ⓘ George Butterworth was an English composer. He showed great talent as a young man and might have become one of England’s greatest composers if he had lived long ..

George Butterworth

ⓘ George Butterworth

George Butterworth was an English composer. He showed great talent as a young man and might have become one of England’s greatest composers if he had lived longer. He was killed while fighting in World War I. He is best known for a group of songs which are settings of poems by A. E. Housman.


1. Early years

Butterworth was born in London. His father was a solicitor who later became the general manager of the North Eastern Railway. The family moved to Yorkshire soon after George’s birth. He had his first music lessons from his mother, who was a singer, He soon started to compose music. His father wanted him to be a solicitor and so he sent his son to Eton College. From there he went to Trinity College, Oxford. At Oxford he became more and more involved with music, especially after he met the folk song collector Cecil Sharp and composer and folk song enthusiast Ralph Vaughan Williams. Butterworth and Vaughan Williams made several trips into the English countryside to collect folk songs. Both of them were influenced by English folk songs when they were composing. Butterworth was also a very good folk dancer. He was particularly fond of Morris dancing.

Vaughan Williams and Butterworth became close friends. It was Butterworth who said to Vaughan Williams that it would be a good idea to turn the symphonic poem he was working on into his London Symphony. When the manuscript for that piece was lost in the post Butterworth and two other musicians helped Vaughan Williams to write it out again. Vaughan Williams dedicated the piece to Butterworths memory after his death. When he left Oxford, Butterworth became a music critic for The Times as well as composing and teaching at Radley College, Oxfordshire. He also studied at the Royal College of Music for a short time, working with people such as Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford.


2. First World War

Although Butterworth had lots of work he often felt that his life had no purpose. When World War I broke out, Butterworth felt that he could be useful so he joined the British Army. He was killed by a sniper in 1916 at Pozieres leading a raid during the Battle of the Somme. His body was not found, and his name appears on the Thiepval memorial, near the site of the Somme. He was awarded the Military Cross, and a trench was named after him.


3. A Shropshire Lad

Butterworth did not write a great deal of music, and during the war he destroyed many of his compositions that he thought were not good enough. Of those that survive, his works based on A. E. Housmans collection of poems A Shropshire Lad are the best known. Many English composers of Butterworths time set Housmans poetry, including Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Butterworth wrote two song cycles on Housmans poems. They include some of the best-loved English songs of the 20th century, especially Is My Team Ploughing? and Loveliest of Trees. He used this last song as the basis for his 1912 orchestral rhapsody, also called A Shropshire Lad. It is full of soft, tender music as well as passion.

  • officer George Butterworth classical music composer Joe Cole, professional footballer Joan Collins, actress Elvis Costello, pop musician George Thomas
  • Penang is George Town. by the Strait of Malacca. A resident of Penang is known as a Penangite. It has two parts Penang Island and Butterworth on the mainland
  • guitarist and lutenist Benjamin Britten 1913 - 1976 composer George Butterworth 1885 - 1916 composer Samuel Coleridge - Taylor 1875 - 1912 composer
  • Samuel Coleridge - Taylor, Rutland Boughton, John Ireland, Frank Bridge, George Butterworth Arthur Bliss, Herbert Howells, Arthur Benjamin and Ernest J. Moeran
  • 1935, In Praise of Idleness, London: George Allen & Unwin. 1935, Religion and Science, London: Thornton Butterworth 1936, Which Way to Peace? , London:
  • also inspired by English folkmusic, i.e. Ralph Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth Roger Quilter and Gerald Finzi. Frederick Delius wrote Romantic music
  • American director 1976 Michael Ballack, German footballer 1976 Dean Butterworth English - American drummer Good Charlotte 1976 Tyler Denk, American