CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD (1941-2014)

Conductor, Musicologist, Keyboard player

Christopher Hogwood
A Service of Thanksgiving

March 16, 2015

Family, friends and colleagues gathered at 4pm on Wednesday 11 March for a service of thanksgiving for Christopher's life and work. The complete order of service below includes transcripts of the two spoken addresses written for this beautiful, reflective and celebratory occasion at Handel's parish church, St George's, Hanover Square.

 

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George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
Organ Concerto in G minor/major Op. 4 No. 1 (first and second movements), arr. Alastair Ross
Larghetto, e staccato — Allegro

Handel
Fugue in G major HWV 606, arr. Gottlieb Muffat (1690–1770), ed. Christopher Hogwood (2008)

Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
Voluntary for Double Organ Z. 719

William Byrd (1543–1623)
'A Voluntarie: for my ladye nevell', from My Ladye Nevells Booke

Alastair Ross organ

 

The Bidding

by the Rector of St George's, the Reverend Roderick Leece

 

Handel
Organ Concerto in F major Op. 4 No. 4 (first and second movements)
Allegro — Andante

Richard Egarr organ
The Academy of Ancient Music


Terence Hanbury White (1906–1964)
Extract from The Sword in the Stone (1938), page 300, read by Richard Hogwood

"The best thing for disturbances of the spirit," replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, "is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Look at what a lot of things there are to learn — pure science, the only purity there is. You can learn astronomy in a lifetime, natural history in three, literature in six. And then, after you have exhausted a milliard lifetimes in biology and medicine and theo-criticism and geography and history and economics, why, you can start to make a cart wheel out of the appropriate wood, or spend fifty years learning to begin to learn to beat your adversary at fencing. After that you can start again on mathematics, until it is time to learn to plough."


Handel
Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne HWV 74 (first movement), to words by Ambrose Philips (1674–1749)

Eternal source of light divine,
With double warmth thy beams display,
And with distinguish'd glory shine,
To add a lustre to this day.

James Bowman counter-tenor
David Blackadder trumpet
The Academy of Ancient Music

 

The First Address

by Colin Lawson, reproduced by permission

"His published writings show an elegantly articulate musical discrimination." Christopher Hogwood's entry in the 1980 New Grove Dictionary was fulsome — and accurate. Still in his thirties, Chris had already authored two major books — and an avalanche of published writings was to follow, for various dictionaries and journals, notably the proceedings of biennial conferences at The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, of which Chris was co-director. As one obituary put it last year, essays flew off his desk — on Dowland, Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Purcell and many others.

Chris's classic book on Handel from 1984 was translated into Czech, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish and Spanish. It is a fine illustration of elegant, articulate and discriminating prose, and above all commands a cultural agenda way beyond music. Chris had a wide-ranging perspective on the past and his active, intelligent mind was always connecting disparate subjects, as his recent and widely propagated Gresham lectures so richly illustrate. He had a particular interest in period cookery and during his time in Boston, the Handel & Haydn Society held a series of period banquets themed around a particular composer and piece. One of the most memorable was a recreation of the Water Music banquet of 1717. A barge was put together for the head table and Chris was seated next to the mannequin representing George III. That made for good fun, with endless jokes about the royal family…

His head was always full of new ideas for projects and he was an expert and reassuring communicator, a kind and generous colleague. The immersion experience weekends in Boston, whether focusing on Mozart, Handel or Vivaldi, would include cooking and flower arranging classes, talks on architecture, fashion, and of course music. In that context it comes as no surprise that Chris was writing a history of the picnic, something of which he was obviously proud when he came to the Royal College of Music for his Honorary Doctorate a couple of years ago. He always had some new 'thing' he was keen about: modern-day hand blown Venetian glass, vintage coffee cups, and pairs of mismatched socks.

Chris was a game-changing musicologist whose seminal work put him in the vanguard of the early music revolution. His 200 plus recordings with the Academy of Ancient Music, proved hugely influential way beyond the confines of the historical performance movement. His revelatory Messiah in 1980 was hailed for the scholarly thoroughness of its conception and its sheer joyous brilliance of execution. Chris memorably said at the time, "I think it is reasonable to say that, if there are 47 or however many Messiahs in the record catalogue, it's a good idea if just a couple of those actually reflect what Handel wrote or how he might have expected to hear it." By the following year he was conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where the musicians found him a little strange but where he was hailed as "the most stimulating force in years." Let's not forget that in 1983 he was the highest-placed conductor in the US Billboard charts and went on to conduct a large-scale Messiah in the Hollywood Bowl during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

By this time he had completed his hugely influential recordings of the Mozart Symphonies, the first set on period instruments. Chris consistently defended his non-interventionist approach, suggesting that the figure of the grand maestro imposing a highly subjective interpretation on a score was itself a creation of a more recent era. Some critics remained resolutely unconvinced and famously a review in the journal Early Music preposterously suggested that the AAM Mozart Symphonies were not merely "underinterpreted" but uninterpreted. But in reality Chris had given us something really important to reflect upon here. It is indeed revealing that in the 'commonplace jottings' reproduced at the end of his 2010 Festschrift, he noted: "'The itch of interpretation' (Susan Sontag); try to resist."

