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Albert William Ketèlbey



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Albert William Ketèlbey (9 August 1875 – 26 November 1959), born Ketelbey, was an English composer, conductor and pianist.

Ketèlbey was born in Alma Street in the Lozells area of Birmingham, England, the son of an engraver, George Henry Ketelbey (written with no accent), and Sarah Ann Aston. At the age of eleven he wrote a piano sonata that won praise from Edward Elgar. Ketèlbey gained a scholarship to the Trinity College of Music in London, where he showed his talent for playing various orchestral instruments reflected in the masterfully colourful orchestration, especially of oriental inspiration, that became his trademark. At Trinity he beat Gustav Holst in competition for a musical scholarship. He used the pseudonyms Raoul Clifford and Anton Vodorinski for some of his works (some reference books mistakenly give Vodorinski as his true name and Ketèlbey as the pseudonym). His name is frequently misspelt Ketelby.

Ketèlbey held a number of positions, including organist at St John’s, Wimbledon, before being appointed musical director of London’s Vaudeville Theatre, where he met his future wife Charlotte (Lottie) Siegenberg. Whilst at the Vaudeville he continued writing diverse vocal and instrumental music. Later, he became famous for composing lightweight, popular music, much of which was used as accompaniments to silent films, and as mood music at tea dances. Success enabled him to relinquish his London appointments.

Once, whilst conducting a programme of his own music at a Royal Command Performance, Ketèlbey gave a second rendering of the State Procession movement of his Cockney Suite during the interval, at the request of King George V, who had arrived too late to hear it performed at the beginning of the programme.

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