Richard Hickox dies at the age
of 60 of a suspected heart attack
It was with great sadness that we learnt of the
death of Richard Hickox on Sunday 23 November. All at Chandos would
like to express our heartfelt sorrow to his wife, the mezzo-soprano
Pamela Helen Stephen, and to his three children, Tom, Adam and Abigail,
as well as to his mother, Jean.
Richard Hickox was part of the Chandos family,
making more than 280 recordings for the label. He died after a recording
session in Swansea, devoted
to what was scheduled to be the second volume of Chandos' latest
Holst series, with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Early in his career, Hickox made many distinguished
recordings with Decca (Argo) and EMI, but he found his most enduring
collaboration with Chandos Records, which he joined in 1988, starting
with a magnificent recording of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. Hugely successful, this recording
proved an indicator of two areas of the repertoire in which Hickox
especially excelled: British and choral music.
Not that Hickox was simply a conductor and promoter
of British music. He was in every sense of the word an international
conductor. He was currently Musical Director of Opera Australia
(a post recently extended to 2012), and had a long association with
The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where he was due to conduct L'elisir
d'amore and Britten's realisation of The Beggar's Opera
(his past productions there include Paul Bunyan, Billy
Budd, Les Contes d'Hoffmann, Mitridate, re di Ponto
and A Midsummer Marriage). He also conducted Billy Budd
at the Vienna State Opera, Washington Opera and in Cologne;
Salome, I Capuleti e i Montecchi and Rigoletto
at Los Angeles, and many
productions at the English National Opera. In addition, Hickox was
also Associate Guest Conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra,
Founder and Music Director of the City of London
Sinfonia; Co-Director of the period instrument group Collegium Musicum
90 and Conductor Emeritus of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
In the near future he was engaged to conduct the
National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, the Netherlands
Radio Chamber Philharmonic, the Tonkünstler-Orchester in Vienna and the Konzerthausorchester in Berlin.
Hickox favoured a range of music that superbly
satisfied Chandos' recording ethos, especially in his championing
of neglected repertoire. The music of Alwyn, Arnold, Lennox and Michael
Berkeley, Bridge, Dyson, Grainger, Holst, Howells, Ireland,
Leighton, Rubbra, Sullivan, Tippett et al. was vigorously
promoted as were the operas of Benjamin Britten. His recordings
of the masses of Haydn and, later, Hummel received tremendous critical
acclaim. He had a particular affinity with the music of Vaughan
Williams and this year embarked on some twenty concerts with the
Philharmonia Orchestra to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of
the composer's death. His recording of the original version of A
London Symphony (with the London Symphony Orchestra) was made
'Record of the Year Award' by Gramophone in 2001.
His repertoire was enormous, however, and ranged
from baroque to contemporary music, including music by Bach, Vivaldi,
Handel, Telemann, Beethoven, Verdi, Menotti and Prokofiev, to name
a few of his enthusiasms outside the British repertoire - all of
which was represented on Chandos.
In 2006 he received his fifth Gramophone
Award, for his recording of sea songs by Stanford (Editor's Choice). He also received Gramophone awards for his
recordings of Britten's War Requiem (1992), Delius' Sea
Drift (1994) and Walton's Troilus and Cressida (1995).
He won a Grammy Award for his recording of Britten's Peter
Grimes (1996), two Music Awards from the Royal Philharmonic
Society, the first Sir Charles Groves Award, the Evening Standard
Opera Award, and the Award of the Association of British Orchestras.
He was an Honorary Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge,
where he was an Organ Scholar, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate
of Music at Durham
University in 2003. His most prestigious recognition outside academia
came with the award of a CBE in the Queen's Jubilee Honours List
Hickox was a consummate musician who possessed
a thorough understanding of his craft and was very much loved by
the many people who worked with him.
Ralph Couzens, the Managing Director of Chandos Records, writes: 'Richard has been
associated with Chandos since 1988, when he recorded Elgar's Gerontius
for us. Since then he has recorded more than 280 CDs for the label
and I am proud to say that I have been involved with just about
every one of them, mostly as Sound Engineer but sometimes as Producer.
