Thomas, Arthur Goring



English dramatic composer, who ranks with Sullivan, Cowen and Sir Alexander Mackenzie; was born at Ratton, near Eastborne, Surrey. He went to Haileybury School and picked up some knowledge of piano-playing from his sister's teacher, and in 1871 studied thorough-bass with Dr. Buch, then precentor of Norwich Cathedral. It was his father's wish that he enter the Civil service, and with this end in view he studied so hard that his health completely gave out and he was sent to Madeira to recover. While there he took piano lessons of Dr. Sattler, with the result that he decided to become a musician. In 1875 he went to Paris and for two years studied composition and theory with fimile Durand, and profited by the friendship of Pauline Viardot, Tschaikowsky, Gounod and Massenet, being so strongly influenced by the latter two masters that traces of their ideas may be seen in all his writings. He has been accused of composing more like a Frenchman than an Englishman. Returning to England he entered the Royal Academy of Music and studied under Arthur Sullivan and Ebenezer Prout, winning the Charles Lucas composition prize in 1879 and 1880. Through Albert Randegger, conductor of the Norwich Festival, he obtained his first commission, and wrote The Sun Worshipers, a cantata which was given at the festival in 1881, and immediately placed its composer favorably before the public. This and The Light of the Harem, an opera from which selections were given at a concert of the Royal Academy during his second year of study there, led to his next commission. It was for an opera, Esmeralda, written to a libretto by Randegger and Marzials, and produced by the Carl Rosa Company at Drury Lane in 1883. This was very successful. In 1885 appeared Nadeshda, composed to a libretto by Julian Sturgis. This work contains some fine music, especially the unusual ballet music written  on a Russian motif. His last dramatic composition was a light opera, entitled The Golden Web, which though unfinished at his death, was produced at the Lyric Theatre in London in the spring of 1893. Another posthumous work was the Swan and the Skylark, which was orchestrated by Sir C. Villiers Stanford, and was given at the Birmingham Festival in 1894. Beside these dramatic compositions Thomas wrote a number of delightful songs, among the best known being A Summer Night; The First Rose; Winds in the Trees; Spring is not Dead; Serenade; Hope; and Chanson d'Avril. That the list of  Thomas' compositions is not longer is due to his early tragic death. In the autumn of 1891 he had a severe fall which affected his mind, and on March 20, 1892, he committed suicide by throwing himself under a train. Thomas' writings were full of Eromise, strong in individuality and nil of poetic and dramatic feeling. He had the rare power of truly portraying the different characteristics of the dramatis persona? of his operas. This and his fine dramatic feeling made his music what it is. He is often spoken of as French  in his ideas and modes of expression and having been unduly influenced by Massenet and other French composers, and this charge he himself acknowledged. He was never able to shake off the force of early impressions and training. As a man Thomas was quiet and modest and possessed of a most gentle and lovable disposition, an exceedingly sensitive nature. Had he lived he would have added much that was worthy to British music.