Desmond Bradley was born in Melbourne, Australia on October 12th, 1934. His father was a professional violinist, his mother a concert pianist. Desmond took to the violin from a very early age and when only four played some solos at a concert at Englewood in Victoria. Three years later in 1941 he gave a debut recital at the Albert Conservatoire of Music in Melbourne and following his success there appeared the next year as soloist with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra playing the de Beriot Concerto No. 7. In 1943 at the tender age of eight, he appeared as soloist with the orchestra in Melbourne playing the Mendelssohn Concerto on no less than four occasions to audiences of some 3000 at every concert. In 1945, and now aged eleven, he played the Beethoven Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to an audience of 11,000 in Wonga Park, Victoria, and the following year won the Australian Broadcasting Commission National Eisteddfod outright against contestants up to thirty years of age, he then being only twelve. At the age of fifteen, he toured Australia, giving something like a hundred concerts.
In 1950, he commenced three years of study under the celebrated George Enescu in Paris and made his Paris debut the following year.
His London debut was made in 1953 at the age of nineteen, and the following year he appeared as soloist with the London Philharmonic at the Royal Albert Hall. That was followed by a solo appearance with the Pro Arte Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in 1955 under Sir Malcolm Sargent.
In the years between 1956 and 1972 he was engaged in intense musical activity of every kind. It was during these years that he turned his attention most seriously to composition. Among other musical activities and achievements of this period, he occupied the position of Concertmaster in both Zurich and London.
In 1972 he was appointed leader of the New Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and in 1973 played his own Violin Concerto with the same orchestra in the Royal Festival
Hall, London, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult. In 1975 he played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto at the same venue and with the same orchestra under Riccardo Muti.
The following few years found him maintaining his usual heavy professional schedule yet finding time to complete his Second Symphony, which was recorded with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Australia during 1980, conducted by himself. His Violin Concerto was also recorded about this time with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Omri Hadari. During 1981 he composed and recorded his “Metamorphoses for Ten Brass Soloists” and he completed his Scale System entitled “The Art of the Violin”, published later the same year. In 1982 he completed his Third Symphony, which was recorded some years later by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, again conducted by himself.
Desmond Bradley died 1992 at the age of just 58.
His compositions, despite being contemporary, are logical, tonal and of great romantic intensity as he exploited fully the techniques of the day.
His compositions include: Rhapsody for Violin & Piano, Three Songs for Tenor, Concert Suite for Violin and Piano, Tableaux de Concert for Violin & Piano, Fantasy and Fugue for String Quartet, Mystical Images for Tenor, Violin, Viola, Cello, Guitar and Harpsichord, Symphonies Nos. 1, 2 and 3, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Fantasy on three songs from “West Side Story” (Bernstein), Six Rhapsodies for Violin and Chamber Ensemble, Metamorphoses for Ten Brass Soloists, Sonata for Violin and Piano and Romance for Two Violins. He has also written cadenzas for the Mozart Concerto in G, the Beethoven Violin Concerto and the Brahms Violin Concerto and produced an orchestral version of George Enescu’s “Konzertstück” for viola and piano.
The Violin concerto was composed in the time span of a decade and finished in 1969. Desmond Bradley mainly focussed on his career as a violin soloist in the 1960s and composed music only in his leisure time. A first version of the Violin concerto was finished in 1965 and premiered on 25 September 1965 with Desmond Bradley (violin), the London Festival Orchestra under Adrian Boult (conductor) at the Isleworth Grammar School in London. It seems that Desmond Bradley revised this early version because the final score is dated 22 April 1969. The world premiere of the final version took place on 04 October 1973 in London with the New Philharmonia Orchestra under Adrian Boult and with the composer as the soloist. A few years later there was a second performance with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Omri Hadari and again with Desmond Bradley performing the solo part. Beside these two performances (or three, how one count it) the violin concerto remains unnoticed although this composition is among the most brilliant and most beautiful violin concertos of the 20th century and for that part of my exclusive and precious list of outstanding violin concertos (see my complete recommendation list here)!
A full score of the violin concerto can be downloaded below free of charge!
The sound snippet below is the finale of the concerto in a recording with Desmond Bradley (violin), the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Omri Hadari (conductor). Publication with kind permission by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, by Omri Hadari and the Bradley family.