Ian Venables was born in Liverpool in 1955 and was educated at Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School. He studied music with Professor Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with Andrew Downes, John Mayer and John Joubert at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire of Music. Since 1986 he has lived in Worcester.
His compositions encompass many genres, and in particular he has added significantly to the canon of English art song. Described as …’Britain’s greatest living composer of art songs…’ (Musical Opinion) and ‘…a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney…’ (BBC Music Magazine), he has written over 60 works in this genre, which includes eight song-cycles – Venetian Songs – Love’s Voice Op.22 (1995); Invite to Eternity Op.31 (1997) for tenor, string quartet; Songs of Eternity and Sorrow Op.36 (2004) for tenor, string quartet, piano; On the Wings of Love Op.38 (2006) for tenor, clarinet, piano; The Pine Boughs Past Music Op.39 (2010) for baritone and piano; Remember This Op.40 (2011) – Cantata for soprano, tenor, string quartet, piano, The Song of The Severn Op.43 (2012) for baritone, string quartet, piano and Canzonetta Op. 44 (2013) for Clarinet and String Quartet, Through These Pale Cold Days Op.46 (2016) for tenor, viola and piano. Other songs for solo voice and piano include, Two Songs Op.28 (1997) and Six Songs Op.33 (1999-2003) as well as ‘A Dramatic Scena’ for counter-tenor and piano – At the Court of the poisoned Rose Op. 20 (1994).
His songs and chamber music has been performed by national and internationally acclaimed artists that include: Andrew Kennedy, Patricia Rozario, Roderick Williams, Ian Partridge, Mary Bevan, Howard Wong, Nathan Vale, Daniel Norman, Mary Plazas, Michael Lampard, Brian Thorsett, Allan Clayton, Nicky Spence, Peter Savidge, Peter Wilman, Elizabeth Atherton, Nicholas Mulroy, Kevin McLean-Mair, Helen Massey, Keira Lyness, Susan Bickley, Susan Anne-Jenkins, Der-shin Hwang, Helen Meyerhoff, Sally Porter Munro, Caroline MacPhie, Benjamin Hulett, Geraldine McGreevy, Anando Mukerjee, Lucy Hall, Alessandro Fisher, Matteo Placidi, Kristian Sorensen, Nick Pritchard, Benjamin Appl, James Gilchrist, Ciara Hendrick, Duke Quartet, Chilingirian Quartet, Tippett Quartet, Goldfield Ensemble, Chamber Domaine, Cicardian Quartet, Dante Quartet, Elias Quartet, Sacconi Quartet, Benyounes Quartet, Barbirolli Quartet, Emerald Ensemble, Carducci Quartet, Cavaleri Quartet, Coull Quartet, Hollywell Ensemble, Divertimento, Goldfield Ensemble, Mark Bebbington, Iain Burnside, Patrick Hemmerle, Alan MacLean, Simon Crawford-Phillips, Pavel Timofeyevsky, Benjamin Frith, Graham.J Lloyd, Paul Plummer, Simon Lepper, William Vann, Susie Allan, Gary Matthewman, Richard Sisson, Michael Jones, Rhodri Clarke, Michael Pollock, Graham Fitch, Tom Poster, Matthew Shellhorn, Andrew West, Gavin Roberts, Christopher Gould, Michael Blackmore, Judith Carey, Scott Mitchell, Greg Kostraba, Alexander Roszhdesvensky, Nigel Clayton, Jennifer Partridge, Richard Hosford, Natalie Parker, Max Welford, Timothy Orpen, Matthew Scott, Richard Jenkinson, Nick Roberts, Roger Coull, Louise Williams, Ashok Klouda, Josiane Marfurt, Bernard Gregor-Smith, Robert Plane, Roger Coull, Michael Bochmann, Alexey Popov, Carol Hubel-Allen, Suzanne Bona, Adrian Lucas, Ian Tracey, John Wilderspin, Ashley Grote, Andrew Fletcher, Adrian Partington, Simon Vivian, Jonathan Hope, Daniel Phillips, David Bednall.
His many chamber works include a Piano Quintet Op.27 (1995) – described by Roderic Dunnett in the Independent as ‘…lending a new late 20th Century dimension to the English pastoral…’ and a String Quartet Op.32 (1998) as well as smaller pieces for solo instruments and piano. He has also written works for choir – Awake, awake, the world is young Op.34 (2000), Requiem Op.48 (2019) and organ – Rhapsody Op.25 (1996), brass and solo piano.
He is an acknowledged expert on the 19th century poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds, and apart from having set five of his poems for voice and piano, he has contributed a significant essay to the book John Addington Symonds – Culture and the Demon Desire (Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000). He is President of The Arthur Bliss Society, a Vice-President of the Gloucester Music Society, chairman of the Ivor Gurney Society. His continuing work on the music of Ivor Gurney has led to orchestrations of two of his songs (2003) – counterparts to the two that were orchestrated by Herbert Howells – and newly edited versions of Gurney’s War Elegy (1919) and A Gloucestershire Rhapsody (1921), with Dr Philip Lancaster. His music is broadcast regularly on BBC Radio 3, and he is a frequent guest on ‘In Tune’
Ian Venables’ music has been recorded on SOMM, SIGNUM, REGENT, NAXOS AND EM Records, and is published by Novello (Wise Music Group)
© Graham J. Lloyd