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The transformation of Benjamin Frankel is one of the most remarkable phenomena of twentieth century music. He first came to the public notice between the wars as a jazz and club musician and composer of music for films and reviews of a predominantly flippant nature, yet long before his untimely death in February 1973 he was one of the most respected and admired of symphonists.
Benjamin Frankel was born in London in January 1906 and took up the violin at an early age, showing remarkable talent. He was apprenticed as a watchmaker until he managed to get to Germany for a few weeks in 1922 where he studied with Victor Benham. He continued his studies on his return to London, winning a Worshipful Company of Musicians Scholarship. It was at this time that Frankel made his first attempts at serious composition, subsidising himself by playing jazz fiddle and undertaking arrangements and orchestrations for reviews, for which he soon much in demand. Although he gave up theatre work in 1944, he maintained an interest in film composition for much of his life, writing scores for many well known films, including Battle of the Bulge (1965), The Importance of Being Ernest (1952), Night of the Iguana (1964), The Man in the White Suit (1951) and Curse of the Werewolf (1960), He came into prominence as a composer particularly of concert music after the war, when he enjoyed ever wider and more frequent performances, firstly of chamber works and later of his larger orchestral pieces.
Benjamin Frankel's reputation is based on the cycle of five string quartets and eight symphonies which, together with the powerfully beautiful concertos for violin,and for viola, rather overshadow many of his other fine pieces. The Violin Concerto grew from the composer's long and close association with Max Rostal, a friendship which also inspired one of Frankel's perhaps best known compositions, the First Sonata for Solo Violin.
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