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Norman O'Neill

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Norman Houston O'Neill (14 March 1875 – 3 March 1934) was an English composer and conductor of Irish background who specialised largely in works for the theatre.
O'Neill was born at 16 Young Street in Kensington, London, the youngest son of the Irish painter George Bernard O'Neill and Emma Stuart Callcott. He studied in London with Arthur Somervell and with Iwan Knorr at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt from 1893 to 1897. His studies there were facilitated by Eric Stenbock. He belonged to the Frankfurt Group, a circle of composers who studied at Hoch's Conservatory in the late 1890s.
He married Adine Berthe Maria Ruckert (29 July 1875 – 17 February 1947) on 2 July 1899 in Paris. Adine was a celebrated pianist (a pupil of Clara Schumann) and music teacher in her own right - she later became head music mistress at St Paul's Girls’ School in Hammersmith.
O'Neill was treasurer of the Royal Philharmonic Society from 1918 until his death and taught harmony and composition at the Royal Academy of Music. A very sociable man, he was a member of the Savage Club, where he liked to meet musical colleagues. He and Adine frequently hosted fellow composers and musicians at their house, 4 Pembroke Villas in Kensington, including Frederick Delius, Theodore Holland, Gustav Holst, Ernest Irving, Percy Grainger and Cyril Scott.
On 12 February 1934 O'Neill was walking East on Oxford Street on his way to Broadcasting House for a recording session. As a crossed Holles Street he was struck by a carrier tricycle. As a result he developed blood poisoning and died on 3 March. He was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium, London, as was his wife in 1947. There is a plaque there in memory to both of them.
O'Neill was associated with the Haymarket Theatre. His works for the stage include over fifty sets of incidental music for plays, including many by Shakespeare (Hamlet, King Lear, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Henry V and Measure for Measure), J. M. Barrie (A Kiss for Cinderella and Mary Rose), and Maurice Maeterlinck (The Blue Bird). Mary Rose, perhaps his best received theatre score, first opened in London at the Haymarket on 22 April 1920, continuing until 26 February 1921, with Fay Compton as Mary Rose, a role which was written for her by Barrie. Ernest Irving, who deputised as conductor for O'Neill on many occasions, compared a performance of Mary Rose without his music to "a dance by a fairy with a wooden leg." The play was revived (with many of the same cast still in place) in 1926.
In 1910, O'Neill became the first British composer to conduct his own orchestral music on record, directing the Columbia Graphophone Company's house ensemble, the "Court Symphony Orchestra", in a suite taken from his Blue Bird music on two double-sided gramophone discs. He received personal congratulations from Sir Edward Elgar on his music for the innovative central ballet sequence of the 1924 revue The Punch Bowl, which ran for over a year with O'Neill's contribution being widely singled out for praise in press coverage.
O'Neill's works also include a number of symphonic suites, chamber and instrumental music, most of it written pre-war, before his theatre music career took off. There are two piano trios, Op. 9 (1900) and the single movement Op. 32 (1909), and the Piano Quintet in E minor, Op. 10. Adine O'Neill, who frequently gave first performances of her husband's piano compositions, performed the Quintet for the first time at the Steinway Hall on 16 February 1903. Solo piano works such as the Four Songs without Words and the four-movement suite In the Branches are still occasionally heard. The Deux Petites pièces, Op. 27 were recorded in 2019 by Richard Masters.
Concert works
Music for the stage