Robert Still MA, DMus(Oxon)1910-1971

Compiled by Graham Musto in 2004
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Last updated 28/01/2017 with revised links

“- an extremely thoughtful, inventive, and (yes, one has to say it nowadays) musical composer, whose music ought to be far more widely known ”
Hans Keller
17th March 1981
"I found him to be a congenial, approachable person, and not given to 'blowing his own trumpet'"
Edmund Rubbra

"Robert Still is one of our less well-known composers; I hope it does not sound too cynical to suggest that this may be because he writes good music."
Malcolm MacDonald, Gramophone October 1966 p50

Robert Still

2010 was the Centenary of Robert Still's birth

Since the following was written there has been much work carried out by J.Martin Stafford, Edward Clark and John Turner. This has led to a string of premieres and recordings by an ever increasing network of musicians.

How is it that a major English composer, recognised by avid vinyl collectors throughout the late 1960s and early '70s for two or three recordings of his works, should be, and remain, virtually almost totally unknown to a new generation of British Music lovers? Much of the answer is down to the composer's style and the fashion created by the so-called 'trend setters' of the period: the people who regulated what others might hear. Sir William Glock controlled the music broadcast by the BBC from the late 50's to the early 70's, promoting atonal music and serialism in preference to tonal compositions. Only because Robert Still was able to finance his own recordings did some of his tonal works hit the right note to a generation of record collectors. His generosity and support for others resulted in other fine recordings of music by his contemporaries on the Decca and Lyrita labels and we will see how this happened as his story unfolds. Soon after his death, a more enlightened administration at the BBC may have meant a fairer hearing, however nothing happened in the vacuum that followed. This is not an unusual story in the history of British music, however the time is ripe to rediscover Robert Still's music.

Born in London on 10th June in 1910, Robert Still was a direct descendant of John Still, Bishop of Bath and Wells and formerly Master of St. John's and Trinity College, Cambridge. Bishop Still was the author of the Elizabethan farce 'Gammer Gurton's Needle'. His full-length effigy can be seen in Wells Cathedral. Robert was the son of Francis Churchill Still and Hon. Margaret Burdett Money-Coutts. Robert had an older brother, Peter, and younger sister, Ursula. Peter died at the age of sixteen, whilst at Eton, and Ursula moved to Australia and died in 2001.

Robert Still was originally destined to become a solicitor in the old family firm of solicitors. Ancestor Peter Still had been a solicitor to King George III. Both Robert's father and grandfather were solicitors and the law firm continued until recent years as Trower, Still and Keeling (now Trowers and Hamlin). In spite of the legal background, the family were musical, his father being a good amateur baritone.

Still's father encouraged him to play and practice on the piano and this encouragement continued at Eton, where he stayed from 1923 to 1929. He started to develop a lifelong interest in racquet sports. Robert appears to have been a shy boy, finding it difficult to make friends. However, those who became his friends over the years remained his friends for life, to them was always called 'Robbie'.

His further musical education started at Trinity College, Oxford in 1929. Here he first studied history and French with the intention of joining the family firm, adding music in his second year without consulting his father. Ernest Walker and Sir Hugh Allen were amongst his teachers. After Oxford, he studied for two years at the Royal College of Music with C H Kitson, Basil Alchin, and Gordon Jacob. He, also, studied modern counterpoint and harmony with Wilfred Dunwell at Trinity College of Music.

Still was an excellent games player, getting a 'blue' for 'real tennis' at Oxford. He also played very good lawn tennis, squash and racquet. He played real tennis for the MCC until the end of his life.

He returned to Eton as Assistant Music Master from 1934 to 1938 before joining Les Ballets Trois Arts company as their conductor and arranger. During this time he wrote a semi-comic light opera (Love and Learning - long since lost ) for the Windsor Operatic Society, a group he conducted whilst working at Eton. This was performed early in 1939 and the cast presented Still with a silver and ebony baton, in appreciation, during May 1939. He also composed some early songs. There is no evidence to suggest that he wrote any music for use at Eton during this period. In later years he did write a motet for Geoffrey Leeds, Precentor of Music, under whom he had worked. 'The Lord's Prayer' was vaguely modal in character, employing conventional chords and cadences. It did, however, employ unusual changes of key. Still wrote two other motets later. Because he did not date his scores, only those later published or performed can be placed in chronological order.

Love and Learning was Robert Still's first major composition. Full licensing for its performance had only been granted a few days before its opening in early May 1939. This was at the Royal Albert Institute in Windsor. The Lord Chamberlain's Office had objected to the 'Kyrie Eleison', a chorus to be sung off-stage. After explaining that this was "addressed to the King in total darkness", was necessary for the plot, could not be changed in time for the first performance and that there would be heavy financial implications should the performance not go ahead: he was granted the licence. His letter to the Lord Chamberlain's Office demonstrates that he had excellent communication skills and it was in no way begging, showing willingness to change only a few words in the libretto.

Conscripted in 1940, Robert Still refused a commission. His Eton and Oxford background would normally have led to an officer's rank. After a few months manning a searchlight in the Cotswolds, he was promoted to sergeant and made pianist, arranger and conductor of the Royal Artillery travelling orchestra. Musicians he worked with included Wilfred Dunwell, Cecil Aronowitz, Manoug Parikian and others, many of who later became well known. Later he was assigned to give music talks to troops waiting to cross the English Channel. It was at one of these lectures in Folkestone that he met a WAAF sergeant with the 'Y Service', Elizabeth Westman, marrying her three months later. Elizabeth recalls the lecture in which a rather "impressive" but "somewhat scruffy" sergeant delivered a "fascinating and tremendously exciting talk" on Mozart, using a piano, wind-up gramophone and a pile of ENSA records. Elizabeth was thirteen years younger than Robert. Their meeting was a 'fairy tale' romance that turned into a lasting marriage. The evening of their meeting ended with Robert walking Elizabeth back to her billet and proposing marriage.

During the first two years of marriage Robert and Elizabeth saw little of each other. The couple's first daughter was born in 1945, however Still did not leave the army until 1946. After the war they moved to Ampfield in Hampshire for three years. His mother died in 1949. The estate he inherited put him in a secure financial position, allowing him to devote most of his time to composition. The Stills moved to Bucklebury in Berkshire. He was now 39 and three of his four daughters had already been born. Only Catherine (Poppy) was to become a musician. Later she studied piano and oboe at the RAM with Sidney Harrison and Janet Craxton. Still wrote a simple sonatina for his young daughter and the oboe she received on one of her birthdays (Sonatina for Oboe and Piano or Harpsichord 1964). The composition was designed for father and daughter to play together.

Still family
Still with Susan
Sgt Still
Robert and Elizabeth Still with their
four daughters in 1965

Robert Still with his daughter Susan
outside Bucklebury Lodge in 1953

Sgt Still 1944

Shortly after the Stills had moved to Bucklebury, they discovered that the Headmaster of nearby Bradfield College was John Hills. Hills had been Robert Still's history master at Eton and now sat on a major selection board of Berkshire Education Authority. He invited Still to join him in order to offer advice to prospective music students, and this he did for fifteen years. In those days students who wanted to go to art or music colleges had to go before a selection board, as grants were not assured in the same way as they were for those going to university. Through this, he helped many young people to achieve their ambition. Much of this work motivated him to fight for equality in musical education and this is evident in a later letter to the Editor of The Times newspaper:


Sir - If education really did what it set out to do, and developed every individual to his maximum potential, there would be less of a problem as between those who "have" brains and those who "have not". The envy of the "have nots", and the guilt of the "haves", at the core of all passion for equality, are themselves the result of ingrained emotional bias, and will colour any social problem of a "have" or "have not" classification. More attention to a satisfactory E.Q., as distinct from I.Q., in all stratas of our society would do much to dispel the present anxiety, in that it would aim to underwrite individual potential and maturity whatever the intelligence.

Yours faithfully,
Robert Still
7th October (1963)

(E.Q. = emotional quotient)

Music was not Still's only interest. At times he had contemplated practicing as a Freudian lay psychoanalyst. Before the War it had not been necessary to have medical qualifications to practice this profession. He decided that music was his fist love, psychoanalysis remaining a major interest. In 1956, he and painter/writer Adrian Stokes founded the Imago Society in London. This put him in contact with some of the great minds of his time, including Anna Freud and John Wisdom. Adrian Stokes wrote the libretto for Still's opera 'Oedipus' which was sketched in that year and certain psychoanalytical cases 'appeared' to become the inspiration or motivation for his music, though he often said that English poetry was the only inspiration he needed. His opera, 'Oedipus', appears to have remained unfinished, apart from the overture and Stokes' libretto.

