Macfarren, George Alexander
b Westminster, London (Middx) 1813, d St John’s Wood, London (Middx) 1887. He studied music under his father, the theatrical manager and dance instructor George McF senr, then with Charles Lucas and (at the RAM in 1829) with Cipriani Potter. His first major work, a symphony, was performed when he was 17; he taught on the Isle of Man (1836–37) before returning to RAM as Prof of Harmony and Composition. After 30 years as Conductor at Covent Garden 1845–75, in a third spell at the Academy from 1875 to 1887 he was its Principal. BMus, DMus Cambridge, and Prof there, also receiving hon degrees from Oxford and Durham. In 1844 he co-founded the Handel Soc. By his contributions to concert hall, theatre, operatic and church music including oratorios (St John the Baptist, 1873), he became one of the most prolific 19th-c composers; he persevered with the symphony form when it was not popular, and wrote textbooks of music theory, continuing his teaching, composing and writing in spite of his growing blindness which by 1860 had become total. Although he admired Mozart above Beethoven, his own work is more like the latter’s. His memory was phenomenal and his dogmatism proverbial; in spite or because of this, he excelled in his work for and with massed choirs. He was knighted in 1883. No.237.