Ian Venables

“… Britain’s greatest living composer of art songs…” Musical Opinion.

Ian Venables was born in 1955 and educated at Liverpool Collegiate Grammar School. He studied music with Professor Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with John Joubert, Andrew Downes and John Mayer at the Birmingham Conservatoire. His compositions encompass many genres, and he has added significantly to the canon of English art song. Described as “…a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney…” (BBC Music Magazine) and “…one of the finest song composers of his generation…” (BMS Newsletter), he has written over 60 works in this genre, which includes seven song-cycles, Venetian Songs – Love’s Voice Op.22 (1995); Invite to Eternity Op.31 (1997) for tenor and string quartet; Songs of Eternity and Sorrow Op.36 (2004) for tenor, string quartet and piano; On the Wings of Love Op.38 (2006) for tenor, clarinet and piano; The Pine Boughs Past Music Op.39 (2009) for baritone and piano; Remember This Op.40 (2011) a Cantata for soprano, tenor, string quartet, and piano (recently orchestrated) and The Song of The Severn Op.43 (2013) for baritone, string quartet and piano. Other songs for solo voice and piano include, Two Songs Op.28 (1997) and Six Songs Op.33 (2003) as well as a dramatic scena At the court of the poisoned rose Op. 20 (1994). His many chamber works include a Piano Quintet Op.27 (1995) – described by Roderic Dunnett in the Independent as ‘… lending a new late 20th Century dimension to the English pastoral…’, a String Quartet Op.32 (1998) and more recently a Canzonetta Op.44 for clarinet and string quartet (2013). He has also written works for choir – Awake, awake, the world is young Op.34 – organ – Rhapsody Op.25 (1996), brass and solo piano.

He is an acknowledged expert on the 19th-century poet and literary critic John Addington Symonds, and apart from having set five of his poems for voice and piano, he has contributed a significant essay to the book John Addington Symonds – Culture and the Demon Desire (Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000). He is President of The Arthur Bliss Society and Vice-President of the Gloucester Music Society. His continuing work on the music of Ivor Gurney has led to orchestrations of two of his songs (2003) – counterparts to the two that were orchestrated by Herbert Howells – and newly edited versions of Gurney’s War Elegy (1919) and A Gloucestershire Rhapsody (1921), with Dr Philip Lancaster. His music is published by Novello and Co Ltd and has been recorded on the Regent, Somm, Signum and Naxos labels.




  • Described as “one of the finest song composers of his generation”, Ian Venables’ music for voice and string quartet draws on a wealth of literary and musical sources, in particular from the 19th Century romantic tradition. Performances on this disc come from British tenor Andrew Kennedy and the award winning Dante Quartet. Stylish and graceful melodic invention, vividly realised in Andrew Kennedy's plangent tenor and the keenly judged playing of the Dantes - The Observer In his writing for strings, the instruments sing - one could almost fancy they had words written into their parts - Gramophone This is a distinguished and eloquent set of songs - MusicWeb International
  • Ian Venables’ reputation as ‘one of the finest song composers of his generation’ (BBC Music Magazine) finds voice in this disc of premiere recordings of two of his substantial song cycles. International baritone, Roderick Williams is joined by the Carducci String Quartet and pianist Graham J Lloyd in The Song of the Severn, a celebration of Venables’ home county of Worcestershire and The Pine Boughs Past Music, a poignant tribute to the poetic talents of Ivor Gurney. Other songs include those with solo piano and arrangements by Graham J Lloyd, for string quartet. Each work highlights Venables’ gift of being able to take poetry to a higher level of appreciation and at the same time create works of lasting beauty. Sharply memorable music of bewitching lyricism, idiomatic grace and rapt instinctGramophone
    The Carducci String Quartet [are] exemplary in their interpretationsBBC Music Magazine
  • Ian Venables studied composition with Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music, London and later with John Joubert, Andrew Downes and John Mayer at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. His works encompass many genres and he has added significantly to the canon of English art song. Described as ‘Britain’s greatest living composer of art song’ (Musical Opinion) and ‘a song composer as fine as Finzi and Gurney’ (BBC Music Magazine), Ian Venables has written over 80 works in this genre, including nine song-cycles. As the title suggests, the works on this disc are predominantly reflective in mood although this does not preclude the use of faster-moving music whenever the poetry requires it. Its subject matter celebrates the timelessness of love through the poetry of James Joyce, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas, John Clare, Robert Nichols and the modern poet Jennifer Andrews; the celebration and commemoration of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in Sir Andrew Motion’s remarkable narrative poem Remember This and the collective remembrance of those who died in the First World War: the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy and the less well-known Francis St. Vincent Morris providing the impetus for one of Ian Venables’ most dramatic and profoundly moving cycles.