Wolstenholme was born in Blackburn, Lancashire on 24 February 1865. He was blind from birth and was was educated at the Worcester College for the Blind Sons of Gentlemen. He showed considerable promise as a musician and impressed Henry Smart who agreed to take him as a pupil. Alas, Smart died before lessons began. He studied the violin under Edward Elgar. In 1887 he went up to Oxford University where he later graduated as a Bachelor of Music.
In 1888 he was appointed organist and choirmaster of St Paul’s Church, Blackburn and began to consolidate his position as a teacher, recitalist and improviser. Fourteen years later he accepted the post of organist at All Saint’s Church Norfolk Square, Paddington and afterwards at All Saints, St. John’s Wood. In 1908 he undertook a major concert tour of the United States. This secured his ‘international’ reputation. He died in 1931.
Stylistically, he has been referred to as the ‘English Cesar Franck’ and although this may be unfair to both composers it is a reasonable rule of thumb and gives the listener a good idea of the kind and quality of music to expect. It is also possible that he can be bracketed with Alfred Hollins and Basil Harwood.
"Romanza in A Minor" was published by Paxton in 1900. It shows the composer's affinity with chamber music, as this clearly appears to be a "violin solo" with accompaniment.
It presents a few challenges for the player, the most pressing being able to find an "accompanimental" sound to go with the "violin solo," which is played on the Swell oboe, as Wolstenholme directs.
The piece is an interestingly blend of romantic harmony, with just a touch of "modality" thrown in at the end!
The score is attached below, as well as some photos of interest, including Wolstenholme and some of the churches at which he served.
For the most famous of Wolstenholme's works, you will like these: