Actueel (archief)

Richard Hickox (1948 ~ 2008)


Press release, 25 November 2008



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 music 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 in 2002.

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.'

Brian Couzens, 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.'

Steven Lumsden, 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.'


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