Presto News - 1st December 2008
The death of Richard Hickox, announced last Monday, comes as a real shock. He was aged just sixty and over the last decade was finally starting to enjoy the international recognition his irrepressible drive and deep musicianship undoubtedly deserved. He is probably most known for his commitment to 20th-century English music, and in this respect, coming so soon after the death of Vernon Handley, the loss to that repertoire is even greater. However, he worked hard to avoid being musically stereotyped and conducted and recorded a wide range of composers.
In fact his repertoire was enormous, ranging from baroque opera, through 18th-century classics to contemporary music. At the age of just 23 he founded the Richard Hickox Orchestra (later to become the City of London Sinfonia) and Singers, and in 1990 co-founded the baroque orchestra Collegium Musicum 90 with Simon Standage. With both orchestras he has made some of his finest recordings including a fantastic complete cycle of Haydn Masses with the latter.
However it was in British Music that his real forte lay and amongst his huge catalogue of recordings (mainly for Chandos), all five of his Gramophone award winners were of British composers, most famously the original version of Vaughan Williams's A London Symphony, which won Record of the Year in 2001. And it wasn’t just the big names which he championed - like Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Tippett, Britten and Holst (whose Choral Symphony he was recording when he died) - but also the composers that other conductors so rarely go near – such as Rubbra, Dyson, Alwyn, Bliss, Howells and most recently Leighton. He made so many great recordings it is hard to mention just one or two, but having already mentioned the Haydn Masses set and the Vaughan Williams London Symphony above, I didn’t want to leave without mentioning what I consider his greatest recording – the two-act version of Britten’s Billy Budd made in 1999 which has got to be as close to perfection as you can ever get.
His death is a huge loss for music, made all the more tragic by the fact that he was still so young. If you want to explore the extensive legacy of recordings which he has left behind we have a complete Richard Hickox discography here.
For customers in the UK and the European Union you’ll be pleased to hear that prices have gone down a very small amount today thanks to the Chancellor’s decision to lower the rate of VAT (Value Added Tax) from 17.5% to 15%. I’m afraid there is no change for customers outside the EU as the prices you pay already exclude the VAT.
Haydn - The Complete Mass Edition
Janice Watson, Susan Gritton, Nancy Agenta, Lorna Anderson, Pamela Helen Stephen, Catherine Denley, Louise Winter, Mark Padmore & Stephen Varcoe
Collegium Musicum 90, Richard Hickox
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 2 'A London Symphony'
original 1913 version
London Symphony Orchestra, Richard Hickox
Britten: Billy Budd
Philip Langridge, Simon Keenlyside, John Tomlinson, Alan Opie, Matthew Best, Alan Ewing, Francis Egerton, Quentin Hayes, Clive Bayley, Mark Padmore
London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, Tiffin Boys' Choir, Richard Hickox
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
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