Christopher Hogwood CBE – Founder (1941-2014)

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Throughout his 50-year career, conductor, musicologist and keyboard player Christopher Hogwood directed his synthesis of scholarship and performance towards revealing the true form of musical works and thus exciting their fullest appreciation. Spearheading the movement that became known as “historically-informed performance”, he promoted it to the mainstream through his work on baroque and classical repertoire with the Academy of Ancient Music and his solo keyboard recordings, and went on to apply its principles to music of all periods with the world’s leading symphony orchestras and opera houses. At every stage he prepared editions of music from the 16th to 20th centuries, both for his own performances and for the major publishing houses, and through his accompanying essays and other writings he enabled musicians and audiences to consider not only the composer’s intentions but also the circumstances of a work’s first performances and the processes of its composition, revision and adaptation.

Christopher was born in Nottingham on 10 September 1941. His father Haley, a physicist with the Ministry of Supply, and his mother Marion, a trilingual secretary for the International Labour Organisation, were amateur musicians and had met in a choir. Educated at Nottingham High School and The Skinners’ School, Royal Tunbridge Wells, in 1960 he went up to Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, to read Classics and Music. At the University he came under the pioneering influences of Charles Cudworth, Thurston Dart and Mary Potts, and beyond Cambridge he studied with Gustav Leonhardt, Rafael Puyana and — during a year of postgraduate study as a British Council scholar in Prague — with Milan Poštolka and Zuzana Růžičková. In 1965 Christopher became a founder member of the Early Music Consort with fellow Pembroke alumnus David Munrow, as well as continuo player, keyboard soloist and consultant musicologist with Sir Neville Marriner’s Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Finding few existing opportunities to engage in research and to apply it fully in performance, Christopher founded his own period-instrument ensemble, the Academy of Ancient Music (AAM), in 1973.

During his 33 years as Director of the AAM, Christopher produced more than 200 solo keyboard, chamber, orchestral, choral and opera recordings for the Florilegium series on Decca’s specialist early-music label L’Oiseau-Lyre, championed by producer Peter Wadland. This most fruitful of recording partnerships resulted in enormous success both with critics — early awards included a Grand Prix du Disque for JC Bach overtures (1978), a Gramophone Award for Mozart symphonies (1979) and a Brit Award for Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (1985) — and with the public: Christopher was invited to conduct Handel’s Messiah with the AAM at the Hollywood Bowl during the 1984 Olympics, having been the highest-placed conductor in the US Billboard charts the previous year. Christopher and the AAM enjoyed the freedom to embark on major and often ground-breaking touring and recording projects — many, such as the complete Mozart symphonies, were the first on period instruments — as well as to pursue less well-known repertoire, often from performing editions he had prepared himself and always as part of carefully curated programmes. 

Christopher’s solo keyboard recordings included such landmarks as the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, Byrd’s My Ladye Nevells Booke and JS Bach’s French Suites, as well as discs of Arne, CPE Bach, Louis Couperin, Frescobaldi and Gibbons among others. He performed on the full range of strung and piped keyboard instruments, but had a particular affinity with the clavichord, the instrument historically favoured by composers for its expressive powers and held up by Christopher as proof of former generations’ greater esteem for domestic and amateur music-making: these factors culminated in his Secret series of works for clavichord by Bach, Handel and Mozart.

As his conducting repertoire broadened, Christopher began working with numerous orchestras around the world, and with several he built lasting relationships as significant to him as his on-going association with the AAM. As Artistic Director of the Handel and Haydn Society, Boston (1986-2001), he encouraged their conversion to a period-instrument ensemble, recorded Handel concertos and Haydn arias, and conducted Mendelssohn’s Elijah for the 100th anniversary of Symphony Hall. With the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota (1987-1998), he performed music from Corelli to Tippett and showed in concert and on record how an orchestra could respond to the stylistic demands of each period on modern instruments. In a series of recordings with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra (2001-2005), he established his reputation as a Martinů specialist, particularly through his work on the ballet music and complete works for violin and orchestra.

Many of his later concert programmes would mix baroque and classical works with neo-baroque and neo-classical responses by composers such as Casella, Respighi and Stravinsky. A favourite combination of sinfonia concertantes by Haydn and Martinů is preserved on a disc with Kammerorchester Basel, and as their Guest Principal Conductor (2000-2006) he made several recordings of Klassizistische Moderne as well as of theatre music by Bizet and Strauss, Barber and Copland. One of his most satisfying collaborations, and his most recent, was with the Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra, of whom he was Chief Guest Conductor from 2011 and with whom he gave his final concert in March 2014. Other notable engagements included operatic runs at Covent Garden, La Scala, the Paris Opéra, theDeutsche Oper and the Sydney Opera House.

The expanding range of Christopher’s conducting work continued to be supported and often driven by his musicological activities. Moving beyond editions striving to present a single Urtext or a Fassung letzter Hand (last manuscript version), he significantly advanced the concept of the “process” edition, which enables musicians to study and perform a work in the various stages of its composition and revision. With Bärenreiter he produced more than 40 editions of major chamber and orchestral works including Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Brahms trios and sextets, Mendelssohn overtures and symphonies, and Elgar’s Enigma Variations. In 50 publications with Edition HH, he was able to promote lesser-known works such as keyboard arrangements of Dowland, the seventeenth-century anthology fitt for the Manicorde, and contemporaneous chamber arrangements of Haydn and Mozart. Among his many other projects were Purcell’s incidental music for Faber and funeral sentences for Oxford University Press, as well as Stravinsky’s final work, a set of arrangements of Bach preludes and fugues, for Boosey and Hawkes. He was an editor and board member for the complete editions of C. P. E. Bach and Martinů, and the Founding General Editor of the Francesco Geminiani Opera Omnia, published by Ut Orpheus, editing three of the volumes as well as a collection of essays.

Christopher’s editions and recordings were accompanied by introductory essays as thoroughly researched as his journal articles and books, and all his writings were articulated in as precise, concise and engaging a manner as his broadcasts and lectures. Even early in his career, his authoritative public speaking was the natural ally of his scholarship and performance: he was known as one as of the first musicians to address the audience during concerts, an eloquent advocate of the fledgling movement for historically-informed performance, and throughout the first decade of his time with the AAM he was also the writer and presenter of The Young Idea on BBC Radio 3. One of his first books, the BBC Music Guide to The Trio Sonata, was developed alongside the radio series, while Music at Court for The Folio Society was written in conjunction with his AAM recording of the same name. His classic 1984 biography of Handel has been translated into Czech, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish and Spanish, and was revised in English in 2007. As well as contributing numerous articles to dictionaries and journals such as New Grove, the Dictionary of National Biography, Early Music and De Clavicordio — the proceedings of biennial conferences at The International Centre for Clavichord Studies, of which Christopher was co-director — he edited volumes of essays on Music in Eighteenth-Century England and The Keyboard in Baroque Europe. 

In recognition of his work, Christopher received Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Cambridge, Keele and Zurich, and the Royal College of Music, as well as the Handel Prize, the Martinů Medal and the Distinguished Musician Award from the Incorporated Society of Musicians. He was created a CBE in 1989. At the University of Cambridge, he was Emeritus Honorary Professor of Music and an Honorary Fellow not only of his own college, Pembroke, but also of Jesus College. He was a Visiting Professor at both the Royal Academy of Music and King’s College London, Professor of Music at Gresham College, a Tutor and Visiting Artist at Harvard University, and Andrew D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University.

Christopher died of a brain tumour at his home in Cambridge on 24 September 2014.