Although he did not take up full paid employment after he moved to Bucklebury, Still did some private teaching of composition for most of his years there. True to his generosity and genuine desire to help others, he neither asked nor accepted payment. For six months in 1970, he taught composition and harmony at the RCM, standing in during the absence of Malcolm MacDonald. (Composer Malcolm MacDonald was the first of two Malcolm MacDonalds to contribute to 'Gramophone' reviews.He had given enthusiastic reviews for Still's 3rd Symphony, Concerto for Strings and later his 4th Symphony. Could this be why Still was chosen to teach in MacDonald's absence?) He also spent time writing articles, reviews, programme notes and letters to newspapers. Some of the critics did not like the detailed programme notes he wrote describing the emotional content or programmatic explanation to some of his own music. A critic who had heard two performances of one of Still's works in one day said that he enjoyed the second performance far better without being able to refer to Still's notes.

The programme notes for his own 'The Ballad of the Bladebone Inn' (the Inn at Bucklebury) demonstrate his psychoanalytical approach to the analysis of his own music:

"The music attempts to express the emotions involved in this old tale. The people have a simple and satisfying way of life, but live under 'threat'. They cannot entirely express themselves, so that, at first, the themes are either bitten off or interrupted. There is an atmosphere of brittle restlessness and anxiety from which they try to escape without success. Then the monster appears, anxiety gives way to terror, and the people can no longer hide their heads in the sand, but have to face the danger united. Exhortations from their leaders follow and they are strengthened to resist by thoughts of a good life for themselves and their families, without threat. At last they join the battle and slay their persecutor, whose death rattle is heard as a solo side-drum roll. After victory there is triumph, but not boasting, and the music flowers, without interruption from the monster, into a more confident expression."

In these programme notes he also declared his attitude to nationalism in music:

"Much is said against 'nationalism' in music, and this is perhaps justified when it means 'jingoism'. But if composers deny the values they inherit, some brand of ideology fills the vacuum. And this can become destructive when it compels its 'possessors' to put it first, above anything else, all the time: as destructive, in fact, as the 'envy' from which it is largely sprung. In music, 'sour grapes' - as in politics - can lead to well-regulated 'death in life'

He was also capable of writing rather satirical notes, often to the dismay of the reader. In the notes for a performance of his Quintet for Clarinet (and string quartet) to the Law Society, he wrote:

"The work opens with E flats held an octave apart, round which legato and parallel counterpoints are devised. Such anchor notes and the stimulus they provide are the chief features of this movement, like established law throwing up reactions, some dry, others staccato and humorous. Melodic patterns emerge and are developed and recapitulated. There is a short coda to finish the movement.

In the Andante, the anchor notes persist and are syncopated to give the music "flow" and to form the basis for exploring harmony and melody. It is as if a client were to tell a solicitor her story, which he converts into legal language, or in the musical exposition. Tension is thus built up and released in the general flow of the music.

Anchor notes are minimal in the Allegretto. This is a "day off" followed by a "night out". Little more need to be said about a "lark", but the main theme from Beethoven's Rondo Allegro finale to his so-called Sonata Pathetiqué for piano, is quoted with no apologies and used as a Coda.

In the finale everyone wags his head at everyone else; much is chewed over, much argued. It could be a conference; it could be a court of law. However, just as it seems that all is Babel, somebody points out that either a decision must be reached, or a communiqué issued. But which is it?"

The Clarinet Quintet was commissioned for and performed by members of the newly formed Royal Philharmonic Octet for their first performance on 25th October 1966.

1956 saw the release of Still's first commercial recording on the Argo label (RG74). The 'Quintet for Three Flutes, Violin and 'Cello' was coupled with his 'Sonata No.2 for Viola and Piano'. This recording is now rare and carries detailed notes by Deryck Cooke with the orange/yellow cover artwork by Olga Lehmann. The musicians on this recording were: Geoffrey Gilbert, George Crozier, Lionel Solomon (flutes), Jean Pougnet (violin), Francesco Gabarro ('cello) Frederick Riddle (viola) and Eric Harrison (piano).

In 1959, Still wrote the paper 'Gustav Mahler and Psychoanalysis' ( The American Imago Vol.17 - Fall - No3 - 1960) . This was was the subject of a radio broadcast (in connection with Mahler's Tenth Symphony - BBC Third Programme 29th February 1964) and remains an important reference work. The 8,000 words show a wide level of reading on Mahler, including Alma Mahler's 'Memories and Letters', Abraham, Reik and Mitchell. Mahler's consultations with Sigmund Freud provide a platform for the essay. Perhaps it is no great coincidence that this essay followed the seeds of his opera, for Mahler had a "true Oedipus Orientation". Herein, also, lies his connection with Deryck Cooke, a frequent visitor to Bucklebury Lodge.

Paragraph 2, Page 220 THE AMERICAN IMAGO Vol.17 - Fall - No.3 - 1960:

"Quite obviously then, if we are to probe further into Mahler's psychology, it will not be solely in terms of his Oedipus complex, the accent must be shifted to the two-body relationship with his mother which will inevitably contribute to the basis of his true Oedipus Orientation."

Other articles he wrote on psychoanalysis include 'Differences in Creation between Music and Painting' and 'Structural Factors in the Psychogenesis of Music' (1954)

Still became involved in the Newbury musical life in the 50's. For the Newbury Choral Society, he wrote a work for baritone, chorus and small orchestra called 'A Summer Night', first performed on 3rd December 1958. Set to Matthew Arnold's poem, this work was later renamed 'Elegie for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra' in 1964, at the time of publishing. The work is Delian in character and is both elegiac and rhapsodic. The 'Elegie' (Elegy) begins with intermittent drum rolls between a series of chords. The baritone's entry delivers the start of the poem in a similar way to that in which it would be spoken. Throughout the work there are returning and changing phrases, the end section being a reprise of the introduction. Although only slightly over 12 minutes in length, it is a deeply felt work where words and melody fit perfectly.

The conductor of the Newbury Choral Society, John Russell, professor of piano at the RCM, was a friend and this connection enabled him to use the young Heather Harper and John Carol Case for his next recording, released in1959. Heather Harper was already known to Still, as she had sung with The Newbury Choral Society in a production of 'The Messiah.' The Record Society disc, RS60, contained 6 songs for soprano and 6 for baritone, though it was wrongly labelled 'Seven Songs for Soprano'. John Russell was the accompanist and the recording also included songs by his friend Gerald Finzi and Still's friend and champion Sir Eugene Goossens. Heather Harper's singing on this recording was not up to her best performances, although more than compensated for by John Carol Case's excellent singing, particularly of Masefield's 'August 1914'.

Robert Still's songs highlight, what John Russell described as, his 'Jekyll and Hyde' musical mind: 'Awaiting Execution' (Tichbone) and 'When I am Dead' (Rossetti), contrasting against 'Beauty Bathing' (Munday) and 'The Kingfisher' (Davies). Still wrote over 20 songs and those who have heard them know that they amongst the finest English song settings written. Desmond Hayes-Lynge, baritone, includes the songs within his repertoire. He has spoken of the challenges a singer faces in Still's songs on occasions, particularly when the piano becomes independent of the melody. David Stevens was a young friend of the composer in the later years of Still's life and provided the accompaniment for several soloists on more than one occasion. About the musical structure of the songs, he says:

"Some of the songs are strophic whilst others are through-composed. Though given to using dissonance quite freely, the songs are basically written in harmonic terms. His melodies are sometime a little angular in places and might prove difficult to a singer if rehearsed in isolation. Nevertheless once the harmonic accompaniment is added, the compositions make perfect sense - deliberate dissonance is often poignant and frequent use of chromaticism and distant modulation are always very effective.

Although Still's harmonic progressions are unusual and unexpected, dissonances always resolve, but rarely as might be anticipated. Seventh chords of various degrees of intensity figure strongly, but invariably resolve very effectively.

Though totally dependent on each other, singer and pianist often appear to be completely independent from each other, and this, I think makes such a fascinating texture and an intriguing partnership between singer and pianist.

I think that there was a tendency for Still to conceive his work simultaneously in harmonic and linear terms. The result is often quite striking. His music is always expressive, true to the sentiment of the poetry and the emotions are deeply felt and appropriately expressed".

Only two of Still's songs were published, 'Upon Julia's Clothes' and 'Beauty Bathing'. Both of these were used for some years on the Grade 6 Guildhall Examination Syllabus.

One of Still's friends was Michael Thomas, an expert on old keyboard instruments. The Songs recording was soon followed by a 10" Record Society recording (RSX16) of his 'Suite for Clavichord' played by Thomas. This is bitonal in its harmonic construction and comprises of three very short movements. It shares space on the record with Clavichord and Harpsichord pieces by Lennox Berkeley, Sir Eugene Goossens, Julius Harrison, Edmund Rubbra and Anthony Scott. Robert Still was a friend of both Anthony Scott and Michael Thomas, the latter living near Henley-on-Thames.