Journalists were fond of asking Chris, "if Bach were alive today what would he be doing?" He responded, "but of course Bach is alive today; and he is playing the grand piano; he still improvises, of course, and occasionally plays fugues, and he still trains his sons to follow in the same trade. But he's changed his name to Brubeck." Thus began a great series of jazz/baroque concerts in Boston, with greats such as Dave Brubeck, Keith Jarrett, Modern Jazz quartet, Josh Redman, Chick Corea and Gary Burton.

If anyone embodied the values of Early Music, it was surely Chris. His fruitful partnership with the label L'Oiseau-Lyre brought for the AAM an early Grand Prix du Disque for the J. C. Bach overtures, and a Brit award for Vivaldi's Four Seasons. As the repertory moved on to Beethoven, Chris continued to listen carefully and generously to his players' views: "I'm for democracy to the point of anarchy", he once declared. He commanded respect for his sheer virtuosity at the keyboard, demonstrated by such landmark recordings as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, Byrd's My Ladye Nevells Booke and Bach's French Suites, as well as discs of Arne, C. P. E. Bach, Louis Couperin, Frescobaldi and Gibbons among others. He had a particular affinity with the clavichord, the instrument historically favoured by composers for its expressive powers and held up by Chris as proof of former generations' greater esteem for domestic and amateur music-making: these factors culminated in his Secret series of clavichord recordings with volumes devoted to Bach, Handel and Mozart. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that no fewer than 11 of the 26 keyboard instruments in the forthcoming sale of Chris's instruments are clavichords.

In addition to his work in Boston, Chris set the agenda of period principles on modern instruments across repertory from Corelli to Tippett with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota. With the Czech Philharmonic he established himself as a Martinů specialist, reconnecting with Prague where he had been a postgraduate student many years earlier. Besides Martinů, he developed a particular taste for the neo-classical repertory of Casella, Respighi and Stravinsky. In Basel he recorded theatre music by Bizet and Strauss, Barber and Copland, and just one year ago he gave his final concert with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra. Then there was Covent Garden, La Scala, the Paris Opéra, the Deutsche Oper and the Sydney Opera House.

Of all those strands, the Czech dimension was, from his early twenties, a vital and consistent part of his life, a source of inspiration both for him and a broad range of musicians and audiences in Prague and beyond. That postgraduate year was a magical time for Chris, involving intensive harpsichord studies, trips to libraries and the discovery of new friends. Boxes of programmes from that time suggest that he was out at concerts almost every night. As a fine continuo player, Chris found himself in considerable demand, for example in the pioneering ensemble Ars Rediviva. Back home a decade later he was recording Stamitz Symphonies with the AAM in 1974 and a further decade after that the Dvořák serenades with the LPO. Chris was a frequent and welcome visitor to Prague and maintained strong links with his friends there, as well as being stalwart in his support for Czechs abroad in difficult times.

The Czech composer Leopold Koželuch is represented among Chris's many editions of major chamber and orchestral works that altogether ranged over Purcell, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Elgar. Contemporaneous chamber arrangements of Haydn and Mozart became a speciality. He somehow found time to sit on the boards of the Complete Editions of C. P. E. Bach and of Martinů and was general editor of the Geminiani Opera Omnia. The Handel Institute, the Handel House Association and the Gerald Coke Handel Foundation all benefited from his guidance and he was of course a worthy recipient of the Halle Handel Prize in 2008.

As one of the Royal Philharmonic Society lectures put it a dozen years ago, "there is no worthwhile, thoughtful, intellectually stimulating and musically adventurous performance going on today that has not been touched by the period instrument movement." Christopher Hogwood was at its core for several decades and his distinctive place in musical history is thus assured. In Harry Haskell's book The Early Music Revival you will find on page 157 a wonderful photo of the young, long-haired Chris of 40 years ago — brandishing a tambourine in the company of members of the Early Music Consort. Who then could have imagined the depth and breadth of his future achievement? Perhaps those influential Cambridge figures Thurston Dart and Charles Cudworth might have had some inkling even a decade before that photograph, as they witnessed undergraduates Chris and David Munrow turning the Pembroke College orchestra into the Pembaroque and travelling the highways in Chris's old laundry van, giving lecture-recitals.

