Skip to main content

Dr Aidan Thomson

Dr. Aidan Thomson - Queen's University Belfast Research Portal - Research Directory & Institutional Repository for QUB
Aidan Thomson

Dr Aidan Thomson


Direct phone: +44 (0)28 9097 5208

For media contact email
or call +44(0)2890 973091.


Edward Elgar

Arnold Bax

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ethel Smyth

Early twentieth-century British opera

Celticism in twentieth-century art music

Reception history


MUS1013 Fundamental Harmony 1

MUS1041 Repertory A (Western Music: Classical and Romantic)

MUS1042 Repertory B (Western Music: 1890-2000)

MUS2042 Repertory D (Critical Listening)

MUS3001 Twentieth Century Technique and Style

MUS3038 Late Romantic Symphony

MUS3039 Wagner

MUS3049 The British Musical Renaissance 1860-1940

MUS3050 The Second Viennese School: Style and Idea

MUS3099 Directed Study

Research Statement

My research is concerned with British music and its cultural context, particularly its reception and issues of national identity, during the first half of the twentieth century.

I have worked extensively on Edward Elgar, and have considered the extent to which Elgar was identified as an 'English' composer during the years leading up to World War I, both in Britain and in Germany. I have shown how pre-war British critical writing often viewed Elgar as much less of an embodiment of 'Englishness' than some of his contemporaries, a reflection of how Elgar's identification with certain progressive composers - Strauss, Debussy, and especially Wagner - affected his reception. 

In more recent work I have tried to show how national artistic traditions have affected the reception of some of Elgar's contemporaries and successors: Ethel Smyth, whose opera Der Wald suffered for being too close to Wagnerian music drama at a time when British opera was trying to establish an identity distinct from German, Italian and French traditions; Arnold Bax, whose symphonies present a conception of nature that owes more to Celticist pantheism and Sibelian transformation than English pastoralism, and which may thereby be said to offer a critique of the latter movement; and Ralph Vaughan Williams, whose emergence as a central figure within British music in the late-1910s/early-1920s owed much to changing attitudes to modern music by a new generation of British critics.

View all (13) »

Frequent Journals

View all »

View all (63) »

Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

ID: 28330