Besides composer Anthony Scott, Still was also a friend of Freda Swain and her pianist husband Arthur Alexander. Freda Swain was not only a prolific composer, particularly of songs, but also a fine pianist who could easily have carved a career for herself as a concert soloist. The couple would stay with the Stills at Bucklebury Lodge, but more frequently Robert Still would visit their home at Chinnor in the Chilterns. There he found a great deal of advice and encouragement for his music. More importantly, Swain was the founder of the Nemo Concert Society and at some of their performances both she and Arthur Alexander played Still's music. A recording of a fine performance by Freda Swain of Still's Sonata in B major for Piano at the Wigmore Hall in 1969 has recently come to light, and it is hoped that this can be made more generally available sometime in the future.

One of Freda Swain's performances of Still's music was at Reading University, although the exact month and year is unknown. Three pieces from the suite 'Other People' were played. This may have been an early performance of parts of a work that was completed around 1960 and consisted of seven character studies. This composition was eventually renamed 'Love Thy Neighbour' and extended to ten studies. Freda Swain played four of the pieces again at a 1968 concert in the Purcell Room. The Suite is not dated, although Barbara Laraine played it at a performance in Germany on April 1961. The recital was broadcast on German radio. Laraine also played the Suite at a recital in Reading University.

The suite, 'Love Thy Neighbour', comprises of ten character studies and links his interest in psychoanalysis to his music. Whether Still was referring to specific people in his study is not known, however a collection of notes were written by him and these give a key to his models:

1) 'The Tycoon'- "His restlessness and absurdity" is portrayed by semi-quaver figures with meaningless harmony and lack of musical resolution.
2) 'The Civil Servant' - "His earnest dedication to the administrative machine" is portrayed in a similar harmonic pattern to the first piece and again uses bi-tonal counterpoint. The piece opens in a very confident manner.
3) 'The Typist' is the most tonal of the pieces. "Her bustle, her dreaminess and her temper" starts with harmony, giving a feeling of self-assurance. Later her temper is portrayed by the use of bitonal harmony.
4) 'The Stockbroker' - "His ever-shifting medium, and his watchfulness. His excitement". Here Still uses a downward whole tone scale in places, ending with excitement where there is a contrapuntal element.
5) The shortest piece is 'The Don'. Rather than display a character, this piece has been written in an academic manner. Still, however, describes the character of the piece as "Elderly, sleepy, but belonging". Musically, it is based on a two-bar phrase with the right hand motif repeated by the left hand. The first theme is followed by a contrasting figure with a short development.
6) 'The Bookie' - no information
7) 'The Dentist' portrays not only the character of the title but also his patient. "His anxious patient" opens with busy semi-quavers and accented octaves. "His anaesthetic manner and his un-aesthetic operation" develop a thicker texture and use is made of contrary motion bitonal counterpoint.
8) 'The Old Widow'. "Her sadness" is portrayed by a slow opening melody which contrasts with "Her compassion" marked intimo and teneramente.
9) 'The Junkie' - no information - present on a second set of MSS.
10) 'The Nurse' - no information - possibly added later?

During the time up to 1960, performances of Robert Still's music had included 'Songs for Baritone', performed by Douglas Craig in the Wigmore Hall (1949), 'String Quartet in A' by the Martin String Quartet, Symphony No 1 (RPO/Richard Austin) and The Ballad of the Bladebone Inn (Pro Arte/Austin), both in the Royal Festival Hall (1956/1957). The premier of 'A Summers Night' ('Elegie for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra') was by the Newbury Choral Society in 1958, with Gordon Clinton, baritone, the Newbury String Players and Newbury Amateur Orchestral Union under John Russell. By this time he had also written his three sonatas for viola and piano and Nos 2 and 3 received performances at Wigmore Hall in 1959. There were repeated performances of his songs which all appear to have been written before 1960.

Robert Still was achieving modest fame by 1960. His Argo recording had been given excellent reviews by:

Robert Anderson in Record News Dec 1957 - "The Argo record company continues its series of British Chamber works with two pieces by a composer whose name has not previously appeared in the gramophone catalogues. In both the Quintet and the Viola Sonata Robert Still shows himself a linear craftsman of high order: he can weave a web of sound in which the separate strands have a convincing and vital logic of their own. The Quintet, an interesting experiment in improbable sonorities, owes much of its sinewy counterpoint of latter-day Hindemith. There is a similar air about the music of unpretentious efficiency, though Still has yet to learn the economy of the German master. The five movements of the Viola Sonata, all of them concise and well integrated, make up an impressive work marred only by a somewhat unimaginative use of the two instruments. If the argument is not always compelling, it is stated with admirable clarity.

The Star - " remarkable…. In the opening fantasia the flutes sail along in harmony. One movement is a tender rocking lullaby. A scherzo is bird-like and charming. The finale is a rather solemn dance".

Ideal Home - "The unusual choice of instruments denote a non-conformist musical mind, and the whole design of these two chamber works confirms that a vigorous, independent talent is at work here. Of particular interest is the pastoral-like Quintet beautifully played, notably by Geoffrey Gilbert".

Still's First Symphony had also been well received and was the first London performance of one of his works. Its four movements evolve from an introductory motto theme, transforming the material rather than using development and elaboration. He used figures rather than melodies with a final reversion to a major key.

Nevill Cardus in the Manchester Guardian Weekly said: "His flirtings with tonality are decorous, and he is happiest when at he comes home to the key of C major with a warm hearted English melody grown from the seeds of the thematic stuff of the first movement. ………the composer's imaginative gifts in the slow movement which has suggestions of contemplation and a sense of grave beauty of tone rather unfashionable these days and perhaps regarded as disreputable" (02/12/57)

Arthur Jacobs of the Evening Standard commented: "Who would have guessed that an unknown composer of 46 would have produced such a notable First Symphony as Robert Still did at the Festival Hall last night? …Mr Still has never before had an orchestral piece publicly performed. Nor has the BBC Third Programme, which apparently leaves no younger composer unturned, discovered him. From today the doors should open" (29/11/56)

The Second Symphony was completed in 1956 and is his only one to to have remained unperformed. As performances of all the other symphonies were financed by Still, it is possible that he was not entirely happy with this composition or that his interests had been diverted temporarily to the foundation of the Imago Society in London. There is no evidence that any revision to this work took place.

By 1960 things were looking good for Robert Still. In this year he composed his Third Symphony, regarded by many as his greatest work. This three-movement composition was dedicated to his friend and champion Sir Eugene Goossens who premiered the work in 1962 at the Royal Festival Hall, recording the symphony at Decca Studios in the same year. Goossens had previously recognised Still's talent sometime before they met and it was his idea that the Third be recorded. This was Goossens last recording: his health had been failing gradually for some months. That year the Third Symphony was submitted to Oxford University as a doctoral work and as a result Robert Still was awarded the university's DMus (03/08/63). The recording was not released until 1966 when it appeared on the Saga label (XID/STXID 5256). The quality of the recording was up to highest standards for Decca at that time, although something resembling electrical interference is briefly heard around bars 46-47.

On 23rd January 1962 Goossens wrote to Still:
"My Dear Robert,
Forgive my long silence; shortly after Christmas I had an operation for pleurisy - they took 2 pints of water from my lung. I am still convalescing - trying to make the system absorb the little water that still remains. It is because of this remnant that the 3 Harley Street specialists absolutely forbade me to carry out the Dutch concerts and my forthcoming tour of Canada - I was to have left next Friday for Montreal.
You can imagine how much it has gone against the grain for me to be resigned to this but it's better that I should effect a complete recovery now, by resting, rather than taking a strenuous trip into the glacial snows of Canada at this time of year!
I've given up 76, Hamilton Terrace, too many problems with heating etc., and shall probably find a centre of operations on the continent, from which to function. But we'll see; anyway I'm staying put at the above address" (2, Warrington Crescent W9) "in the meantime.
I hear with satisfaction that the 2nd rehearsal for our concert is to take place in the morning of the 29th March at the Festival Hall. This is better, especially as it leaves me with the extra time for flying back from Europe on the morning of the 28th before our afternoon rehearsal on that date.
Much love to you and your family,

Goossens died on 13th June 1962. In the Australian ABC Radio Guide on the 7th August 1963, the following comment was made about the Festival Hall concert on 30th March 1963 (including the premier of the Third Symphony):

"Sir Eugene, performing against his doctors' advice, conducted sitting down and remained there between items. Hardly able to walk at this stage of his illness, …."

Unfortunately the Saga, and later the Lyrita, record sleeve refer to a programmatic explanation of the feelings generated by each movement in the Third Symphony. Such notes can be distracting if read before the composition is heard, even if they were agreed to or written by the composer.

