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James G. Speaight, the forgotten child prodigy remembered - and his brother Joseph Speaight, the composer


Many warm greetings and thanks to Sebastian Pryke who, in a reponse to one of my previous posts, revealed himself to be the great-great grandnephew of child prodigy James G. Speaight. Sebastian and his brother Jonathan Pryke are apparently the great-great grandsons of James's brother Joseph Speaight (1868-1947) who was a British pianist, composer, and taught at Trinity College. According to Baker's biographical dictionary of musicians (7th edition), Joseph composed three symphonies, a piano concerto, and other works such as songs.

The British Library catalog lists quite a number of songs and small works by Joseph Speaight. Sebastian mentioned Joseph's unpublished orchestral work, "Vita Brevis," apparently written to commemorates the composer's younger brother. The newspaper article which was affixed to the manuscript is from the Boston Globe. Here in the Music Division of The New York Public Library I could locate only one score, his string quartet entitled "Some Shakespeare Fairy Characters," published in 1916.

Coincidentally, the only recording of music by Joseph Speaight that I could locate was of the second movement of this quartet. Entitled "The Lonely Shepherd," it was recorded ca. 1927-1929 by the Spencer Dyke String Quartet as a filler side to their recording of Dvorak's Quintet in A major, Op. 81, for the privately financed and short-lived National Gramophonic Society. Let's hope that an enterprising company like Naxos will someday record a CD filled with the music of Joseph Speaight.


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Joseph Speaight

Speaight "Lonely Shepard" was performed by the Catterall Quartet at the Rodewald |Concert Society on 16 Feb 1920. Liverpool Record Office 780RCS/1/1/1.

Joseph Speaight

You may like to know that I have been in contact with Sebastian Pryke and the family is now searching for Joseph's music MSS. A number of orchestral tone poems and suites have been unearthed, and will be scanned in due course. Unfortunately, there is no sign yet of his 2 symphonies or Piano Concerto, nor the piano quintets and quartets which are mentioned by Josef Holbrooke in his chapter on Speaight in "Contemporary British Composers" (London: Cecil Palmer, 1925). If you come across any information regarding the whereabouts of his MSS, I and the family would be most grateful to learn of it. Gareth Vaughan 2, The Glove Factory Rintinhull Yeovil Somerset BA22 8SL U.K.

Joseph Speaight on record

Hello, Thank you for your post about Joseph Speaight. Although I am writing a (very overdue) PhD on the National Gramophonic Society, I didn't know his death date until I came across this post (nor did I know about James). He has a useful entry in Cobbett's Cyclopedic Survey, Vol.II. The N.G.S. side you mention was recorded, by my reckoning, around June 1927 and issued in July 1927. As it happens, the piece had previously been recorded, probably in early 1916, by the London String Quartet, and issued in Britain on one side of Columbia L 1029 in April 1916. It was deleted the very month the N.G.S. version came out. As I am concentrating on chamber music, I have not searched for other contemporary records of Speaight's music. I doubt there were any - but you never know! Best wishes, Nick P.S. I love the NYPL!

National Gramophonic Society

Hi there Nick Morgan - that sounds like a fascinating and worthy project. The National Gramophonic Society recorded a lot of interesting works (in addition to Speaight's "Lonely Shepherd"). I hope as a result of your efforts, some enterprising company will want to release many of the recordings (I think they must be public domain in Great Britain by now) - perhaps you can drum up support as a result of your work (start your proposals for delivering papers at various music society meetings). Good luck, and many thanks for your note!

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