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Richard Hickox

November 24, 2008

Richard Hickox

In the relatively small world of the classical music world, the untimely death of conductor Richard Hickox has taken everyone by surprise.

I can’t claim to know him. The only link I have with him is an interview I attended to work for the City of London Sinfonia in the summer of 1991. I didn’t get it.

That’s what we all do when we scrabble around to justify the sadness us bunch of classical music fans feel when a member of the club suddenly drops off the radar.

What are you thinking? Where are you going? You’ve got years in you yet.

What I’ve been touched by is to what extent I start checking to see who’s heard and who hasn’t. I messaged a mate at work to see if he’d heard. Checked in on Facebook to see a journalist I knew of old had registered the same level of surprise. Only this evening I made a point of trotting over to Tommy Pearson’s One More Take. They all said the same. They were all feeling really rather surprised.

It came as a surprise the man was 60. It was a shock to discover he died of a heart attack. It was somehow unnerving and reassuring all at the same time to discover he died only a few hours after doing a recording session of Holst’s Choral Symphony in Cardiff. If you’re going to go, surely the best way is to take your bow and run off the stage in a flash.

Worse than that is the sad truth it’s only in the event of someone’s death that I begin to learn what they achieved in his or her life.

Hickox was one of our stars. He founded the City of London Sinfonia in 1971 at the tender age of 23. The band continues today. I can’t think of anything I did thirteen years ago which still works today.

Ten years later he was serving as Artistic Director of the Northern Sinfonia at a time when most people perceived orchestral life to be centred solely in the main UK cities.

And in case you’re wondering whether this is all sounding quite regional (and shame on you if you are), Mr Hickox was associate guest conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra from 1985 until his death and principal guest conductor with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from 2000 until 2006.

This man worked hard and went out like a light.

In tonight’s In Tune presented by Petroc Trelawny on BBC Radio 3, pianist Imogen Cooper played some keyboard music by Bach transcribed by Kurtag. I’m not sure whether it was a deliberate choice on her part, but if I’m ever famous enough so that my death features in a radio programme, I wouldn’t mind having Imogen Cooper do the same as she did in this particular broadcast. Breathtaking.

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