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Buxton Orr

April 18, 1924 - December 27, 1997
born in Glasgow, Scotland, composed during the Contemporary period
Buxton Daeblitz Orr was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1924. His family, of Scottish and German descent, included artists on both sides, most notably his maternal grandfather Richard Daeblitz, a violinist who had played under such luminaries as Richard Strauss, Arthur Nikisch, and Hans Richter. A music career might have seemed a natural choice for Orr, but first he had to get past the expectations and lure of a career in medicine that occupied him until he was nearly 30. At the outset of the 1950s, Orr was able to turn his attention to music. He found a mentor in Benjamin Frankel; 18 years Orr's senior, Frankel was a sympathetic mentor and composition teacher, and he led his protégé into an exceptionally accessible brand of twelve-tone composition that followed his own stylistic transformation in the late '50s. The two got along so well that Orr became Frankel's assistant and collaborator in the latter's work on various film scores, even as Orr continued his training in conducting with Aylmer Buesst. Orr's own career as a film composer began in the mid-'50s and was principally concentrated in horror films. By 1957, he'd ascended to the top of that field through his work on the highly regarded chiller Fiend Without a Face, distributed by MGM, the score of which had the complexity of a modern symphonic work and imparted to the film a serious and at times almost majestic profundity. Two years later, Orr was selected to work on the scoring of the high-profile mainstream dramatic film Suddenly Last Summer. His first major success in serious music was The Wager (1961), a one-act opera that received its premiere at Sadler's Wells courtesy of the New Opera Company. His other major musical successes included The Unicorn (1981), The Last Circus (1984), and Ring in the New (1986), the latter winning the Seagram's Prize from the America National Theater Network. He wrote several song cycles, including The Echoing Green (1961) and The Knight and the Lady (1978). His orchestral compositions include the Fanfare and Processional for strings (1968), A John Gay Suite for symphonic wind band (1972), and the Carmen Fantasy for cello (1987). From 1965 through 1990, he taught at the Guildhall School of Music, and among the highlights of his work there was his founding of the Guildhall New Music Ensemble in 1975. Orr also spent the years 1970-1980 as conductor of the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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