Noel Mewton-Wood

the pianist, who took an overdose in 1953, aged 31

The London Evening News reported Noel Mewton-Wood�s suicide on 11 December 1953.
He blamed himself for the death of a "very dear friend", William Fedrick, with whom he lived.

This newspaper cutting is in the Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive, at Middlesex University, London.

The Australian painist, Noel Mewton-Wood had an enormous repertoire ranging from Weber to Stravinsky. He had a particular interest in Feruccio Busoni's music and performed the five-movement piano concerto on three occasions - twice under Beecham (see below). Arthur Bliss�s Sonata for Piano was composed for Noel Mewton-Wood in 1952.

Bryce Morrison writes:
"Noel Mewton-Wood�s (1922-53) journey from underestimated virtuoso to present-day icon is cause for both celebration and irony. Glowing testimonials to his �genius� (Sir Malcolm Sargent) from Myra Hess, Beecham, Schnabel, Bliss, Hindemith and Britten were countered by indifference from the major record labels and concert managements, a situation that doubtless contributed to his suicide at the age of 31. Behind an ebullient surface, Mewton-Wood was a romantic idealist, susceptible to depression and mood-swings. So it is hardly surprising to find the dichotomy reflected in performances which alternate a luminous poetic delicacy with a rare energy and bravura."
[Gramophone, November 2003]

Arthur Bliss composed an Elegiac Sonnet for tenor and piano quintet, with words set by Cecil Day Lewis in memory of Noel Mewton-Wood after the latter's suicide. It was first performed by Peter Pears, Benjamin Britten and the Zorian Quartet in December 1954. (See also Hyperion CD CDA67188/9).

There was a Noel Mewton-Wood Memorial Concert at the Wigmore Hall in London on 28 January 1955, with Peter Pears (tenor) and Benjamin Britten (piano).

Mewton-Wood recordings available on CD

Noel Mewton-Wood

  1. Australian Heritage's 3-CD tribute album, "Noel Mewton-Wood: The Legendary Recordings" (ABC 461 900-2)
  2. Tippett's cantata, Boyhood's End and his song-cycle, The Heart's Assurance - Peter Pears is accompanied in this 1952 recording by Noel Mewton-Wood. (EMI Classics: 5851502)
  3. Feruccio Busoni's Piano Concerto (op. 39), performed by Noel Mewton-Wood, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham - a live BBC broadcast dating from 1948 (Somm Recordings: SOMM-BEECHAM 15)
  4. Weber/Chopin recital (Pearl Piano Masters 727031003120)
  5. Chopin Piano Concertos (Dante HPC105)
  6. Beethoven and Schumann Piano Concertos, recorded 1947-49 (Dante HPC106)
  7. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concertos, recorded 1952 (Dante HPC 164/5)
  8. "Mewton-Wood plays Twentieth Century Piano Concertos", ie
    Arthur Bliss: Concerto for piano and orchestra in B flat major;
    Stravinsky: Concerto for piano and wind instruments;
    Shostakovich: Concerto for piano, trumpet and strings, recorded in 1952-53. The Shostakovich was Mewton-Wood's last commercial recording. (British Music Society: BMS 101 CDH)