Friday, 31 December 2010


The report that the number of people aged one hundred or over in the UK more than quadrupled from 2,600 in 1981 to 11,600 in 2009 came in the same month as the deaths of two remarkable men. Hugues Cuénod , who died on the 6th, was a light tenor who started his musical career in 1920s Paris, where he would not only have known Ravel and Les Six, but also expats like Prokoviev, Stravinsky and Cole Porter. He may also have mixed in the same circles as Roy Neuberger, who died in Manhattan just before Christmas. The art-loving Neuberger made Paris his home before returning to Wall Street to make his fortune in 1929 - coincidentally the year of Porter's first big Broadway success.

I don't know how active Neuberger was either in collecting or in finance in  his latter years, but Cuénod performed at the New York Met at the age of 85 and gave his last performance on stage in his native Switzerland when he was 92. It goes to show that if one is lucky enough to avoid the ravages of dementia (one in four of us will succumb, apparently) then the decline in physical power is made up for the much slower diminution in intellectual capability. The downside is that the young and middle-aged generations in the first world are going to have to work longer in order to support themselves in retirement.

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