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Stevens Bernard

Bernard Stevens

 

Born Bernard George Stevens in London on 2nd March 1916, Stevens studied English and Music at the University of Cambridge, where it is believed he first joined the Communist Party.  During this period, he used the political pseudonym and nom de plume, `Terpander’, after the ancient Greek poet and musician from 7th century BC Lesbos, regarded as the real founder of Greek classical music and lyric poetry.

 

He was then at the Royal College of Music from 1937 to 1940, where he won the foremost prizes in composition. Stevens’ first major work, a Violin Concerto, was written while he was on army service during the Second World War.

 

In 1946 his First Symphony, entitled Symphony of Liberation, won first prize in a competition sponsored by the Daily Express newspaper for a 'Victory Symphony' to celebrate the end of the war with a premiere at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1948, he was appointed Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music.

 

From 1967, he combined his RCM professorship with one at the University of London.

 

Stevens was associated with other Communist intellectuals, such as his friends Alan Bush and Randall Swingler; in fact, his `The True Dark’ is a `song cycle’ from the epic poem by Randall Swingler. He was also long active in the Workers’ Music Association.

 

As a professorial examiner of music students, he travelled widely, especially in Eastern Europe. Although he resigned his membership of the Communist Party after the events of 1956, he did not reject progressive associations subsequently. It did not aid his becoming more well-known in his life-time. Stevens died on 6th January 1983, in Colchester but his legacy has been growing ever since.

 

He composed in every major genre: orchestral, oratorio, opera as well as solo and chamber works but was seemingly modest in promoting his own work. In recent years all of Steven's major orchestral and chamber works have been recorded posthumously.