Ruth Gipps

Ruth Gipps

Ruth Gipps (20 February 1921 – 23 February 1999) was a British composer, an oboist and pianist.

Gipps was something of a child prodigy, winning performance competitions in which she was considerably younger than the rest of the field -- and female, to boot. After performing her first composition at the age of 8 in one of the numerous music festivals she entered, the work was bought by a publishing house for a guinea and a half. Winning a concerto competition with the Hastings Municipal Orchestra began her performance career in earnest.

In 1936 Gipps entered the Royal College of Music, where she studied theory, composition, piano, and eventually oboe, and where several works of hers were first performed. Continuing her studies at Durham University would lead her to teachers Gordon Jacob and Ralph Vaughan Williams, as well as her future husband, clarinettist Robert Baker.

She was an accomplished all-round musician, as a soloist on both oboe and piano as well as a prolific composer. When she was 33 her performance career ended, however, due to a hand injury, and she decided to focus her energies on conducting and composition.

A turning point in Gipps' career was the "Symphony No. 2 Op. 30", first performed in 1946, which showed the beginnings of her mature style. Gipps' music is marked by a skillful use of instrumental color, and often shows the influence of Vaughan Williams, rejecting the trends in avant-garde modern music such as serialism and twelve-tone music. She considered her orchestral works -- particularly her five symphonies -- her greatest works. Two substantial piano concertos were also produced.

Her early career was affected strongly by discrimination against women in the male-dominated ranks of music (and particularly composition), by professors and judges as well as the world of music criticism. (For example, she was not even considered for the post of conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra where her longtime associate George Weldon vacated it, because the thought of a woman conductor was "indecent".) Because of it she developed a tough personality that many found off-putting, and a fierce determination to prove herself through her work.

She founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955 as an opportunity for young professional musicians to become exposed to a wide range of music, and the Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, a professional ensemble which included a work by a living composer in each of its programs, often a premiere performance. Later she would take faculty posts at Trinity College, London (1959 to 1966) and the Royal College of Music (1967 to 1977), and then the Kingston Polytechnic.

She died in 1999, after suffering the effects of cancer and a stroke.

Further reading

* cite book
last = Halstead
first = Jill
title = Ruth Gipps: Anti-Modernism, Nationalism And Difference in English Music
publisher = Ashgate
date = 2006
location = Aldershot
id = ISBN 0754601781

External links

* [ Musicweb bio of Gipps]

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