Anthony Collins (composer)

Anthony Collins (3 September 1893  11 December 1963) was a British conductor and composer.


Anthony Vincent Benedictus Collins was born in Hastings, East Sussex in 1893. At the age of seventeen he began to perform as violinist in the Hastings Municipal Orchestra. He then served four years in the army. Beginning in 1920 he studied violin with Achille Rivarde and composition with Gustav Holst at the Royal College of Music. In 1926, he began his musical career performing as principal viola in the London Symphony Orchestra. For ten years he performed in that orchestra and also in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra. He resigned these positions in 1936. For the rest of his career he divided his time between conducting, beginning with opera and moving to orchestra; and composition. His conducting debut was on 20 January 1938, when he led his former colleagues in the London Symphony Orchestra in Elgar's First Symphony, and the following year he founded the London Mozart Orchestra.

He moved to the United States in 1939 to conduct orchestras in Los Angeles and New York City as well as composing film music for RKO Pictures. He was nominated for three Academy Awards for best music and original score in three consecutive years (1940–1942) for Nurse Edith Cavell, Irene and Sunny. He returned to England in 1945, continuing to conduct the major British orchestras and also compose for British film studios. He retired at the end of the 1950s, returning to Los Angeles, where he died at the age of 70 in 1963.


Collins arranged and composed many major works and lighter pieces, which include the still-popular Vanity Fair. This work and numerous other miniatures and suites by Collins are to be found on a 2005 CD, featuring John Wilson conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra. Collins also edited the Threnody for a Soldier Killed in Action from sketches left by Michael Heming, a young composer killed in World War II. His Elegy for Edward Elgar has been recorded, including a theme from the third movement of Elgar's third symphony.

Other works include two symphonies, two violin concertos, Romney Marsh for viola and orchestra (1944), four short operas: Perseus and Andromeda, Catherine Parr, The Blue Harlequin and Kanawa, a cantata The Lay of Rosabelle, and chamber works and songs.


Collins conducted a series of classical recordings, notably of music of Elgar and Sibelius, for Decca Records and EMI. His Decca recordings made between 1952 and 1955 of the seven Sibelius symphonies (the second complete cycle with one orchestra and conductor; the first was by Sixten Ehrling and the Stockholm Philharmonic, 1952–1953) and tone poems were regarded very highly. He recorded with Decca from May 1945 to December 1956.

Film music

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1940 Academy Awards Best Original Score Nurse Edith Cavell Nominated
1941 Irene Nominated
1942 Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture Sunny Nominated


  • "London Concerts – London Symphony Orchestra", The Musical Times, February 1938, p. 143 (Collins' debut as conductor reviewed)
  • Obituary, The Musical Times, May 1964, p. 374.
  • Kennedy, Michael (2006), The Oxford Dictionary of Music, 985 pages, ISBN 0-19-861459-4
  • Naxos biographical page, accessed 8 February 2010
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