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Constant Lambert

Constant Leonard Lambert was born in 1905 in London. He suffered from poor health as a child, and his father, the painter George Lambert, left for Australia when he was 15, never to be seen again. However his father did introduce Constant to the world of art and literature. He won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, and his teachers there included Ralph Vaughan-Williams, George Dyson (composition) and Malcolm Sargent (conducting).

Lambert became interested in Russian and French music and Jazz, and their influence can be heard in works such as Green Fire (1923) and Elegiac Blues (1927). His first ballet, Prize-Fight (1923-4) was strongly influenced by Satie and the French group of composers, including Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger known as Les Six. The young Lambert enjoyed a Bohemian lifestyle and counted amongst his friends such names as Philip Heseltine, Edith Sitwell, Charles Rickets, William Walton and Sergei Diaghilev.

Diaghilev commissioned the ballet Romeo and Juliet from Lambert and the Ballets Russes premiered it in Monte Carlo in August 1926. It was coolly received, but caused a riot when it was performed in Paris shortly after. This was quickly followed by Pomona (1926), written for Bronislava Nizhinska's company in Buenos Aires. The following year, Lambert wrote his most famous work, Rio Grande. Such was its popularity however, that some of his subsequent works in a less approachable style suffered from comparison and were less well received.

The later part of Lambert's life saw far fewer compositions. He was appointed conductor of the Carmago Society in 1930, and Music Director of the Vic-Wells Company in 1931. However, it is as conductor of The Royal Ballet and a music critic that Lambert is remembered today. His one extended work of music criticism, Music Ho! Was published in London in 1934. He also conducted at the Proms, with the Hallé Orchestra and operas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Two of his later works were both ballets, Horoscope (1937) and Tiresias (1951). Lambert died shortly after the premiere of Tiresias from undiagnosed Diabetes aggravated by his heavy drinking. He was only 46.

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