Cooke, Arnold Atkinson (1906-2005), Composer

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Cooke, Arnold Atkinson (1906-2005), Composer

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Arnold Cooke was born in Gomersal, Yorkshire on 4 Nov 1906. He studied with Edward Dent at Cambridge (1925–8, BA, MusB; MusD 1948) and with Paul Hindemith at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1929–32). He spent a year as music director of the Festival Theatre, Cambridge (following Walter Leigh, an earlier Hindemith pupil), and then taught composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music from 1933 to 1938. After war service in the navy he was appointed professor of harmony, counterpoint and composition at the Trinity College of Music, where he remained from 1947 until his retirement in 1978. It was with Dent’s help and encouragement that Cooke was able to take the step, unusual in the 1930s, of studying abroad, and Hindemith’s anti-serial maxim – ‘Music, as long as it exists, will take its departure from the major triad and return to it’ – was one to which Cooke adhered. His approach is naturally contrapuntal, with a vein of gentle lyricism that frequently comes to the surface. The string quartets on the other hand often show the uncompromising ruggedness of a Bartók. A pianist and cellist himself, Cooke wrote chamber music and vocal music for soloists, for children and for choirs. His woodwind writing is especially grateful and, like Hindemith, he has written successfully for the organ. His song cycles display his affinity with poets from the Elizabethans to D.H. Lawrence, Blake being a particular favourite. His list of commission sources includes the BBC (Proms and Overseas Service), the Royal Philharmonic Society, the Royal Ballet, and the Bath, Cambridge, Cardiff, Cheltenham and City of London festivals, as well as a number of distinguished singers and instrumentalists. He was a founder-member of the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain (1945). Cooke died on 13 August 2005 at Five Oak Green, Kent. (Eric Wetherell, Grove Music online: www.grovemusiconline.com. Accessed 17 Oct 2006)

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