The first movement's mood is youth in the 1930s, strong and playful but haunted by previous wars and fearful of the growing threats in Europe. The composer summed up the feelings by quoting lines from T.S.Eliot's 'The Waste Land' -

"Between the potency
And the existence
Falls the shadow"

The elegiac second movement reflects the post war years with compassion for those killed in the war and for lives broken by death. The final movement reflects the resolve to withstand tyranny from without or within at any cost.

Dr John Marsden, a founder member of the BMS, recalls meeting Robert Still soon after purchasing the Third Symphony on Saga:

"I had the pleasure of meeting Robert Still in the late 1960s when I lived in Aldeburgh and met many visiting performers/composers and other visitors. Dr Still called at my house to ask if his daughter, Poppy, might use my piano for practice. He was as surprised to hear that I had just previously bought a copy of Symphony No3 on Saga (this was prior to the release of this with Symphony No4 on Lyrita) as I was to meet him so soon after acquiring the work. He told me Goossens had said to him after recording the 3rd Symphony that he (Still) would never hear a finer performance of the work; this proved correct - Goossens died a few days later and Still a few years hence in 1971.

I can remember little more about our meeting other than Robert Still seemed a kind, modest, shy and quiet man. He was pleased to autograph my record cover and said that it was the first occasion he had been asked to do this."

The first Movement of the Third Symphony (Allegro) opens with a brass fanfare to introduce the main theme, this being developed throughout the movement, played on different instruments and with different rhythms. A contrasting mood introduces a short interlude and this is followed by continuous intertwining of ideas and already stated thematic material. At one stage a trumpet fanfare returns the mood to that at the opening.

The slow movement (Largo) has a very English feel. The strings introduce a first theme, with the gradual addition of other instruments, before a second theme is introduced by flutes and violins, this becoming extended and developed before the movement ends with a muted trumpet solo.

The final movement (Moderato) opens with brass and this features prominently throughout the movement. It is one of continually changing and developing themes. Several themes are introduced and developed, before the climax is reached at the finale, enforced with use of the side drum and bass drum. A harp and piano are used very effectively in this last movement

In 1959 Sir William Glock took up the position of BBC Controller of Music. Until the time that Glock started to exert his iron grip, tonality ruled and 20th Century tonal composers were having their fair share of the airwaves. By the time he left the BBC in 1972, Glock had managed to flood the airwaves with the continental avant-garde. He and his persuasive and articulate friend Hans Keller had the last say as to what was or was not broadcast. Glock, therefore, held in his hands the success or failure of British composers during the period when Robert Still was rising to fame, right through to the time of his death in 1971. 'Block and Killer', as 'Private Eye' depicted them, caused the resignation of Robert Simpson in protest over the injustice. In 718 Proms during the reign of Glock, the following 20th Century composers were almost entirely ignored: Copland, Martin, Seiber, Bloch, Honegger, Martinu and Milaud. Barrie Hall, working as a Radio 3 publicity officer, was told by Keller that Sir Andrzeja Panufnik's 'Sinfonia Sacra' had been deemed "unsuitable for broadcast on any radio channel" - despite the fact that it had just won the Monaco Prize and was being performed regularly abroad.

It was possibly for this reason that Still studied with Hans Keller for a time during the 60s. Robert Still had already developed a mature and distinct musical voice but must have felt the frustration, as did many other British composers, of musical censorship imposed on the airwaves. Luckily, Keller did not make Still change the direction of his development immediately or dramatically, as can be shown from a letter Keller wrote in 1981.

" - an extremely thoughtful, inventive, and (yes, one has to say it nowadays) musical composer, whose music ought to be far more widely known.

I wouldn't say that I 'taught' him - although he, modest as he was, may have said so. No, for that he was too mature - but I do hope that I was able to advise him. At the same time, I don't think I can tell you anything about his compositions which they can't tell you themselves - and that's a compliment to him.

'As a person', I only knew him strictly within the musical context - where, again, he showed, conceptually, great maturity and, as far as other people's work was concerned, warm detachment."

In 1964 Still published his Fourth and final symphony also known as 'Sinfonia'. This single movement work, of about 20 minutes, may seem more closely allied to a symphonic poem, the stimulus for the composition having been derived from an article by Dr Charles Rycroft in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis. However, the critics of the day were not convinced that this was the true inspiration, notably the Times and The Guardian. The Times critic wrote:

"One is often inclined to feel that composers confide too readily the sources of their inspiration and more particularly nowadays, the purely mechanical structure of their music, to audiences who will grasp eagerly the slightest concrete idea rather than involve themselves in the abstractions of art……… Whatever the roots of its inspiration, the Sinfonia is not about schizophrenia. Like all good art, it is about the schism that activates all meaningful emotions expressed in music syntax and creating tensions that are, first and last, musical ones".

The 'Sinfonia' starts with an initial onslaught of brass and percussion with jagged string rhythms. After a cymbal crash, the music becomes even more agitated before quietening down to a passacaglia like section. The agitation returns but becomes sparer and simpler, reducing to two solo violins, although loud isolated orchestral chords still remain. A haunting and memorable theme is gradually built up and developed, but frequently disturbed. Agitation returns, with heavy percussion and brass signalling the finale. The music fades to woodwind and pizzicato strings, ending with gentle tympani rolls.

The young copyist who had worked on Still's scores of 'The Ballad of the Bladebone Inn' and 'Concerto for String Orchestra' at Chesters was Myer Fredman. He became a friend of Robert Still and received encouragement from him as a young conductor. Fredman conducted a performance of the Concerto for Strings in Wigmore Hall on 19th February 1965 and recorded the work for Decca at the Kingsway Hall in November 1966. The orchestra, on both occasions, was The Jacques Orchestra. On May 19th of the same year, Myer Fredman again took up the baton to conduct the RPO in Still's 'Sinfonia' at the Royal Festival Hall. The Decca recording of the Concerto for Strings, SXL6281, also shares space with the 'Elegie' sung by John Carol Case and the Ambrosian Singers. The artists, less the soloist, perform in Rubbra's 'Inscape' on the reverse side of the record. The recording sessions were all financed by Still

Myer Fredman writes:

"During my early years in London, I earned a living as a music copyist for a number of publishers, one of whom asked me if I would copy the parts for an orchestral work, The Ballad of the Bladebone Inn, by a composer unknown to me at the time, Robert Still. This was followed by similar work on some of his other works and led to Robert and I becoming acquainted, which developed, into a friendship over quite a number of years. He was a very kind and gentle man with a likeable sense of humour and an infectious chuckle, but I don't recall him ever divulging much information about his musical background, preferring instead to show more interest in the work of his contemporaries and my own struggles at establishing a career as a conductor.

In 1965, as a result of this concern and his sponsorship, I conducted The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Clifford Curzon as soloist in what was my London concert debut at The Royal Festival Hall; the programme included the world première of his Fourth Symphony. Then, a year later, Robert asked me to record his Elegie for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra and the Concerto for Strings for Decca; it was a typically modest gesture on his part as the disc also included a work by another composer, Robert's contemporary, Edmund Rubbra.

In 1971 Robert financed a recording of the Symphony, No. 4 for Lyrita Recorded Edition and, as the sessions had gone extremely well, I was requested to use the final one for some shorter works by Delius and Arthur Benjamin for an L.P. entitled Lyrita Lollipops. This in turn led to Mr. Itter of Lyrita engaging me to record the world première recordings of the first two Symphonies by Arnold Bax with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and later, two Symphonies by Havergal Brian. Thus my career as a symphonic conductor was established largely due to Robert's patronage and kindness."

Still's support for up and coming young conductors was evident from a letter that he wrote to the Editor of The Times:


Sir - Your Music Critic, in his article "Getting the right conductor" on January 25, seems to hold the view that our younger conductors lag behind in technique, and that this is why we have to draw on oversea talent. Furthermore, you infer that Mr. John Russell's point, in his letter on January 19, about lack of rehearsal is invalid in this connexion. I should have thought that shortage of rehearsal time would lead to shortage of practical experience, and thus to lack of technique.

One cannot learn to ride a bicycle, Sir, without riding one, however good one's theory may be.

The Decca recording of Still's 'Elegie' and Concerto and Rubbras 'Inscape' was totally financed by Robert Still. Rubbra until that time had only been acquainted with Still's songs which he "greatly admired". He was invited by Still to lunch on several occasions at the Savage Club and also to stay at his home. Robert Still wrote the programme notes for a Liverpool performance of Rubbra's 8th Symphony under Sir Charles Groves. In later years Rubbra made the following comment about Still:

"I found him to be a congenial, approachable person, and not given to 'blowing his own trumpet'."

A young Oliver Knussen was a friend of Still's daughter Poppy. He recalls meeting the composer after a concert of Still's music in London and also how he was made to feel at ease in his presence.