Richard was wonderful to work with, he understood the whole process
of recording, the limitations of acoustics and microphones, and
the need to pace a recording to make the most efficient use of time;
but most importantly he always got the best out of people in the
nicest possible way. He quite often joked about the amount of time
he was allowing me to get the sound right; each new recording he
gave me less time, usually we ended up with fifteen minutes. Richard
was not only a great conductor, musician and champion of British
music, he was passionate about everything he did and whenever there
were doubts, if he believed in a project he would make it happen.
His sense of the business end of the industry was very impressive
and he always found a way of solving logistical or financial issues.
Richard's recordings on Chandos have won many awards, including
Gramophone awards and a Grammy. Our relationship was one
of equal loyalty to each other, and never once did he waver from
working with Chandos - even when tempted by other labels. In Chandos'
roster he was very much regarded as the chief conductor of British
and choral music. Having worked with so many singers and choruses
on Hickox sessions I can honestly say that everyone had the highest
respect for his musicality and his way of coaxing the last ounce
out of everyone to produce the perfect take. Sometimes a new piece
was introduced, about which the players and singers had great doubts,
but Richard had already found in it something that he could work
with, to bring it to life - rather as in his life: always full of
energy and positiveness. I have never met a conductor who worked
harder than Richard, always thinking about the next project whilst
completing the last, never taking time for a break. The only time
every year he really switched off was his two weeks in his beloved
Cornwall where he spent much time surfing. He was
loved by everyone, and at Chandos especially by my father and me.
We both had a very personal relationship with Richard and his family,
(Pamela, Adam, Abigail and Tom, and Richard's dear mother) having
spent many evenings in hotels during recording sessions, chatting
about everyone and everything, but mostly connected with his passion
for music and especially British music, and it was during a recording
of music by Holst that Richard was taken ill, a day I shall never
forget. Richard really was part of the family and we will all miss
him very dearly.'
the Founder and Chairman of Chandos Records, writes: 'I have known
Richard Hickox for over twenty years, as a colleague and close personal
friend. The first recording we did with him was twenty years ago,
in Watford Town Hall in 1988, and he has remained our exclusive and - more importantly
- loyal artist ever since. Over the years, we have made more than
280 recordings, the highlight for me being Britten's War Requiem.
His long association with many orchestras, including the BBC National
Orchestra of Wales, London Symphony Orchestra, Collegium Musicum
90 and City of London Sinfonia, is a tribute to the esteem in which he was held. On
Sunday 23 November, Richard was working with us on a new Holst recording
in Swansea. He came in
to hear the first movement of the Choral Symphony at 3.15
and was taken ill; he died later that evening. It was a terrible
shock to me, Ralph and all at Chandos, from which it will be very
hard to recover.'
Sue Revill, Financial Director and Chaconne Label Manager, writes: 'I worked
with Richard on many CM 90 projects over the years and I shall never
forget his enthusiasm in the planning and his professionalism in
the performance. I know Richard was very proud of his Early Music
band - CM 90 - which he co-directed with Simon Standage, and was
thrilled to receive a Gramophone Award for one of his recordings
of Masses by Hummel. From a financial perspective Richard was a
joy to work with, as he actually understood how much a recording
would cost and in many cases managed to find funding from trusts
of other contacts to help us make a project possible. We will all
miss him at Chandos. He was invariably optimistic, tactful and kind,
often remembering to send a note or message of support which meant
such a lot. He leaves a big hole in our hearts and in our Company.'
Managing Director of Intermusica, Hickox's agent for over twenty
years, says: 'The shock of Richard Hickox's sudden and unexpected
death will resonate right around the globe and the music world has
been robbed of one of its most popular and respected musicians.
It also takes away from his beloved family a deeply devoted husband,
father, son and brother. Literally thousands of musicians who were
touched by his talent, energy and that remarkable generosity of
spirit of his will feel that loss as well. Richard never wavered
or faltered in his commitment and support for others, even when
faced with the most daunting challenges. His ability to inspire
the best through his passion for the music he conducted created
countless memorable performances in the concert hall, on the opera
stage and on disc. His championing of British music and his international
successes, particularly in Sydney, as well as his legacy of 100s of recordings
across the whole spectrum of repertoire will remain with us for
many years to come. All those who knew him will feel deeply for
his wife, Pamela, and his three children, to all of whom we offer
our most sincere and heartfelt condolences.'