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Ruth Gipps

1921 - 1999

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Gipps was born in Bexhill-on-Sea, England in 1921 to (Gerard Cardew) Bryan Gipps (1877–1956), a businessman, English teacher in Germany, and later an official at the Board of Trade who was a trained violinist from a military family, and Hélène Bettina (née Johner), a piano teacher from Basel, Switzerland. They married in 1907, having met at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, where Hélène had trained and went on to teach, and where Bryan had gone against his family's wishes to study the violin.

Ruth Gipps had two elder siblings, Ernest (1910-2001), a violinist, and Laura (1908–1962), also a musician. The Gipps family had Kent roots, descending from the eighteenth-century apothecary, hop merchant, banker, and politician George Gipps; Sir George Gipps, Governor of New South Wales from 1838 to 1846, was a relative. At his marriage, Bryan Gipps had started a small business to allow his wife to focus on her music; after a few years, the business failed, and they moved to Germany, where he taught English. When they relocated to Bexhill-on-Sea at the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the family was in the then unusual position of a middle-class household's mother being the main provider, which along with Hélène's idiosyncrasies attracted some attention. The family home was the Bexhill School of Music, of which Hélène was principal. Eventually becoming an official at the Board of Trade, her father was also the senior heir, via his mother, Louisa Goulburn Thomas, to the Carmarthenshire and Kent property of Richard Thomas, of Hollingbourne, near Maidstone, Kent, and of Cystanog, High Sheriff of Carmarthenshire in 1788.

Ruth was a child prodigy, winning performance competitions in which she was considerably younger than the rest of the field. After she performed her first composition at the age of 8 in one of the many music festivals she entered, the work was bought by a publishing house for a guinea and a half. Winning a concerto competition with the Hastings Municipal Orchestra began her performance career in earnest.

In 1937, she entered the Royal College of Music, where she studied oboe with Léon Goossens, piano with Arthur Alexander and composition with Gordon Jacob, and later with Ralph Vaughan Williams. Several of her works were first performed there. Continuing her studies at Durham University led her to meet her future husband, clarinettist Robert Baker. At age 26, for her work The Cat she became the youngest British woman to receive a doctorate in music.

She was an accomplished all-round musician, as a soloist on both oboe and piano as well as a prolific composer. Her repertoire included works such as Arthur Bliss's Piano Concerto and Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande. When she was 33 a shoulder injury ended her performance career, and she decided to focus her energies on conducting and composition.

An early success came when Sir Henry Wood conducted her tone poem Knight in Armour at the Last Night of the Proms in 1942. Gipps's music is marked by a skillful use of instrumental colour and often shows the influence of Vaughan Williams, rejecting the trends in avant-garde modern music such as serialism and twelve-tone music. She considered her orchestral works, her five symphonies in particular, as her greatest works. She also produced two substantial piano concertos. After the war Gipps turned her attention to chamber music, and in 1956 she won the Cobbett Prize of the Society of Women Musicians for her Clarinet Sonata, Op. 45. In March 1945, she performed Glazunov's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the City of Birmingham Orchestra as a piano soloist while also, in the same program, performing in her own Symphony No. 1 on cor anglais under the baton of George Weldon.

Her early career was affected strongly by discrimination against women in the male-dominated ranks of music (and particularly composition), by professors and judges as well as the world of music criticism. Because of it she developed a tough personality that many found off-putting, and a fierce determination to prove herself through her work.

She founded the London Repertoire Orchestra in 1955 as an opportunity for young professional musicians to become exposed to a wide range of music. In 1957, she conducted the Pro Arte Orchestra. She later founded the Chanticleer Orchestra in 1961, a professional ensemble which included a work by a living composer in each of its programs, often a premiere performance. Among these was the first London performance in September 1972 of the Cello Concerto by Sir Arthur Bliss in which the cellist Julian Lloyd Webber made his professional debut at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Later she would take faculty posts at Trinity College London (1959 to 1966), the Royal College of Music (1967 to 1977), and then Kingston Polytechnic at Gypsy Hill. In 1967 she was appointed chairwoman of the Composers' Guild of Great Britain.

Biography taken from Wikipedia.

A Wealden Suite, op. 76 | 1991

Eb Clarinet, Bb Clarinet , A Clarinet And Bass Clarinet

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Concerto | 1940 | 18 mins

Clarinet And Orchestra

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Elephant God, op. 12e | 1940

Clarinet And Percussion

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Octet, op. 65 | 1983 | 10 mins

2 Oboes, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns

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Prelude, op. 51 | 1958 | 6 mins

Solo Bass Clarinet (Or Bb Clarinet)

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Quintet, op. 16 | 1941 | 27 mins

Oboe, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello

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Rhapsody in Eb, op. 23 | 1942 | 11 mins

Clarinet, 2 Violins, Viola, Cello

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Seascape, op. 53 | 1958 | 7 mins

2 Flutes, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns

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Sonata, op. 45 | 1955 | 20 mins

Clarinet And Piano

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The Kelpie Of Corrievreckan Op. 5b | 1939 | 4 mins

Clarinet And Piano

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Trio for oboe, clarinet and piano, op. 10 | 1940 | 21 mins

Oboe, Clarinet And Piano

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Wind Sinfonietta op. 73 | 1989 | 18 mins

2 Flutes, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 2 Clarinets, 2 Bassoons, 2 Horns, Tam-Tam

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