Sunday, 30 December 2012

Bad year, good year, for music

2012 seems to have been a particularly bad year for music and musicians. From Etta James in January, through Whitney Houston, Dory Previn and Davy Jones in February, the year also took Earl Scruggs, Alan Hacker, Greg Ham, Levon Helm, Bert Weedon, Frank Parr, Roland Shaw, Donald "Duck" Dunn, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Donna Summer, Robin Gibb, Andy Hamilton, Herb Reed, Graeme Bell, Brian Hibbard, Evelyn Lear, Maria Cole, Lol Coxhill, Jon Lord, Kitty Wells, Graham Jackson, Colin Horsley, Jimmy Jones, Marvin Hamlisch, Ruggiero Ricci, Scott McKenzie, Ian Parrott, Joe South, George Hurst, Andy Williams, Big Jim Sullivan, Bill Dees, Hans Werner Henze, Elliott Carter, Martin Fay, Philip Ledger, Ian Campbell, Jonathan Harvey, Dave Brubeck, Charles Rosen, Lisa Della Casa, Galina Vishnevskaya, and Ravi Shankar plus a host of others whose names were unknown to me. Not all of them achieved their Biblical three-score-years-and-ten.

Just recently we lost Fontella Bass - of whom I hope there will be an appreciation on BBC-3 - and Richard Rodney Bennett.

Some of Sir Richard's public statements may have appeared snobbish or dismissive, but a sympathetic interviewer (like Francine Stock on "Front Row" or Neil Brand) could reveal his warm side. He clearly had a rapport with jazz singers Marian Montgomery, Cleo Laine and Claire Martin all of whom he accompanied in professional engagements.

2013 looks like being a good year for anniversaries. As On An Overgrown Path warns us, we are going to be awash with Britten celebrations and performances. But there was a reminder on Radio 3 this morning that George Lloyd, Morton Gould and Jerome Moross (another "classical" composer who was like Sir Richard splendidly inclusive) were also born in 1913, while in continental Europe there will be celebrations of Alkan, Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi (born 1813) and Francis Poulenc (died 1963). In August it will be Gabriel Pierné's 150th and in December, Mascagni's.

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