Leonard Salzedo

1921 - 2000

British

Biography

Leonard Salzedo was born in London in September 1921. He was descended from Sephardic Jews, expelled from Spain in 1492. He studied at the Royal College of Music, London. While still a student he won the Cobbett Prize for his First String Quartet and was commissioned to write his first ballet The Fugitive for the Ballet Rambert, the first of 17 ballet scores.

In 1946/ 47 he and his wife Pat Clover were members of the Ballet Nègres, a company formed by two Jamaican dancers and comprising mainly black dancers and musicians from the Caribbean, Africa and Britain. Salzedo wrote four ballets for the company.

From 1947 to 1950 he played in the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and then in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra from 1950 until 1966. Beecham premiered his First Symphony (1952).

His most successful ballet score The Witch Boy has had over 1,000 performances in thirty different countries, including a 1990s revival by the London City Ballet; and the most recent performance in 1997 at the Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires. The RPO under Beecham also premiered the concert suite from the Ballet which was later recorded with Salzedo conducting.

His most well-known piece is the Divertimento for Three Trumpets and Three Trombones (1959), whose opening fanfare was the theme for the Open University from the 1970s to the 1990s.

In 1967 for its 21st birthday celebrations the RPO commissioned Toccata, which was premiered at the Royal Festival Hall.

Salzedo was Musical Director of Ballet Rambert (now Rambert Dance Company) when the Company became a modern dance company, and wrote more ballet scores including The Travellers, The Realms of Choice and Hazard for Rambert.

In 1964 he joined the London Soloists Ensemble for whom he wrote Concerto Fervido, which they recorded.

In spite of continuous activities as a performer Salzedo wrote more than 160 compositions, including 10 String Quartets, two symphonies, 17 ballets, and many pieces for strings, brass, wind, percussion, voice, and combinations of these. He often called on his Spanish/ Jewish heritage for ideas and inspiration as reflected in the melodies, rhythms and titles of many of his works.

He died at home in Leighton Buzzard in May 2000, leaving behind a vast musically diverse legacy of works which bespeak a love of his craft and an insider’s knowledge of the orchestra and its instruments.