Composed 12 symphonies, four piano concertos, three operas, and a cello concerto during his lifetime.
He served in the Royal Marines as a Bandsman during World War II. He suffered from shell shock in 1942 because of a torpedo attack he experienced during the war. He began composing again four years later.
His first opera "Iernin" from 1935 was followed by "The Serf" in 1938, both garnering great acclaim and establishing him as an important composer of his generation.
He was born into a musical family with his father being an avid fan of Italian opera and a skilled flautist. His mother also had versatile abilities, mastering the violin, viola, and piano. He was married to his wife Nancy until his death.
He dedicated his last composition, a Requiem, to Princess Diana, inscribing "Written in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales" on the score.