Biographical / Historical
Kenneth Leighton was born in October 1929 in Wakefield, Yorkshire, in a working-class family. He showed an interest in music very early on, so he was enrolled as a chorister at Wakefield Cathedral by his parents, and began piano lessons. He also composed settings of poetry for voice and piano and solo pieces as a teenager. In 1946 he obtained the Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music (LRAM) in piano performance, and then went on to study Classics and Music in Queen’s College, Oxford. In 1950 he gained a BA in Classics, and in 1951 the Oxford Bachelor of Music.
Leighton continued to accumulate successes, and was awarded the Mendelssohn Scholarship in 1951, which enabled him to study with Goffredo Petrassi in Rome. After his return from Italy, he started his career as a teacher and composer. He taught briefly at the Royal Marine School of Music in Deal in 1952, before being awarded a Gregory Fellowship in music from 1953-56 at the University of Leeds. In 1956, he was appointed Lecturer, then Reader, at the University of Edinburgh, where he stayed until 1968 when he moved to Oxford University to succeed Edmund Rubbra as Fellow in Music of Worcester College. He returned to Edinburgh as Reid Professor of Music in 1970, holding the chair until his death in 1988, of oesophageal cancer.