Composer / Pianist
Visual impairment : Blind since birth
Born : 4 July, 1909
Alec Templeton was born in Cardiff, Wales (UK) and was blessed with absolute pitch. He began his musical studies at an early age in his hometown and later studied at the London Academy of Music. At 18, he composed "Trio for flute, oboe and piano" for which he was complimented by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Jack Hylton, British bandleader, brought Alec Templeton to the United States when Hylton was to broadcast a series of radio programs for the Standard Oil Company. He soon established himself as an incomparable and sincere artist. In addition to his imaginative modernizing of the classical masters Alec Templeton composed serious works for the piano, orchestra, string quartet, and voice. In his words, "Good music need not be ponderous to be good. It can be everything from Bach to jazz." His style is close to the idiom of British folksongs.
Some music lovers know the name Alec Templeton as the composer of 'Bach Goes To Town'. And if their knowledge goes a bit further they also may recall 'Mozart Matriculates and even 'Scarlatti Stoops to Conga'. Templeton was known as the radio and TV celebrity who in the nineteen forties and fifties regularly appeared on shows hosted by Bing Crosby, and who later had his own show called 'It's Alec Templeton Time'.
The more serious collector will probably recall that blind Alec Templeton recorded Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' with Andre Kostelanetz for Columbia in the nineteen forties. Being a talented improviser Templeton had a good rhythmic feeling for Gershwin's syncopated music, although the 'Rhapsody in Blue' clearly shows that his technical skill was rather limited.
Templeton's radio and TV fame was a good reason for Don Gabor to have a recording made of the improviser. In the season of 1951-1952 Alec Templeton concertised with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It is an outstanding interpretation despite the fact that Templeton is not a virtuoso and does not play the piano style impeccably, but the treatment of the rhythmic sections are very original and his phrasing is beautiful; the blues in the second movement is soulful, foreboding the dramatic, expressive lamentation. The critics were very positive about the performance of Templeton and conductor Johnson.
Another critic mentioned Templeton's restricted technique, but praised the outstanding musicality of Templeton and Johnson and wrote: "...his interpretation as well as the orchestral part are very compelling." And he referred to Robert Blake's successful registration: "The sound transmitted by this record has a flabbergasting clarity and naturalness; especially the sound of the piano is a surprise."