Not so long ago Christopher was asked by some close friends about the qualities he would look for in an academic leader — and his response amounted to an unintentional yet telling self-portrait. He would expect a leader to demonstrate the kind of intelligence so high that it could mask itself in the process of reaching democratic conclusions; someone who could chair a meeting effectively because all preparatory thinking and reasoning had been anticipated; with a temperament that didn't need to be confrontational; with a previous career of varied experience both academic and in the world of business/government, with international elements; someone who could enjoy and make opportunity without pressing status…

This then was a life well lived. Many of us here today will cherish that characteristic sign-off of letters and emails — "sempre Chris". Yes, Chris, we will always remember you — with affection, admiration and delight.

 

Hymn: 'O praise ye the Lord' (Hanover)
Words by Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821–1877)
Melody and bass by William Croft (1678–1727)
Descant by Alan Gray (1855–1935)


Wystan Hugh Auden (1907–1973)
Extract from the Metalogue to The Magic Flute (1956), lines 86-105, read by Christopher Purvis

A work that lasts two hundred years is tough,
And operas, God knows, must stand enough:
What greatness made, small vanities abuse.
What must they not endure? The Diva whose
Fioriture and climactic note
The silly old composer never wrote,
Conductor X, that over-rated bore
Who alters tempi and who cuts the score,
Director Y who with ingenious wit
Places his wretched singers in the pit
While dancers mime their roles, Z the Designer
Who sets the whole thing on an ocean liner,
The girls in shorts, the men in yachting caps;
Yet Genius triumphs over all mishaps,
Survives a greater obstacle than these,
Translation into foreign Operese
(English sopranos are condemned to languish
Because our tenors have to hide their anguish);
It soothes the Frank, it stimulates the Greek:
Genius surpasses all things, even Chic.


Purcell
Pavan in B flat major Z. 750

Pavlo Beznosiuk, Catherine Mackintosh violins
Joseph Crouch cello

 

The Second Address

by Catherine Bott, reproduced by permission

A few years ago Radio 4 commissioned me to make a programme about Cecilia, patron saint of music and musicians. In fluent radio-speak, it was made clear to my producer that the programme must contain "music beds" filled with Purcell and Handel, that I had to be heard to "go on a journey", and that we'd need to collect "soundbites" from lots of different people. It was equally clear to me that the most important journey should be to Cambridge, to seek out Christopher Hogwood.

Chris made us welcome, and spoke wisely and engagingly about St Cecilia's place in baroque music. As we left, the producer looked at me and said simply, "we don't need to talk to anyone else, do we?"

Quite an admission — but he didn't say that because we'd just been bedazzled by some virtuoso display of academic grandstanding. Naturally, Chris was articulate and authoritative — what also leapt into the microphone was his boyish delight in the subject, the sense that he too was still discovering new and fascinating things, the pleasure our interest gave him. And his fluency and precision meant that we were going to be able to use just about everything he said, with no need for editing.

We'd just had a master class from a man who, among his many gifts, was a radio pro.

Winding back 40 years: The Young Idea on Radio 3 was aimed at a teenage audience. It had begun as a request show, but when Christopher Hogwood took over as presenter it became a voyage of discovery, for him as well as his listeners. He quickly learnt the skill of scripting for radio, and he had a way of illuminating the music he was talking about that was informative without being patronising. His was the coolest voice on the station — admittedly without much competition — one that paid us the huge compliment of assuming that we too had enquiring minds.

There's lots of time-wasting fun to be had on the BBC's new Genome website; its list of Radio Times billings for episodes of The Young Idea makes mouth-watering reading. From 1971, "Settings of the Lyke-Wake Dirge by Stravinsky, Britten and Pentangle"; in December 1972, "Anniversaries we almost missed" from the '72s of four centuries; and my favourite, "A Musical Banquet". Here's the billing in full:

"A complete menu of edible extracts is offered today: from the aperitif (Martinů), through the fish (Schubert, arranged by Liszt), poultry (Rameau), beef (Milhaud), choice of sweets (Satie, Holborne and Melba) to the coffee (Bach). Christopher Hogwood is your maître de table."

Now that's a radio journey worth going on, broadcast in 1977; how he found the time by then to devise, script and record The Young Idea is a wonder. All those programmes are presumably lost, but Chris's wonderful Gresham College lectures are all (as they say on the radio) available to enjoy on YouTube.

Last September's obituaries revelled in the unverified description of Christopher as "the von Karajan of early music" but there's another unverified quote, from the man himself, that rings more true: "I'm all for democracy, to the point of anarchy." Democracy prevailed when we recorded Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 1992: interpretative decisions were, as always, arrived at, rather than imposed, during collaborative, comradely rehearsals.

