Salzedo was born in London. He studied composition under Herbert Howells and violin under Isolde Menges at the Royal College of Music in London, before becoming a professional composer in 1944. He worked closely with the Ballet Rambert, for whom his first ballet, The Fugitive, was commissioned. His most successful ballet was The Witch Boy based on the 'Ballad of Barbara Allan'.
He was musical director of the Ballet Rambert from 1967 to 1972 and principal conductor with the Scottish Ballet from 1972-74. He became musical director of the City Ballet of London in 1982 and devoted himself full-time to composition from 1986.
The fanfare which forms the first six bars of Salzedo's Divertimento for three trumpets and three trombones, opus 49 (1959), was used as the theme tune for the Open University's educational programmes on BBC television and radio from the 1970s to the 1990s. Another of his tunes, Guadalajara, was used by the BBC to accompany their "pie chart" schools' presentation during the 1960s and early 1970s, up until 1973.
Per Sir Thomas Beecham's widow, Shirley (see her letter published in Gramophone, June, 1999), Sir Eugene Goossens did not write the orchestration for Sir Thomas's notorious and still-controversial 1959 recording of Handel's "Messiah." Salzedo - who gets no credit on the current CD's packaging - wrote the orchestration. (Beecham became impatient with Goossens's slow writing pace and was, moreover, not happy with the quality of his work.)
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