Wood, Hugh (1932--) By Edward, Venn
Hugh Wood is one of the leading British composers of his generation. In his contributions to all of the major musical genres (with the sole exception of opera), he has focused on the renewal rather than the rejection of tradition. He has taught at Morley College and the Royal Academy of Music, and at Glasgow and Liverpool Universities, and he joined the Music faculty of Cambridge University in 1976. A year later, he was appointed lecturer in Music and Fellow of Churchill College; he retired in 1999.
Hugh Wood was born in 1932 into a music-loving family and, though he ultimately studied Modern History at Oxford, music remained central to his extra-curricular activities both at school and at university. Formal music study commenced in 1954 with lessons from William Lloyd Webber; later, Wood studied with Iain Hamilton, Anthony Milner, and Mátyás Seiber. The Bryanston (later Dartington) Summer School provided numerous opportunities to engage with early- and mid-twentieth century music: above all, the experience of hearing the music of the Second Viennese School proved pivotal. Wood first responded to this encounter in chamber works written in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and labelled his Variations for viola and piano (1957–58) his Op. 1 in recognition that he had discovered his own voice. The presence in this work of a quotation from Beethoven is significant, revealing the extent to which his engagement with twentieth-century modernism was informed by broader musical traditions.