Although: there was a moment during the recording, in the intensely romantic setting of Walthamstow Town Hall, standing in for Carthage. Chris and Emma Kirkby — both of them Classicists — were discussing her character, Belinda, and Chris suggested that the perky handmaid might have more than a touch of a conniving Becky Sharp about her. Emma's scholarship had the edge, and she gently persuaded him that Belinda was a good sort, saying, "she's the kind of girl who would probably read Hello!"

[I should make it clear that we were all aware that there is no-one called Belinda in the Aeneid — but Chris's memorial gathering was not the day for Virgilian digressions. — CB]

This irresistible weekly shot of hagiolatry was then at its peak, but one can be certain that Hello! and Hogwood were not so much "strangers grown" as strangers born. So this wasn't the moment to reveal that the person with a copy in her bag was not Belinda the handmaid, but Dido the Queen.

We've all got fond memories of Christopher the generous and discerning host: a performance of Mozart's C Minor Mass in Berkeley, California, comes to mind. The buzz in the vestry of First Congo Church among the players of The American Bach Soloists: "Did you see who's out there? CHRISTOPHER HOGWOOD!!!!" Then the great man appeared, actually very unobtrusively, offering perceptive and appreciative comments, followed by those magic words in the invitational interrogative: "Chez Panisse?" Of course he knew the finest restaurant on the West Coast. Not for him the post-mortem in the Sufficient Grounds coffee shop.

One day in 2013, I went again to the house in Brookside to interview Christopher Hogwood, this time for a Barbican Centre podcast. As always, he made my job easy. After the recording, a delicious lunch: I had to refuse a glass of wine because I was live on-air at West Road Concert Hall that evening, introducing the Academy of Ancient Music. "Do you think you could get me a ticket?" said Chris. "I forgot to ask for one."

Obviously a ticket was forthcoming: later on I sat stage right at my little desk, looking at Christopher Hogwood in his seat, wearing one of his beloved Scandi-noir sweaters and a contented smile. And once again, backstage after the concert, he had warm words for the artists. Not every conductor, musicologist, broadcaster, scholar, pioneer, all-round early music star could or would be so generous as he sent his ensemble off into the world.

I'm going to end with words from Chris himself, from an edition of Radio 3's Early Music Show recorded five years ago. This is what he said when I asked him how he'd like to be remembered:

"Oooh — that's difficult. I think I would like to leave some enduring footprint — one foot in performance and one foot in the science of it, because I think they've been unnaturally separated by university and conservatoire for too long. So if I could have the same effect on upcoming musicians as Thurston Dart had on me… I think the performer and the scholar can, and they should, be one and the same person."

In Christopher Hogwood, they were one and the same.

 

Purcell
An Evening Hymn Z. 193, to words by William Fuller (1608–1675)

Now that the Sun hath veil'd his Light,
And bid the World good Night;
To the soft Bed my Body I dispose,
But where shall my Soul repose?
Dear God, even in thy Arms, and can there be
Any so sweet Security!
Then to thy Rest, O my Soul! and singing, praise
The Mercy that prolongs thy Days.
Hallelujah.

Emma Kirkby soprano
Richard Egarr harpsichord

 

The Prayers

concluding with the Lord's Prayer

Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
Concerto in D major RV 549, from L'Estro Armonico Op. 3, ed. Christopher Hogwood (2002)
Allegro — Largo e spiccato — Allegro

Pavlo Beznosiuk, Monica Huggett, Catherine Mackintosh, Simon Standage violins
The Academy of Ancient Music

 

The Blessing


 

Hymn: 'Let all the world' (Luckington)
Words by George Herbert (1593–1633)
Music by Basil Harwood (1859–1949)


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
Prelude and Fugue in E flat major (St Anne) BWV 552

Alastair Ross organ

 

* * *


The Reverend Roderick Leece Rector of St George's
Simon Williams Organist & Director of Music at St George's
Colin Lawson The First Address
Catherine Bott The Second Address
Richard Hogwood Reading from T. H. White
Christopher Purvis Reading from W. H. Auden
Emma Kirkby soprano
James Bowman counter-tenor

 

The Academy of Ancient Music

Richard Egarr director & keyboards

Pavlo Beznosiuk, Monica Huggett, Catherine Mackintosh, Simon Standage solo violins
Pavlo Beznosiuk, Catherine Mackintosh, Iona Davies first violins
Rebecca Livermore, William Thorp, Persephone Gibbs second violins
Jane Rogers, Marina Ascherson violas
Joseph Crouch, Imogen Seth-Smith cellos
Judith Evans double bass
Frank de Bruine, Mark Radcliffe oboes
Alastair Mitchell bassoon
David Blackadder trumpet
Alastair Ross organ (voluntaries)

 

* * *


A retiring collection was taken for the Christopher Hogwood Scholarship Funds for Postgraduate Students at the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal College of Music, and Jesus College and Pembroke College in the University of Cambridge.

 
 

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