BAINTON, EDGAR LESLIE (1880-1956), musician, was born on 14 February 1880 at
Hackney, London, son of Rev. George Bainton, Congregational minister, and his wife
Mary, née Cave. He was educated at King Henry VIII School at Coventry, where his
musical gifts became apparent. At 9 he played in his first concert and in 1896 won
an open scholarship to the Royal College of Music, London, where his teachers
included (Sir) Charles Stanford and Franklin Taylor; he was awarded the Tagore
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Australian Dictionary of Biography
Composer, pianist and conductor, born in England, who emigrated to Australia 1934.
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Edgar Bainton was the third Director of the NSW State Conservatorium of Music, succeeding W. Arundel Orchard in 1934, which role he held until the arrival of Sir Eugene Goossens in 1946. He represented an English culture which emphasised a relationship between music and academic learning.
Bainton trained in the late 1890s at the Royal College of Music, London, where his teachers included Stanford, Walford Davies and Charles Wood. His thirty three year association with the Conservatoire of Music at Newcastle upon Tyne began in 1901, first as professor of piano and composition, and then twenty years as principal. On a visit to the Bayreuth festival in 1914, Bainton was interned at Ruhleben camp for the duration of the First World War. Whilst interned, he organised a madrigal society, conducted an orchestra, lectured on music, and composed. He returned to Newcastle upon Tyne at the end of the war. His prolific compositional output in England included solo piano pieces, instrumental sonatas, and part-songs, many of which were published. His anthem And I Saw a New Heaven (1928) has remained a favourite in the church choir repertoire.
In Australia, Bainton refocussed the Conservatorium's prior emphasis on orchestral music by forming an opera school, creating classes for military bands, re-establishing tours to country centres, and increasing the number of students. He conducted a short concert series soon after his arrival with an orchestra comprising ABC studio musicians and Conservatorium students. His annual Easter performances of Bach's St Matthew Passion in Sydney were very popular. He conducted premieres of a number of his own compositions, including his Symphony in D Minor in 1942, his opera, The Pearl Tree, based on a Hindu legend, in 1944, and his An English Idyll in 1946. His conducting and interpretation were never regarded as innovative. After his retirement he toured Canada and New Zealand but remained an Australian resident, and completed his Symphony in C minor in 1954.