His last few compositions reflect a further development into, what Poppy calls, his 'modern' phase. This move towards more dissonance in his compositions is reflected in his last two major works, the 'Piano Concerto' and 'Violin Concerto'. Neither have had a performance and both are highly challenging for the soloist. There is evidence that he was working on a Viola Concerto at the time of his death.

Timothy Ball, composer, conductor and writer on music, describes Still's penultimate major work:

"The Violin Concerto is cast in the conventional three movements, and although Robert Still supplies neither tempo indications nor metronome markings for the second and third, it is clear that an equally traditional fast-slow-fast scheme is intended.

The first movement is characterised by considerable animation. Barely a bar is without semi-quavers or notes of even shorter duration, and the soloist has passages still more rapid, with much use of chromaticism. Reverting to the original sense of 'concerto', the violinist is very much in 'contest' with the orchestra, rather than engaging in dialogue. In fact, the soloist is barely silent throughout the movement. This is music of some ferocity, with dissonant writing and a wide tonal palette evident right from the start where there is an immediate intimation of bi-tonality. Following a taxing cadenza, the textures thin and the final bars find the violin alone with the percussion - an ominous side drum has the last word.

Contrast is afforded at the opening of the second movement, where a gentle ¾ metre might suggest a kind of waltz, but the triple time is often interrupted, and the lyricism tempered by frequent chromatics, rendering the tonic uncertain. The orchestration is less heavy throughout, thus the violin is enabled to sing more freely.

Something of the atmosphere of the first movement returns in the third, with bustle and energy, although the general mood is less strident than before. Whatever chromatic excursions, or harmonic ambiguities may have occurred in the concerto as a whole, it concludes resoundingly with two emphatic cadences in G major."

In 1970 Still was elected to the Executive Committee of the Composers' Guild. This position would have put him in an excellent position at a time when the negative affect of the Glock and Keller 'reign' was nearing an end at the BBC. However, he was not to live to take up this position.

Robert Still died on Wednesday 13th January 1971 from a massive heart attack. He was just recovering from a previous attack that happened on an evening following a vigorous game of mixed doubles on his own lawn tennis court.

His friend, John Russell, wrote the following obituary in 'The Times':

Composer and Musician

JR. Writes: " Since Robert Still's sudden death last week has not yet required a notice in your columns. I venture to write about my friend's music. Robbie was a professional composer, in that he knew how to put his musical ideas down on paper. That so little of it came in publication is unaccountable. His third symphony was beautifully recorded by Sir Eugene Goossens and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra," (actually the LSO) "his chamber music by Frederick Riddle, Eric Harrison and others, and his songs by Heather Harper and John Carol Case, with the writer as accompanist. I am told that his fourth symphony is soon to be released on record.

As a songwriter, Robert Still is in the mainstream of English lyricism, swelled by Dowland, Purcell, Warlock, Vaughan-Williams and Gerald Finzi. His settings of Byron, Keats, Christina Rosetti, Shelley and Masefield range from the disarming simplicity of a folk song to the sustained lyrical power of a song-scena. It is great song making, in that every note in both the vocal line and piano accompaniment is important and necessary.

As a man, Robbie was of a warm modesty that perhaps hindered his true recognition by a wider public. His wife, Elizabeth, his four daughters and his many friends will take some time to get used to being without him."

Shortly after Still's death the British Music Society and Greater London Arts Council sponsored a performance of Piano Sonata No3 at the Royal College of Music. Gerald Leach of the BMS also compiled a short biography on the composer for the Society.

An overview of Robert Still's music

Still's songs, some of which were written before World War 2, show a remarkable development from verse and tonality, through to an emphasis in translating words into music and the use of bitonality, often verging on atonality. Still had a similar ability as Ireland in being able to reproduce the atmosphere of a poem by simple means.

His orchestral music was sometimes criticised for its thickness of orchestration, but he was a master of counterpoint and experimented with many musical techniques, both old and new, in his works. He was said to have no idol amongst other composers, however his effective use of dissonance, rhythms and brass in the 3rd and 4th Symphonies bear witness to his admiration for Walton. Much of his orchestration was conventional and crops up in a similar manner in most of his major orchestral works. He used a piano for a few bars in the Third Symphony. His use of a side drum in many of his major orchestral works is almost a trademark. Although he seemed to be entirely 'Robert Still' in his thoughts whilst composing, influences of Elgar, Vaughan-Williams, Bax, Delius, Sibelius, Mahler, Strauss, Hindemith, Debussy and Schöenberg , amongst others, show in his many varied styles. There could nothing more English than his three movement Concerto for Strings and songs, his Elegie having a strong Delian flavour.

Although his Viola Sonata No2 was criticised by one critic for under-use of the capabilities of both instruments, his Piano Sonatas were written for highly skilled musicians, and this is also true for the challenges a soloist would face in both his Violin and Piano Concertos.

Still's contrapuntal compositions are clear and thinly textured. Harmony in his compositions ranges from tonal to bitonal and, sometimes, atonal. He makes very effective use of dissonance and chromaticism, using unconventional chords and chord progressions. He wrote beautifully for strings and featured brass fanfares in his orchestral works, although he did not produce any works for brass alone.

I hope that I have partly succeeded in painting a picture of the man and his music. Although I never met him, one gets the impression of a warm and gentle person who, in spite of a fairly lonely childhood at Eton, took a genuine interest in others. He was highly intellectual, but with both feet firmly on the ground. His qualities as a teacher were evident, as were his genuine concern for fairness and justice in musical education. He gathered some very loyal friends around him and evidence of his generosity in helping others shows on many occasions during his lifetime, perhaps no more so than when he lent Manoug Parikian several thousand pounds in order to purchase a good violin. This loan would have been equivalent to six figures at today's prices, a loan that, somehow, turned into a 'gift' as Robert Still never lived to see it repaid.

Ball games remained a keen interest throughout his life. Not only did he play real tennis, racquet, lawn tennis and squash, he was also an avid supporter of cricket. When the English team were playing in Australia he would get up in the early hours of the morning to listen on the radio. Poppy also describes how he would amuse himself for long periods by inventing 'ideal' cricket teams.

In spite of his sharp wit, often at the expense of others, he was rather "self effacing" and over modest in his achievements. He was very sensitive, like many artistic people, dwelling of bad comment about his work, rather than balancing it against the many favourable comments made. This was particularly true when a critic described his Third Symphony as 'Stillborn'. The small amount of fame he achieved seemed partly due to Sir Eugene Goossens recognition of his Third Symphony and also his own recognition of Myer Fredman's talent as an up-and-coming conductor. The fact that his main period of composition came during the period when Glock and Keller controlled the BBC's musical output may also explain why he was overshadowed at the very peak of his achievements.

After Robert Still's death in 1971, his widow Elizabeth carved a busy career for herself. She was a lecturer at the University of Reading; a magistrate; a Berkshire county councillor; a member of many committees and charitable bodies. Until her death in 2007, she was still much involved in issues concerning preservation of the countryside.

With the exception of the Eton recording of the motet 'The Lord's Prayer', no commercial recordings of Robert Still's music have been made during the last 30 years and no records have been manufactured for sale for over 20 years.( See details of 2006 and 2009 re-releases on the Home Page) Dutch television broadcast part of the 'Sinfonia' in 2001. The songs are kept alive by baritone Desmond Hayes-Lynge and soprano Lorraine Bell. Robert Still's only musician daughter, Katherine (Poppy), and David Stevens accompany artists in the Songs. David Stevens accompanied Dildah Pretorius and James Griffett on several occasions in the late 1960s performances of the Still Songs. (Sadly, David Stevens passed away in 2005. His wit, friendliness and warmth will be missed by all who knew him. He was working on the compositions of Freda Swain, Arthur Alexander and Sam Hartley Braithwaite.These had been entrusted to him at the death of Freda Swain. He formed the Swain-Alexander Trust and had launched this with a concert in the Purcell Room shortly before his death.)

There are many cherished copies of the Robert Still Decca, Lyrita and Saga recordings still in existence, although the Argo and Record Society recordings are rare. The Saga recording of the Third Symphony was the third vinyl recording that the writer owned and recently, thanks to the Internet, I was able to have answers to the queries about this composer that lay dormant in my mind for many years.

Robert Still's Third Symphony impressed me so much when I first heard it in 1966 that this was soon followed by the purchase of the Decca recording of his Elegie for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra with the Concerto for String Orchestra. After a gap of several years, the Lyrita reissue of the Third Symphony, with the newly recorded Fourth (Sinfonia), was enthusiastically received. No other recordings appeared after this as, unbeknown to me, the Composer had died just prior to the release of the Lyrita record. As Robert Still had financed all his own recordings, no more records were forthcoming.

