Clyde Twelvetrees

Clyde Twelvetrees, 1865-1956

Clyde Twelvetrees, 1865-1956

Clyde Twelvetrees was born in London in 1865 and studied in Paris and Leipzig with the renowned cellist, Julius Klengel. He was an original member of the Queens Hall Orchestra under Sir Henry Wood. Twelvetrees’ association with the RIAM began in 1902, when he was engaged as temporary professor of cello due to the illness of Henri Bast. Seven years later, he became a permanent member of staff upon Bast’s death, but he left the Academy in 1919 to take up the position of principal cellist of the Hallé Orchestra. He returned to the full-time position of cello professor at the Academy in or around 1943, remaining there until his death in 1956.

Hallé Orchestra List, 1921-22, showing Mr Clyde Twelvetrees as principal cellist. From the Hallé Archive.


In Ulysses, it is thought that James Joyce made reference to the cellist’s wife, as Twelvetrees was performing in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on that day. Upon his death at the age of 81, Bianca Esposito wrote: ‘both Dr Esposito and Sir Hamilton Harty hold the opinion that Clyde Twelvetrees was as fine a cello player as any world celebrity of his time, not excluding the great Casals, and that his modesty and reserved sensitiveness had led him to choose the less spectacular but more serious career’. Cello students of today will still be familiar with his name from the Twelvetrees’ Cup for Concerto in the Dublin Feis Ceoil.


It is a shame that Twelvetrees does not appear to have composed anything for cello other than his Lament (1929), as it is a splendidly constructed work, with a huge amount of musical material in a short work. As Twelvetrees and Schofield worked together, it could be conjectured that this work was inspired by Schofield’s earlier Irish Lament. The opening themes of both Laments are strikingly similar, with use of minor tonality and the dotted rhythmic motif. Twelvetrees develops the theme in a more complex and virtuosic way, using double stops continuously for eight bars and using the high register of the cello.

Schofield's Irish Lament

Opening bars of Schofield’s Irish Lament

Opening bars of Twelvetrees' Lament

Opening bars of Twelvetrees’ Lament