Lawrance Collingwood

Lawrance Collingwood


• 1887 1982


Considered among the most reliable of second-tier conductors, Lawrance Collingwood was a house conductor for His Master's Voice over the course of nearly a half century. Recordings with numerous major singers represent a major part of Collingwood's legacy. Training as a composer and in-the-opera house experience qualified him to work with a variety of artists, some of whom were noted for their out-sized temperaments.

After receiving his first musical training as a child chorister at London's Westminster Abbey, Collingwood traveled to St. Petersburg where he worked as an assistant conductor with another Englishman, Albert Coates, and composed music, some of which was published in Russia. When the 1917 Revolution forced his return to England, Collingwood worked mainly as a composer, sparked by the success accorded a symphonic tone poem whose publication was facilitated by the Royal College of Music.

As his Russian opera house experience became known, an invitation was extended for his assumption of several productions at the Old Vic Theatre. In 1922, he had begun to record for HMV and he was to remain active with that company until 1971. Thus, by the time Sadler's Wells began as an opera theater in 1931, Collingwood was first choice for principal conductor. As in the recording studio, his thoroughness and patience served the cause of pulling together solid performances; without question, his steady hand did much to establish the company as a viable alternative to Covent Garden. Likewise, his knowledge of voices helped the company develop an ensemble worthy of the name. Collingwood's own opera, Macbeth, first heard in a 1927 concert performance at Queen's Hall, was given a full production by Sadler's Wells in 1934 with the composer conducting. Although Collingwood retired from Sadler's Wells in 1946, he continued to serve as a consultant. In 1950, the same year in which he was made a CBE, his second opera, The Death of Tintagiles, was presented in a concert performance.

In the studio, Collingwood conducted for such celebrities as Feodor Chaliapin, Edwin Fischer, Friedrich Schorr, Elisabeth Schumann, and Lauritz Melchior, presiding over some of their most famous recordings. He also conducted on recordings of important British singers, Elsie Suddaby, Walter Widdop, Norman Walker, and Joan Hammond among them.