Surfing the Internet one day, I came across Myer Fredman's website and on it the reference to his Lyrita recording of Robert Still's 'Sinfonia'. By luck, Myer Fredman's email address was on the site and a request for information was sent to him, though I had little expectation of a reply. Back came the reply that he could not answer my query, but perhaps Mrs Still could. Supplying Elizabeth Still's address was the start of my receiving a tide of information, though I still have many queries about his unpublished compositions. For example, did he write four or five string quartets? Elizabeth's daughter, Poppy, has also been very helpful in supplying information. However, a Robert Still website would not have been immediately possible had it not been for a dissertation written by Lorraine Bell in 1981. This paper contains a wealth of technical information that cannot be reproduced here. Equally, although the paper was written only ten years after his death, there are many questions that cannot be answered because of the way he documented his manuscripts, particularly the lack of dates. The site was my first venture into such a project.

My contact information:

Graham Musto
44, Cefn Road,
LL11 5YE

United Kingdom

Alfred Lengnick & Co. own copyright on the published scores of Robert Still.
Catherine Hyde owns copyright on the unpublished works.

The writer gratefully acknowledges the work of Lorraine Bell in her 1981 dissertation on Robert Still, without which much information would have been difficult to piece together and this has proved to be a major stepping-stone towards gaining more information. A special thanks goes to Elizabeth Still for providing biographical details-and her patience with my many requests- and to (Katherine) Poppy Hyde for the identification of unpublished works.

Grateful thanks for the work put in by:
Timothy Ball - composer, writer on music and conductor
Myer Fredman- conductor, author on music, custom music arranger for community ensembles Myer Fredman
Dr John Marsden - a founder member of BMS, composer and archivist of rare British Music recordings
the late David Stevens, Founder-Director of The Swain-Alexander Trust and Hellebore Publications Ltd.
John Turner -
Matthew Jones -
David Ellis -
Edward Clark -
John Gibbons - Worthing Symphony Orchestra Ealing Symphony Orchestra
David Matthews -
James Griffett - tenor, conductor and choral trainer



Broadcast Performances of Robert Still's Music and
'Mahler and his 10th Symphony'

21.15 12th August 1963 ABC Australia 4QG
Symphony No.3 in C

London Symphony Orchestra conductor Sir Eugene Goossens (Decca Studio recording)

17th January 1961 German Radio
'Love Thy Neighbour' or 'Other People'
Barbara Laraine
22.25 29th February 1964 BBC Third Programme
'Mahler and his Tenth Symphony'
(a recording of this broadcast is held at Jerwood Library, Greenwich)
Dr Robert Still
Symphony No.3 in C
London Symphony Orchestra conductor Sir Eugene Goossens (Saga Record)
August 1979
BBC Radio 3
Concerto for Strings
(A BMS member has a tape of this broadcast - the BBC are unable to find a copy)
The Haydn Orchestra conducted by Bryan Fayrfax

19th February 2006
BBC Radio 3

Concerto for Strings
BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Edward Gardner

Performances of Robert Still's Compositions

Early May 1939 Royal Albert Institute, Windsor
'Love and Learning'
Windsor Operatic Society conductor Robert Still

December 1939
Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

'Elizabethan Suite'
arrangements of music by Lawes, Farnaby and Byrd

Les Ballet Trois Arts
costumes by Rosa R Groom and executed by Grace M Kelly

12th March 1948
Sonata in A for piano
Musica da Camera
1949 Wigmore Hall
Songs for Baritone
Douglas Craig
Winchester 1948
String Quartet in A
Martin String Quartet
28th November 1956 Royal Festival Hall
Symphony No.1
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Richard Austin
23rd October 1957 Royal Festival Hall
The Ballad of the Bladebone Inn
Pro Arte conductor Richard Austin
3rd December 1958 Corn Exchange, Newbury
'A Summer Night'
(A recording of this performance is held at Jerwood Library, Greenwich)
Newbury String Players, Newbury Amateur Orchestral Union, Gordon Clinton (baritone) conductor John Russell
31st October 1959 Wigmore Hall
Sonata for Viola and Piano Nos.2 & 3?
Frederick Riddle and John Russell

31st October 1959 Wigmore Hall

Sister Awake, The Sea hath Many Thousand Sands, The Kingfisher, When I am dead my dearest, The Song of the Sirens, August, Beauty Bathing, Sonnet, Awaiting Execution, Shall I wasting in despair& Sunset on the Morea - Songs by Purcell
(A recording of this performance is held at Jerwood Library, Greenwich)
Jessica Cash (soprano) Gordon Clinton (baritone) John Russell (pf)
13th January 1960
? Bernwode School
Three pieces from 'Love Thy Neighbour'
Freda Swain
? Reading University
'Love Thy Neighbour'
Barbara Laraine
17th January 1961 Germany
'Love Thy Neighbour'
Barbara Laraine
30th March 1963 Royal Festival Hall
Symphony No.3 in C
London Symphony Orchestra conductor Sir Eugene Goossens
26th June 1964 Dorchester Abbey
Trio Sonata for Flute, Oboe and Harpsichord
The Michael Thomas Ensemble
? Wigmore Hall
Sonatina for Flute, Oboe, Bassoon and Harpsichord
Wardour Ensemble, Michael Thomas (harpsichord)
6th June 1964 Blackheath High School
Concerto for Strings
(A recording of this performance is held at Jerwood Library, Greenwich)
Blackheath String Players conductor Geoffrey Leeds
19th February 1965 Wigmore Hall
Concerto for Strings
The Jacques Orchestra conducted by Myer Fredman
19th May 1965 Royal Festival Hall
Symphony No.4 'Sinfonia'
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Myer Fredman
25th October 1965 Law Society Hall
Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet
Inaugural concert by members of the Royal Philharmonic Octet
? Bernwode School
James Griffett (tenor) David Stevens (pf)
4th October 1968 Purcell Room (Arthur Jacobs and Nemo Concerts)
Trio for Clarinet in A, Violin and Piano 4 pieces from 'Love Thy Neighbour' Songs for Tenor and Soprano concert included works by Freda Swain
Sylvia Paulin (violin), Janet Eggleden (clarinet), Freda Swain (piano), James Griffett (tenor), Dildah Praetorius (soprano), David Stevens (piano)
15th May 1969 Wigmore Hall (Arthur Jacobs and Nemo Concerts)
Sonata in B major, the programme also including Freda Swain's 'Flourish' and Anthony Scott's 'Allegro and Ricercare'
(A recording of the sonata and Swain works are held at Jerwood Library)
Sonata played by Freda Swain and the concert billed as 'An Evening of Two-Piano and Solo Piano Music' performed by Freda Swain and Arthur Alexander
after 1971 Royal College of Music
Piano Sonata No3
17th October 1993
Burgh House, Hampstead
Desmond Hayes-Lynge bar. Andrew Lowe-Watson pf
25th August 1995
Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill
Desmond Hayes-Lynge bar. John Bruzon pf
25th April 2004 Eton College
motet 'The Lord's Prayer'
Eton College Choir
5.15pm -7th May 2005 Leeds Parish Church
including 'Upon Julia's Clothes'
main work Britten's Abraham & Isaac with songs by Vale, Warlock, Stanford, Purcell* & Britten*
James Griffett, tenor
Daniel Wellings*, countertenor
Simon Lindley pf
11th November 2005 BBC Studios Cardiff
(for later broadcast on
'3 for All')
Concerto for Strings

BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by
Edward Gardner

A Family Centenary Concert

3rd October 2010 4.30pm
St. Andrew's Church Alfriston, E. Sussex

The Lord's Prayer, August, A Lament, Prelude, Sister Awake, Beauty Bathing, Ode to a Skylark, Sonatina for Oboe and Piano, movements 2 & 3 of Concerto for Strings - & music by Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Goossens and David Fellingham

Kathryn Sargent, Michael Bunting, Lorraine Bell, Hazel Gaydon, Poppy Hyde, Keith Savage, John Yeo, singers. Timothy Dillon,violin, Elaine Patience,violin, Patrick Harrex,viola, Jane Pendry,cello, Belinda Paul, oboe, Poppy Hyde pf and Ray Maulkin, pf.

