustrating his broad and cultivated taste and considerable technical ability.  To mark the fiftieth anniversary of his death we show here a small sample of the contents.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

D'Indy: Petite Sonate dans la forme classique, Op.9. Paris, [1889]. Reger: Variationen und Fuge über ein Thema von Joh. Seb. Bach, Op.81. Berlin, [c.1908]. Sassoon describes this monumental and formidably difficult work as 'a banquet of musical rhetoric'. Clement Harris: Ballade. Leipzig, 1894. Clement Harris (1871-1897), pianist and composer, studied at the Frankfurt Conservatorium and with Clara Schumann. He was in Greece when war broke out between Greece and Turkey, enlisted in the Greek army and was killed at the Battle of Pente Pigadia. in April, 1897.

Scriabin: Six Préludes, Op.13. Leipzig, 1897. Bartók: Gyermekeknek / Für Kinder [For Children, Book 1]. Budapest, [1909]. Rachmaninov: Second-Concerto pour le Piano avec Orchestre, Op.18. Moscow, [c.1914].