The life and work of John Clinton, cont.

Biographical Summary – The Early Years

There appears to be no record of the precise date and place of Clinton’s birth, and the year of this event (1810) is inferred strictly from the age given on his death certificate.  It is known that he was born in Ireland but moved to London at an indeterminate, though probably early, age.

Clinton’s musical education and early career are obscure.  The normal career path for a young aspiring London-based concert performer on the flute at this time would have included studies at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music (founded in 1822), where the redoubtable Charles Nicholson held sway as the principal flute teacher from 1823 until his death in 1837.  This being so, Clinton would have studied under Nicholson if he did indeed attend the Academy.  And it is certainly true that Clinton in later years referred to Nicholson as “my late esteemed friend Charles Nicholson”. However, there is no definite confirmation that Clinton actually studied under Nicholson at the Academy, although his subsequent appointment as one of Nicholson’s successors strongly argues that he may well have been an Academy alumnus. For public relations reasons it seems highly unlikely that the Academy would look beyond one of their own alumni when filling such a position.  Certainly, Clinton’s predecessor Joseph Richardson (who succeeded Nicholson in 1837) is known to have studied under Nicholson at the Academy in 1835-36.  It seems more than likely that this pattern would be continued.

In his standard reference work on the flute (op. cit), Rockstro included a short life-sketch of Clinton (Article 927) in which he refers to Clinton having spent some time “occupying an obscure position, being a member of the orchestra of the little theatre in the Haymarket” (our italics).  Rockstro appears to be implying that recognition for Clinton was slow in coming. What is known is that by 1834 the then 24 year-old Clinton had advanced to the point where he was able to publish his first recorded composition. He became in fact a prolific composer whose works, `although largely forgotten today, were quite highly regarded by his contemporaries, even including the often censorious Rockstro.  

By  the time that he reached his 32nd year Clinton’s fortunes had obviously taken a real turn for the better, since it was in 1842 that he took over from Joseph Richardson as principal flute teacher at the Royal Academy in London, a position which he retained for the next 13 years. This appointment entitled him to publish as “Professor of the Flute at the Royal Academy of Music” between 1843 and 1855. During this time, too, Clinton continued a successful performing career, including a high-profile season as principal flute at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1847. At some point prior to 1846 he also became a member of the Philharmonic Society, a matter which seems to have had great  significance for him since he included it regularly thereafter in his own list of  credentials.

The clear implication of all this is that by his early thirties Clinton had established a high reputation in flute circles, especially when one looks at the credentials of his immediate predecessors at the Royal Academy as well as those of other available candidates for the position. The aim of the Royal Academy was to attract top-grade students, and the credentials of the teacher would be an important factor.  It is also clear from the length of his tenure that Clinton must have enjoyed considerable success as a teacher, certainly implying some ability in that area.  

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