Robin Humphrey Milford (22 January 1903 – 29 December 1959) was born in Oxford, son of Sir Humphrey Milford, publisher with Oxford University Press. He attended Rugby School from 1916 where his musical talent for the piano, flute and theory was recognised. He studied at the Royal College of Music from 1921 to 1926, where his composition teachers were Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He studied harmony and counterpoint under R. O. Morris, and was also an organ student.
In 1927, he married, and worked for a time with the Aeolian Company correcting Duo-Art pianola rolls until 1930. He also taught part-time at Ludgrove School and at Downe House School. In 1929 he had met fellow-composer Gerald Finzi, and the two formed a lifelong friendship. His early compositions met with some success.
At the outbreak of the Second World War Milford volunteered for the army, and was posted to the Pioneer Corps. After just one week, he suffered a breakdown, and after treatment he and his family moved to Guernsey. His depression was deepened by the death of his mother in 1940. He returned to England, to teach and compose, but soon afterwards his five-year-old son, Barnaby, was killed in a road accident. His grief at this tragedy prompted him to attempt suicide several times. By 1946 he had recovered sufficiently to resume teaching and to undertake musical activities.
After the death of his father in 1952, and the deaths of Finzi (1956) and Vaughan Williams (1958), Milford died by his own hand in December 1959.
This work is the first of "Three Christmas Pieces," published by Oxford in 1930. It is based upon the well 15th cent. tune, "Puer nobis nascitur."
Milford's setting is difficult for listener and player. As is usual for him, the music his a unique, intellectual approach.
This is the ONLY time I've used the crescendo pedal! :-)
The score is attached below, as well as a photo of Milford.
The score is attached below, as well as a photo of Robin Milford.