S. Wesley: Letters … to Mr Jacobs relating to the Introduction into this Country of the Works of John Sebastian Bach, ed. E. Wesley (London, 1875)
O.A. Mansfield: ‘J.S. Bach’s First English Apostles’, MQ, xxi (1935), 143–54
W.H. HUSK/CHRISTOPHER KENT
Jacob, Gordon (Percival Septimus)
(b London, 5 July 1895; d Saffron Walden, 8 June 1984). English composer, teacher and writer. He was educated at Dulwich College and, after active service in World War I, studied with Stanford, Howells, Boult and Vaughan Williams at the RCM. He was on the teaching staff there from 1924 until his retirement in 1966, and his pupils included Malcolm Arnold, Imogen Holst, Horovitz and Maconchy. He took the DMus (London) in 1935 and was awarded the John Collard Fellowship by the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1943. Subsequent honours included the FRCM (1946), honorary RAM (1947) and CBE (1968).
He wrote textbooks that reveal the extent and nature of his craftmanship. Orchestral Technique (London, 1931) was followed by How to Read a Score (London, 1944), The Composer and his Art (London, 1955) and The Elements of Orchestration (London, 1962). He undertook the editorship of the Penguin scores in 1948, and contributed to a number of works of reference and textbooks.
Jacob’s active career as composer spanned 60 years, during which time the character of his output faithfully reflected the changes in opportunity open to composers of a conservative idiom. Early Prom performances were succeeded by increasing orchestral and choral commissions, and in the 1950s he was a respected figure, providing music for the Festival of Britain (1951) and for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II (1953). In common with other more traditional composers of the time his music went into eclipse with the rise of the avant garde in the 1960s. However, he was able to find fresh outlets by writing for the new wind band movement (especially in the USA) and for amateur and school orchestras.
In the BBC TV documentary ‘Gordon Jacob’ (directed by Ken Russell, 1959) the composer said: ‘I personally feel that the day that melody is discarded, you may as well pack up music altogether’. His music shows the influence of the early 20th-century French and Russian rather than Teutonic schools, and is characterized by clarity of structure and instrumental writing that shows a keen awareness of the capabilities and limitations of every instrument.