Con­duc­tor with a love for the best of clas­si­cal Bri­tish

DON­ALD STAN­LEY looks at the life of world-renowned con­duc­tor Richard Hickox

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NOSTALGIA -

THE or­ches­tral con­duc­tor, Richard Hickox, was born and ed­u­cated in Buckinghamshire.

De­spite be­ing highly re­garded in this coun­try he died amidst pro­fes­sional crit­i­cism on the other side of the world.

Born in Sto­kenchurch of a mu­si­cal fam­ily, Richard was en­cour­aged by his mother, who was a pi­ano teacher, and cler­gy­man fa­ther. By the age of seven he was ac­com­pa­ny­ing church ser­vices.

Ed­u­cated at High Wy­combe’s Royal Gram­mar School and the Royal Academy of Mu­sic, he be­came an or­gan scholar at Queens’ Col­lege, Cam­bridge.

Richard went on to found mu­sic fes­ti­vals, the first be­ing that at Wooburn where his fa­ther had be­come Vicar.

He be­came a di­rec­tor of choirs and con­duc­tor of or­ches­tras in ad­di­tion to found­ing, at the age of 23, the Richard Hickox Singers and Richard Hickox Or­ches­tra whose growth, in­clud­ing per­form­ing at the BBC Proms, led to them be­ing re­named the City of Lon­don Sin­fo­nia and City of Lon­don Sin­fo­nia Cho­rus. Aged 24 he was ap­pointed Mas­ter of Mu­sic at St Mar­garet’s, West­min­ster, the church of the Houses of Par­lia­ment.

Richard spe­cialised in Bri­tish mu­sic of the last hun­dred years, his in­ter­pre­ta­tions lead­ing him to make over 300 record­ing amongst which were sev­eral award­win­ners in­clud­ing a Grammy for his ver­sion of Ben­jamin Brit­ten’s ‘Peter Grimes’.

His reper­toire in­cluded over 100 first per­for­mances of works by such com­posers as Peter Maxwell Davies. It has been sug­gested that it was this pre-em­i­nence in a nar­row field that de­nied him top-rank sta­tus. Nonethe­less, he was ap­pointed a CBE.

He was prin­ci­pal guest con­duc­tor of the Nether­lands Ra­dio Sin­fo­nia Or­ches­tra and for five years Mu­si­cal Di­rec­tor of the Spo­leto Fes­ti­val in Italy as well as hold­ing con­duct­ing posts in the USA, France and Ger­many.

In 2005 he was ap­pointed Mu­sic Di­rec­tor of Opera Aus­tralia.

Through­out his ca­reer Richard had been known for his sense of hu­mour, lack of pre­ten­sion, and pop­u­lar­ity with those with whom he worked.

Al­though he con­ducted the Aus­tralian pre­mieres of sev­eral pro­duc­tions, in­clud­ing an award win­ning one, he fell foul of dis­af­fected mu­si­cians and was crit­i­cised as lack­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence nec­es­sary to per­form the works of oper­atic com­posers who were not English.

How­ever, his Board backed him and he was still Mu­si­cal Di­rec­tor when, in 2008, he col­lapsed and died whilst record­ing Holst’s ‘First Choral Sym­phony’, the work of a Bri­tish composer, with the BBC Na­tional Or­ches­tra of Wales. He was aged 60.

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