W (William) Denis Browne was a member of the chorus in the 1909 Cambridge University production of Aristophanes’s The Wasps
for which Vaughan Williams provided the incidental music. After Rugby (where he started a lifelong friendship with Rupert Brooke), he entered Clare College, Cambridge, in 1907 to read classics, but quickly became involved in the university’s music-making and drama activities. By 1910 he was studying music and was organ scholar at Clare. He received encouragement from Edward Dent, and through him met Busoni with whom he stayed in Germany in the summer of 1912. He took his BMus the same year, then moved to London where he became part of Edward Marsh’s artistic circle, wrote trenchant criticism for The Times
and The New Statesman
, and performed as organist and pianist (he gave the first British performance of Berg’s Piano Sonata). He was killed in the Gallipoli campaign, not long after he had buried Brooke on the island of Skyros. His compositional legacy was minimal, including an incomplete ballet and a handful of songs; these, nevertheless, indicate an outstanding musical mind.
from notes by Andrew Burn © 2003