Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877-1950) was a British musician, composer, and teacher. Between his conventional education at Charterhouse School and New College, Oxford, where he obtained only a pass degree, Gardiner was a piano student at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main, where he was taught by Iwan Knorr and Lazzaro Uzielli, who had been a pupil of Clara Schumann. He belonged to the Frankfurt Group, a circle of composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in the late 1890s. Gardiner collected folk songs in Hampshire (1905-1906) taught music briefly at Winchester College (1907), and composed. His works included compositions in a variety of genres, including two symphonies, but many of his scores are lost and only a very limited amount of his music survives.
His best-known work Evening Hymn (1908), a setting of the Compline hymn Te lucis ante terminum, is a lush, romantic work for eight-part choir and organ, of dense harmonies. For most of the time, it sits in four parts, though the treble, alto, tenor, and bass parts all subdivide at various points. It is considered a classic of the English choral repertoire and is still regularly performed as an anthem at evensong in Anglican churches.
The fame of this work has overshadowed his surviving orchestral works, which include Overture to a Comedy and the Delius-like A Berkshire Idyll.
Gardiner’s most important work, arguably, was his promotion as a conductor of contemporary British and colonial composers, notably in a series of concerts at Queen’s Hall London in 1912-1913. The composers represented included Arnold Bax, Frederic Austin, Gustav Holst, Percy Grainger, Roger Quilter, Cyril Scott and Norman O’Neill. (The last four had also studied with him at Frankfurt.) He financed these concerts himself; he continued to be notably generous with his personal fortune, paying for a private benefit performance of The Planets for Gustav Holst in 1918, and purchasing Frederick Delius’s house at Grez-sur-Loing to enable him to continue living in it at the end of his life.
Gardiner gave up composing in 1925 largely because he was intensely self-critical: much of his lost music was probably destroyed by him. Thereafter, he devoted himself to a pioneering afforestation programme on his Dorset farm.