Obituary: Helen Glatz

Helen Glatz's catalogue of composition is extensive and ranges over solo pieces, chamber music and brass ensemble to incidental music for Dartington College of the Arts' Barn Theatre, Shakespeare plays and puppet theatre.

Among her most distinguished works are A Brass Fanfare, written for a visit to Dartington of Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts in 1967; an Elegy for Violin and Strings, first performed in the Great Hall, Dartington in 1993 to celebrate the centenary of its founder Leonard Elmhirst's birth; Two Hungarian Folksongs arranged for Flute and Guitar (1987), written for the former Deputy Principal and Director of Music at Dartington, Jack Dobbs, on his retirement; and some very successful incidental music for Romeo and Juliet, written in 1956. One of her last pieces is entitled Soccer for solo double bass and traces the flawless arc of a penalty shot.

Born Helen Hunter in 1908 in the border country, of Scottish ancestry, she grew up in an environment of intensive music-making, playing piano with her two sisters, piano duet with Margaret her elder sister. Together they would play through the entire Ring Cycle in piano duet version. Her formal music studies were with the music scholar and composer, Professor William (Gillies) Whittaker at Armstrong College, Durham University, and then composition with Ralph Vaughan Williams, orchestration with Dr Gordon Jacob and conducting with Sir Charles Groves at the Royal College of Music.

At the RCM in the 1930s she met Imogen Holst, Elizabeth Maconchy, Elisabeth Lutyens, Thea Musgrave and Benjamin Britten. He was known as Edward Britten at the time and some attribute the change in his second forename to the influence of the alliterative Helen Hunter. Under Vaughan Williams's tutelage and Gordon Jacob's guidance she orchestrated Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, "after" Ravel.

Helen Glatz became the first woman composer to be awarded the RCM Albert Medal for Composition, for outstanding contribution to composition, and a travelling scholarship to Hungary in the 1930s, ostensibly to study with Kodly, although she spent more of her time studying with the composer Sndor Vegh; he was a great influence on her, as was the rhythmic quality of Hungarian folk music. In Hungary she also met her future husband, Dr Wolf Glatz, a brilliant linguist.

She knew hard times in Hungary and for two years lived in cellars, away from the fighting on the streets, and spent almost another year trying to secure a passage out of the country for her husband.

Together they came to live in south Devon in 1949, where she took a post at St Timothy's School in Dawlish. She also accepted an invitation to join the staff of Dartington College of Arts in Totnes. There Glatz worked closely with Imogen Holst and later with Nigel Amherst on the preparatory course and with Sir William Glock at the Summer School.

Imogen Holst wrote of Helen Glatz, "She is a first-rate accompanist, a really superb sight-reader", but her instinctive gift for improvisation and her rhythmic acuity also made her a natural choice as a ballet rehearsal pianist for Marie Rambert.

With her innate rhythmic sense, it is not surprising that Glatz should be drawn towards percussion instruments and she had the good fortune to study with the most famous percussion player this century, James Blades, at Dartington. It was to her that Blades gave his precious side-drum, which she treasured. She took part in early performances of Walton's Belshazzar's Feast and was to add percussion to her already extensive list of teaching specialities.

She taught generations of college students; Rosamund Strode, who was Benjamin Britten's amanuensis after Imogen Holst, the jazz saxophonist Lindsay Cooper and the organist John Wellingham among many others. Helen Glatz received a Dartington 20-year service award in 1972 and an honorary fellowship of the college in 1995.

She could hear perfect rhythm in nature and in Shakespeare verse. "Rhythm has made my life", she said, and later recalled that, on her arrival in Hungary, a professor at the Liszt Academy in Budapest exclaimed: "You can't possibly be English, they have no sense of rhythm whatsoever".

Helen Sinclair Hunter, composer and teacher: born 13 March 1908; married Wolf Glatz (one son); died Totnes, Devon 15 June 1996.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum