Arthur Butterworth


In August 1998 Arthur Butterworth celebrated his 75th birthday and has recently completed his 100th opus, a string quartet. It is the first time he has chosen to confront himself with this challenging genre which is rather surprising when we consider the wide range and depth of his creative output. One would like to think that the musical world will be eagerly awaiting the completion of this new work which will undoubtedly underline a new facet of his inspiration. Unfortunately, despite all that he has achieved, Arthur Butterworth is little known outside his native North of England (since strictly speaking he is a Lancastrian) except in the rather confined world of the brass band for which he has provided effective music that has been widely played. His extensive output of orchestral scores, which includes four symphonies, several concertos and other large-scale works, ensemble music of great variety and some very telling vocal and choral pieces has all been highly praised in its time but little has established itself in the regular repertory.

It is a fate that has befallen many composers, of course, but for Arthur Butterworth one problem has been that virtually nothing of his has ever been commercially recorded. At one time this was never considered to be very important but today recordings can make all the difference between a composer who becomes well known and one who remains in relative obscurity. Recordings are disseminated throughout the world and they also become the easy option for broadcasting organisations, not least the BBC. Once on record the music starts to be heard by ever-widening audiences and if they like what they hear they demand more and the snowball effect gathers pace. No composer is more deserving of this recognition than Arthur Butterworth, who was appointed MBE in 1995.