British Music Society AGM 23rd June 2012 12.45 pm
St.John's Smith Square, London

Premiere of Robert Still's 4th String Quartet (without a key), Alan Bush 'Dialectic' and Frank Bridge 'Cherry Ripe'
Villiers String Quartet



Concert 16th March 2013, Bowdon Parish Church, Altrincham

Premiere of the two movements of Still's unfinished Trio for Recorder, Horn and Harpsichord/Piano
John Turner, recorder, Anthony Halstead, horn Harvey Davies piano



London, 18th May 2013, St Barnabas Church, W5 1QG 7.30pm

Premiere of Robert Still's Violin Concerto with Tchaikovsky Symphony No.6 and film music by Badelt/Zimmer and John Barry

St.Silas the Martyr, Kentish Town, London NW5 July 18th-19th 2013 and January 20th-21st 2014

Recording the complete string quartets for Naxos/British Music Society
Villiers String Quartet

St.Mary's, Church Road, Barnes. London SW13 9HL 7.30pm, 3rd April 2014

Robert Still's 1st String Quartet in A minor with Delius Quartet 1916, Holst Four Songs for Soprano & Violin and Elgar Quartet in E minor Op83
Villiers String Quartet

Holywell Music Room, Holywell St., Oxford OX1 3BN 27th November 2015 1pm

Robert Still's 2nd and 4th String Quartets with Britten's Divertimenti
Villiers String Quartet

Malvern Concert Club, The Forum, Malvern Theatres - Friday April 15th 2016 at 3pm

Robert Still's 2nd String Quartet with Schumann's 3rd Quartet and Sibelius' D Minor Quartet
Villiers String Quartet


Still poster


Vinyl Discography, CDs and Tapes

1956 Argo RG74 (mono)
Quintet for Three Flutes, Violin and 'Cello
Gilbert, Crozier, Solomon (fl), Pougnet (vn) and Gabarro (vc)
1956 Argo RG74 (mono)
Sonata for Viola and Piano No.2
Frederick Riddle(va) and Eric Harrison (pf)
1959 Record Society RS60 (mono)
Six Songs for Soprano, Six Songs for Baritone (also songs by Goossens and Finzi)
Heather Harper (soprano), John Carol Case (baritone), John Russell (pf)
1960? Record Society RSX16 (mono)
Clavichord Suite (also clavichord and harpsichord music by L.Berkeley, J.Harrison, Rubbra, Goossens and A.Scott)

Michael Thomas (Still)
(also Mary Verney)

1966 Saga STXID/XID5256 (recorded 1962 Walthamstow)
Symphony No.3 in C major
London Symphony Orchestra
conductor Sir Eugene Goossens
1966 Decca SXL/LXT6281 (Kingsway Hall)
Elegie for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra & Concerto for Strings (also 'Inscape' by Rubbra)
John Carol Case (baritone), Ambrosian Singers,
The Jacques Orchestra conductor Myer Fredman
1971 Lyrita SRCS 46* (Decca/Saga)
Symphony No3 in C major
London Symphony Orchestra
conductor Sir Eugene Goossens
1971 Lyrita SRCS 46* Walthamstow Town Hall (*also MHS1482 in the USA and S5061 in Australia)
Symphony No.4 'Sinfonia'
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
conductor Myer Fredman
Acetate Tape & CDR
(An Argo direct recording)

Viola Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2
(No MS of No..1 - recording is the only record)

Eileen Grainger, viola & Wilfred Parry, pf
The British Library Sound Archive holds the tape and CD master - A CD copy is available at Jerwood

Musica Etonensis CD Eton 5013
motet 'The Lord's Prayer'
Eton College Choir
Priory Records for ISMERON
JMSCD 8 (mono)
Quintet for Three Flutes, Violin & 'Cello, Viola Sonata No.2, Seven Songs for Soprano, Seven Songs for Baritone
Geoffrey Gilbert, George Crozier, Lionel Solomon, Jean Pougnet, Francesco Gabarro, Frederick Riddle, Eric Harrison, Heather Harper, John Carol Case, Jessica Cash, Gordon Clinton & John Russell
Lyrita Recorded Edition CD
Digitally remastered SRCD 285
Symphonies Nos.3† and 4(Sinfonia)*
with Symphony No.2 Searle
LSO - Sir Eugene Goossens†
RPO - Myer Fredman*
LPO - Josef Krips

copyright Ealing Symphony Orchestra - recorded at St.Barnabas Church, London W5. Copy at Jerwood Library, Greenwich

Violin Concerto
Efi Christodoulou, violin, Ealing Symphony Orchestra conductor John Gibbons

2014 Naxos 8.571353 a BMS recording

String Quartets Nos. 1 - 4
Villiers Quartet


Full details of vinyl recordings can be found on a 'Key Word' search on The Library of Congress Website: catalogue).This site also gives the location of biographical details on Robert Still held in the Nicolas Slonimsky Collection All the above recordings have copies in the BMS archives at Jerwood Library, Greenwich.

Published Compositions

Publisher - The following compositions are available for hire through: Chester Music Sales -
Universal Music Publishing Classical
20 Fulham Broadway, London. SW6 1AH.
02078355382 Fax +44(0)207835 5384
URL: Chester Novello Music Sales

"Elegie" for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra (1963), after Matthew Arnold (original MS "Elegy") -
Concerto for String Oorchestra(1964) - de haske
Symphony No.4 (Sinfonia) (1964) -
Violin Concerto (1969) -
Sonata No.2 for Viola and Piano- - -
Clarinet Quintet (for clarinet and string quartet) - UPCAL0074P
Piano Sonata No.1 in B major- de haske
Piano Sonata No.2 in G major- de haske
Song "Beauty Bathing" for medium voice (Munday)-
Song "Upon Julia's Clothes" for medium voice (Herrick)-
Trio for Clarinet in A, Violin and Piano - de haske faber-AL2547
The Four String Quartets - Publishers Music & Media
String Quartet No.1 in A minor
String Quartet No.2 in D major
String Quartet No.3 no key
String Quartet No.4 no key
Scherzo and Canzona ( formerly Trio for Recorder, Horn and Piano) - From 'The Contemporary Recorder' series edited by John Turner - Peacock Press - PJT 171

Unpublished Compositions

Symphony No1 in C (1954)
Symphony No2 (1956)
Ballad of the Bladebone Inn, overture (1956)
Orchestral Fantasy: "The Delphic Oracle"
"Elizabethan Suite" - an arrangement of music by Lawes, Farnaby and Byrd (ballet)

Cello Sonata in D major
Sonata for Violin and Piano in E flat major
Sonata No1 for Viola and Piano - no score, only a recording
Sonata No3 for Viola and Piano
Oboe Quartet
Piano Quintet in F major
Poco Adagio in G Major for Oboe and Piano
Quintet for Three Flutes, Violin and Cello
Sonata for Flute, Oboe and Harpsichord (or piano)
Sonatina for Oboe and Piano (or harpsichord) (1964)
Sonatina for Flute, Oboe, Bassoon and Harpsichord (or piano) - no record of this can be found in the archive.

Drole Aventure for two pianos - arr. Robert Still (incomplete)
Piano suite, "Love Thy Neighbour" or "Other People" - 10 character sketches
Piano Sonata No.3 in C

Clavichord Suite
"Dance of a Church Mouse" or "March on a 12 tone row"
"Organ Voluntary for Joyful Occasions"

3 motets, including "The Lord's Prayer" (© Eton College) - no record of the other motets can be found in the archive
Piano score of "A Summer's Night" (later Elegie for Bar., Ch. & Small Orch.)

Lost Opera from the late 1930s 'Love and Learning' (1938-39) - one page only in the archive
Oedipus Overture

"A Lament" (Shelley)
"A Song of Pain and Beauty" (Gurney) for soprano
"Amo Amat" - Amo Amas Amat (O'Keefe)
"August 1914"/"August" (Masefield) for baritone or tenor
"Awaiting Execution" (Tichborne) for baritone
"I Fear Thy Kisses, Gentle Maiden" (Shelley)
"Lyric" - "A Wet Sheet and a Flowing Sea" (Cunningham)
"Ode to a Skylark" (Shelley) for soprano (2 versions 9/8 G major & 3/4 G flat major)
"Prelude" or "When I am Dead, My Dearest" (Rossetti) for soprano ( 2 settings - one in G major and one in F major)
"Shall I Wasting in Despair Die" (Wither) for baritone
"Sister Awake" (Anon 1604) for soprano (another setting was also started but incomplete)
"Sonnet" (Keats) for baritone (2 versions 3/2 C minor and 3/4 E minor)
"Sunset on the Morea" (Byron) for baritone
"The Countryside" (Unknown)
"The Poetry of Dress" (Robert Herrick)
"The Kingfisher" (W H Davies) for soprano
"The Sea Hath Many Thousand Sands" (Anon) for tenor or baritone
"The Siren's Song" (Browne) for soprano -----------------------------Songs link: LIED AND ART SONG - ROBERT STILL

Incomplete manuscripts

Drole Aventure for two pianos (arr. Still) - 2nd piano score only
Oedipus, opera in 3 Acts (1956) with libretto by Adrian Stokes - libretto - no score other than the overture.
Trio for Recorder, Horn and Piano (1st movement complete & a draft 2nd) - Now published as 'Scherzo and Canzona' as part of the series 'The Contemporary Recorder' edited by John Turner -PJT 171- Peacock Press
Viola Concerto ( 1 movement completed & 1 incomplete)

