Alun Hoddinott Biography

Alun Hoddinott, a renowned composer, was deeply passionate about music from a young age. His talent and dedication led to his works gaining recognition while he was still a student. Known for his sensuality and dark undertones, Hoddinott’s music often found inspiration in nocturnal settings. In addition to his prolific composing career, he was also a remarkable teacher, nurturing young talents and providing them a platform through the Cardiff Festival of Twentieth Century Music. Hoddinott’s diverse body of work included operas, symphonies, and concertos, with over 300 individual compositions to his name. Even after his passing, his legacy lived on, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales honoring him by performing his final work, ‘Taliesin’, at the Swansea Festival of Music in 2009. To delve deeper into the life and works of this extraordinary composer, continue reading.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Hoddinott
  • Died At Age: 78
  • Welsh Men
  • Died on: March 12, 2008
  • Education: Cardiff University

Childhood & Early Life

Alun Hoddinott was born on 11th August 1929 in Glamorganshire County, Wales. His father was a teacher who worked in the town of Bargoed, located in the same county. When his father got offered a job in Pont-Iliw, the family moved there when Alun was still an infant.

The young lad developed a keen interest towards music since his childhood days. He even started learning to play the violin at the tender age of four. He started composing while pursuing his education at the ‘Gowerton Grammar School’.

After winning a scholarship, the youngster earned his ‘Bachelors in Arts’ degree from ‘University College’ located in Cardiff, in 1949. He then continued learning the nuances of music composition in London from Arthur Benjamin, the Australian composer.


Alun embarked on his musical career as a child, and in 1946 he co-founded the ‘National Youth Orchestra of Wales’, when he was only a teenager. While he was a student at ‘University College, Cardiff’, he composed a wide range of pieces, including symphonies for orchestra and cello concerts, quartets and songs for choirs.

Hoddinott began his teaching career as a lecturer in the ‘Cardiff College of Music and Drama’ in 1954.

In the 1954 ‘Cheltenham Festival’, Alun’s musical composition ‘Clarinet Concerto’ was first premiered. It was performed by musician Gervase de Peyer and the musical symphony ‘Halle Orchestra’ was conducted by Sir John Barbirolli. The premiere was a huge success and brought instant glory to Hoddinott.

After an eight-year-long association with the music department of ‘Cardiff College of Music and Drama’, this composer joined his alma mater ‘The University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire’ as a lecturer in 1959.

He was designated as a reader of the ‘University of Wales’ in 1965, a post he held for the next two years. Even during this time Alun composed music for various festivals. He composed the musical ‘The cantata Dives and Lazarus’ for the ‘Farnham Schools Festival’, in the same year.

The ‘Royal Philharmonic Society’ staged the performance of his opera ‘Variants of Orchestra’ in 1966. The music troupe ‘New Philharmonic Orchestra’ performed his opera ‘Night Music’ the following year. Both these works marked a noted evolution from Hoddinott’s characteristic dark and broody rhythms.

He then became a professor of music at the ‘Cardiff University’ in 1967. Later he was promoted to the designation of ‘Head of The Department’ at the same institution. During his tenure as the head of the music department, Hoddinott pioneered the ‘Cardiff Festival of Twentieth Century Music’.

Alun made a remarkable contribution to the musical precinct of Wales. His international repute, as well as involvement towards the festival, helped the event evolve into a magnanimous one, as leading musicians of the era were the benefactors. Hoddinott, himself was an inspiration to the young minds and his contemporaries alike.

This famous music composer also played a vital role in expanding the music department of the ‘University of Cardiff’. He also paved way for a massive building for the same reason, which became the largest of its kind during the 1980s.

He was also the mentor of many composers of Irish and Welsh origins. John Buckley, Karl Jenkins, Jeffrey Lewis, John Metcalf and Christopher Painter are a few such prominent people who got their skills polished by Hoddinott.

In 1973, the ‘Welsh National Opera’, held the first performance of Hoddinott’s maiden opera ‘The Beach of Falesa’. The founder of ‘WNO’ and the opera giant ‘Geraint Evans’, enacted in the lead role in this opera.

Alun partook from all the administrative duties of the music department as well as ‘Cardiff Festival’ in 1989. However, he continued to compose music and his composition ‘NoctisEqui’, often considered his finest, was premiered in UK at the ‘Barbican Theatre’ in the same year.

Alun continued to work even till his final days. Days before he fell ill, he completed ‘Taliesin’ a symphonic poem. The luminary artist, Wigmore Hall, hosted the gala opening of his last music ensemble ‘Music for String Quartet’.

Major Works

Hoddinott’s opera ‘The Sun, the Great Luminary of the Universe’, which he composed in 1970 for the ‘Swansea Music Festival’, is considered one of his greatest works. The ‘London Symphony Orchestra’ presented the composition orchestrated by Vernon Handley, a famous British conductor.

Awards & Achievements

He was conferred with the ‘Arnold Bax Medal’ in 1957, which was only the beginning of the various laurels he received during the course of his career.

He received the honorary title of the ‘Most Excellent Commander of the British Empire’ in 1983.

At the ‘Machynlleth Festival’, Alun was presented the ‘Glyndwr Award’ for his ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Arts in Wales’, in 1997.

The ‘Arts Council of Wales’ felicitated this conductor with a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 1999.

At the premiere night of the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, he was presented a medal by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

The ‘BBC Welsh National Orchestra’ honoured Hoddinott by naming their new music hall after him. In 2008, this music hall, named ‘Millennium Centre Neuadd Hoddinott’ (Hoddinott Hall) was opened for public.

Personal Life & Legacy

Alun was married to Rhiannon, who collaborated with him on many projects and also acted as his translator and amanuensis.

Alun died at the age of 78, in Wales, a day after the world premiere of his ensemble ‘Music for Star Quartet’.

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