About the site

We quite rightly hear a lot about the ‘war poets’ of World War I, but less well known are the war composers. Almost a whole generation of young composers volunteered to fight in the Great War, many whom did not survive or were permanently affected by that conflict.

This website attempts to tell something of their story.

Dedication of Ernest Farrar's Heroic Elegy of 1918

The site is first looking at the talented individuals whose lives were cut short in that conflict and whose surviving works offer a tantalising insight into the composers they could have been.

With a few exceptions, we can only judge these men on their pre-war material. In the case of the British composers featured on the site, much of their material dwells in the epoch of the Edwardian "land of lost content" of pastoral England, under which is an underlying uncertainty which sometimes appears to foreshadow what was to come; George Butterworth, Ernest Farrar, W Denis Browne and others all come under this category.

There were also many young composers whose future output was indelibly marked by those events.

Many survivors such as E.J. Moeran or Ivor Gurney never quite recovered from physical or mental injuries sustained in the war. Other survivors commemorated the war or their contemporaries in their post-war compositions, although as Michael Kennedy noted in his biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams, many of these composers wanted to forget about their war experiences.

The site is now expanding to look at combatant composers from the Continent, both from the Allied and Central Powers.

The site doesn’t claim to be comprehensive, but aims to offer a useful expanding resource featuring biography, musical examples, further reading lists, editions of lesser-known compositions by war composers and will eventually include some downloadable podcast documentaries.

This website is a work in progress; if you see something incorrect or misleading, please do let me know via my contact page. Planned future War Composer biographies include Nikolai Myaskovsky and Hanns Eisler.

About the author

Robert Weedon studied English Literature and Music at Newcastle University before completing a Masters degree in music by research at Durham University on the extended choral works of Gerald Finzi, supervised by Professor Jeremy Dibble. He has presented papers about Ernest Farrar and Gerald Finzi at Cambridge and Durham Universities. Robert used to work in libraries & archives and currently works in London for the BBC. Please note that this site contains his personal views and not those of his employer.


WarComposers.co.uk is ©2013- Robert Weedon. While the site welcomes use for not-for-profit educational and research purposes, please provide a clear link or citation to state the origin of any content taken from the site and used elsewhere.

War Composers is a not-for-profit website. Owing to their age, the majority of photographs and musical examples featured on the site are believed to be in the public domain and reproduced at resolutions unsuitable for reprinting. Please contact the site if you believe your copyright is being infringed. Examples and photographs are also believed to come under the definition of "Fair Dealing", as specified in fact sheet P-27, paragraph 6 subsection iii of the UK copyright service guidelines, namely for the purposes of review or criticism with origins clearly stated.