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Peter Wishart  (1921–1984 )

Peter Wishart

This June sees the centenary of the composer and educator Peter Wishart, who studied with Victor Hely-Hutchinson and privately with Nadia Boulanger in Paris before himself becoming a much-respected teacher at the University of Birmingham, the Guildhall School of Music in London and at the University of Reading.

A prolific composer, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, Wishart found himself out of step with prevailing trends, insisting on a style of fundamental tonality (with echoes of Stravinsky’s middle-period compositions) that nevertheless display immense skill. Stainer & Bell published a number of Wishart’s grandest orchestral and operatic works and we would like to invite anyone who is interested in this music, either for research purposes or with potential performance in mind, to contact us. We will be pleased to send you a perusal score free of charge.


Peter Wishart read music at Birmingham University and went on to finish his education in post-war Paris, studying privately with Nadia Boulanger. A fluent and versatile artist who wrote with equal success for the stage, concert hall and radio, he combined composition, conducting and accompanying with a distinguished academic career as a lecturer at the Birmingham School of Music, and at the Guildhall School of Music, before his appointment in 1977 as Professor at Reading University.

Works for voices occupy an important place in Wishart’s output, his musical style, in which incisive rhythm and piquant harmony give force and direction to a highly personal lyricism, being well suited to the setting of words in a distinctively 20th-century idiom. In the three-act comedy The Clandestine Marriage, to a libretto by Dan Roberts after the play by Colman and Garrick, its potential for satire is to the fore. Its scope for the powerful expression of varied poetical moods and emotions is fully revealed in the composer’s non-dramatic vocal pieces such as the Twelve Songs for medium voice and piano, with poems by Anon, Cowper, Graves and Waddell, and To the Holy Spirit, for soprano and small instrumental ensemble.

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