The Company Index
Constant Leonard Lambert was born in 1905 in London. He suffered from
poor health as a child, and his father, the painter George Lambert, left for Australia when he was
15, never to be seen again. However his father
did introduce Constant to the world of art and literature. He won
a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, and his teachers there included
Ralph Vaughan-Williams, George Dyson (composition) and Malcolm Sargent (conducting).
Lambert became interested in Russian and French music and Jazz, and their
influence can be heard in works such as Green Fire (1923) and Elegiac Blues
(1927). His first ballet, Prize-Fight (1923-4) was strongly influenced by
Satie and the French group of composers, including Poulenc, Milhaud and Honegger
known as Les Six. The young Lambert enjoyed a Bohemian lifestyle and counted
amongst his friends such names as Philip Heseltine, Edith Sitwell, Charles
Rickets, William Walton and Sergei Diaghilev.
Diaghilev commissioned the ballet Romeo and Juliet from Lambert and the Ballets
Russes premiered it in Monte Carlo in August 1926. It was coolly received, but
caused a riot when it was performed in Paris shortly after. This was quickly
followed by Pomona (1926), written for Bronislava Nizhinska's company in Buenos
Aires. The following year, Lambert wrote his most famous work, Rio Grande. Such
was its popularity however, that some of his subsequent works in a less
approachable style suffered from comparison and were less well received.
The later part of Lambert's life saw far fewer compositions. He was appointed
conductor of the Carmago Society in 1930, and Music Director of the Vic-Wells
Company in 1931. However, it is as conductor of The Royal Ballet and a music
critic that Lambert is remembered today. His one extended work of music criticism,
Music Ho! Was published in London in 1934. He also conducted at the Proms, with
the Hallé Orchestra and operas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Two of
his later works were both ballets, Horoscope (1937) and Tiresias (1951). Lambert
died shortly after the premiere of Tiresias from undiagnosed Diabetes aggravated
by his heavy drinking. He was only 46.