Full list of compositions


Symphony No1 in C (1954)
Symphony No2 (1956)
Symphony No3 in C major (1960) Brief Thoughts on the British Symphony
Symphony No4 (Sinfonia) (1964) Excerpt
Ballad of the Bladebone Inn, overture (1956)
Concerto for Strings (1964)
Orchestral Fantasy: "The Delphic Oracle"
Piano Concerto (1970)
Viola Concerto (unfinished - 1 movement complete & 1 incomplete)
Violin Concerto (1969) Review Listen to the 1st movement
"Elizabethan Suite" - No MSS - An arrangement of music by Lawes, Farnaby and Byrd (ballet)

'Cello Sonata in D minor
Clarinet Quintet (for clarinet and string quartet)
Oboe Quartet
Poco Adagio in G Major for Oboe and Piano
Piano Quintet in F major Full score and parts, excluding 1st violin
Sonata for Violin and Piano
Sonata No1 for Viola and Piano - no score, only a recording
Sonata No2 for Viola and Piano - available for purchase
Sonata No3 for Viola and Piano
Sonata for Flute, Oboe and Harpsichord (or piano)
Sonatina for Flute, Oboe, Bassoon and Harpsichord (or piano)
Sonatina for Oboe and Piano (or harpsichord) (1964)
String Quartet No.1 in A minor (1948)
String Quartet No.2 in D major
Sring Quartet No.3 (no key)
String Quartet No.4 (no key)
Trio for Clarinet in A, Violin and Piano
Trio for Recorder, Horn and Piano (unfinished) Two movements: - See published version above
Quintet for Three Flutes, Violin and 'Cello

Drole Aventure for two pianos - arr Robert Still (incomplete)
Piano Sonata No.1 in B major
Piano Sonata No.2 in G major
Piano Sonata No.3 in C
Piano suite, "Love Thy Neighbour" or "Other People" - 10 character sketches

Clavichord Suite
"Dance of a Church Mouse" or "March on a twelve tone row"
"Organ Voluntary for Joyful Occasions"

3 motets, including "The Lord's Prayer" (© Eton College)
Piano score of "A Summer's Night" (later Elegie for Bar., Ch. & Small Orch.)
Elegy for Baritone, Chorus and Small Orchestra (1963), after Matthew Arnold

Lost Opera from the late 1930s 'Love and Learning' (1938-39)
Oedipus, opera in 3 Acts (1956) with libretto by Adrian Stokes (incomplete?)
Oedipus Overture

"A Lament" (Shelley) -
"Amo Amat" - Amo Amas Amat (O'Keefe)
"The Poetry of Dress" (Robert Herrick)
"A Song of Pain and Beauty" (Gurney) for soprano
"August 1914"/"August" (Masefield) for baritone
"Awaiting Execution" (Tichborne) for baritone
"Beauty Bathing" for medium voice (Munday)
"I Fear Thy Kisses, Gentle Maiden" (Shelley)
"Lyric" - A wet sheet and a flowing sea (Cunningham)
"Ode to a Skylark" (Shelley) for soprano ( 2 settings - one 9/8 G major and the other 3/4 G flat major)
"Prelude" or "When I am Dead, My Dearest" (Rossetti) for soprano ( 2 settings - one in G major and one in F major)
"Shall I Wasting in Despair Die"(Wither)
"Sister Awake" (Anon 1604) for soprano (2 settings - one incomplete)
"Sonnet" (Keats) for baritone ( one setting in C minor 3/2 and one in 3/4 E minor)
"Sunset on the Morea" (Byron) for baritone
"The Countryside" (unknown)
"The Kingfisher" (W H Davies) for soprano
"The Sea Hath Many Thousand Sands" (Anon) for tenor or baritone
"The Siren's Song" (Browne) for soprano
"Upon Julia's Clothes" for medium voice (Herrick) --------- Songs link: Lied and Art Songs

Links and References



The Still family

ELSEY, LORRAINE(now LORRAINE BELL) (1981) A STUDY OF ROBERT STILL - Dissertation - BMS archive -London - British Music Society

Sadie & Tyrrell (date unknown) The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians, Vol. 18, Page 145 - USA - OUP

MacDonald, M (1966 & 1971) - GRAMOPHONE reviews of the recordings of Symphony No.3 and Symphony No.4 - October 1966. p50 & March 1971.p62 - Haywards Heath - Haymarket Internet

A.P (1956) -GRAMOPHONE review of the Argo recording of the Quintet and Viola Sonata No.2 - June 1956.p48 - Haywards Heath - Haymarket Internet

MacDonald, M (1967) GRAMOPHONE reviews of Decca 'Elegie' and 'Concerto for Strings' - March 67.p70 - Haywards Heath - Haymarket Internet

Achenbacli, Andrew (2006).GRAMOPHONE review of the re-released Quintet, Viola Sonata No.2 and Songs - July 2006.p72 - Haywards Heath - Haymarket Internet

L.S. (1961) GRAMOPHONE review of Still songs - February 1961.p72 - Haywards Heath - Haymarket Internet

Musto, G.E.(2007) - Robert Still - Wikipedia - Internet

Considerable information on papers, reviews and performances concerning Robert Still can be obtained by subscribing on

Published works at Chester Music & Novello & Co.

Record catalogue at The Library of Congress in Washington DC:
This link will take you to the Search Page. Enter Robert Still and select Keyword and then Search. On the list produced 5-9 and 11-13 are relevant. Click on your selection. This will take you to Brief Record. Selecting Full Record will give a full sheet of information.

Read, Richard (2009) - 1902-1972 Biography and Bibliography (ref. 1956) Adrian Stokes - Internet

Tate Gallery (Unknown) Oedipus libretto - Stokes papers at the Archive (TGA 8816.170 and 200325) - London - Tate Gallery

Williams,Adrian (2003) John Russell - Hay-on-Wye - Internet

Feder, Stuart (Unknown) ( ref. 32 - Gustav Mahler and Psychoanalysis ) Freud and Music- Oxford - Oxford University Press

Still, Robert (1959) - Gustav Mahler and Psychoanalysis by Robert Still - Bucklebury, Berkshire - The American Imago Vol.17 - Fall - No.3 -1960 - Written May 6th 1959

Newlin, Dika (1980)- The "Mahler's Brother Syndrome": Necropsychiatry and the Artist - Musical Quarterly.1980; LXVI: 296-304 - Oxford - Oxford University Press

Holbrook, David (1975) Gustav Mahler and the Courage to Be - London - Vision Press Ltd.

Still, Robert (1961) Serial Composition Today - Tempo, New Ser., No. 57 (Spring, 1961), pp. 5-6

British Music Information Centre has closed and moved to Somerset House as Sound and Music

Myer Fredman - Was a Conductor, Author, Symphonic Arrangments, Operatic Arrangements Transcriptions, Piano Reductions, Arrangements for Symphonic Woodwind Orchestra - Sadly died July 2015

Gilder, Eric (Unknown) Dictionary of Composers and their Music - Internet - MusicWeb

Robert Still settled in Bucklebury - view the village and its history.

Lyrita Records - Complete Stereo Catalogue of British music on vinyl

Ezust, Emily (Ongoing) Lied and Art Song Text Page - Ottawa - Internet

Eton College - Famous Old Etonians: Music Musica Etonensis

Various (1994) The Oxford Dictionary of Music - Oxford - Oxford University Press

Pougnet, Jean Oxford Dictionary of Music Oxford - Oxford University Press

Oedipus :

Slonimsky, N (Unknown) Nicolas Slonimsky Collection (Box 235) - Biographical details on Robert Still - Washington DC -Library of Congress

Newbury Choral Society - Performance History - choose 1958 diary of past events - The first performance of 'A Summer Night' by Robert Still in 1958 -Newbury - Internet

Fredman, Myer (2005 ) 'MAESTRO Conductor or Metro-Gnome?' pages 51, 61, 62 & 69 - Eastbourne - Sussex Academic Press

Marlowe, K (2007) 'Olga Lehmann' - Biography, including sleeve designs for Argo - Internet - Wikipedia

Olga Lehmann - Record sleeves for Argo, Including the Still Viola Sonata No.2 and Quintet for Three Flutes -

Haddakin, Edward (1969) Coton Collection - First performance of the 'Elizabethan Suite' and performances by Les Ballets Trois Arts- London - Royal Holloway Library, University of London

British Composers - MusicWeb International

Emma Letley (2013) Marion Milner:The Life Stokes and Still - Hove - Routledge

Prof. Janet Sayers (to present) Adrian Stokes with some connections to Robert Still and the Imago Society - Kent University-