Recent necrology, August-September 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Frans Bruggen, 1934-2014
    Dutch conductor, recorder player and baroque flautist
  • Mary Cadogan, 1928-2014
    English author who wrote on popular and children’s fiction
  • Graham Joyce, 1954-2014
    British writer of speculative fiction
  • Bill Kerr, 1922-2014
    Australian actor and comedian
  • John Ritchie, 1921-2014
    Music educator, composer and conductor, ‘father’ of Christchurch music
  • Joan Rivers, 1937-2014
    American actress, comedian, writer and TV host
  • David St John Thomas, 1929-2014
    English publisher and writer who founded David & Charles publishing house
  • Eoin Young, 1939-2014
    New Zealand motoring journalist

Recent necrology, July 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Cover of The Garner FilesCarlo Bergonzi, 1924-2014
    Opera singer whose glorious style, phrasing and tone made him the epitome of Italian vocal art
  • James Garner, 1928-2014
    Actor who breathed new life into the Western genre and excelled as the hero of the Rockford Files
  • Nadine Gordimer, 1923-2014
    Masterly liberal South African novelist who chronicled her country’s journey from apartheid to troubled democracy
  • Cover of The ConservationistCharlie Haden, 1937-2014
    Double bass player who drew on his country music roots to master a bewildering range of jazz styles
  • Anthony Hobson, 1921-2014
    Bibliophile and scholar aesthete who won the admiration of Cyril Connolly
  • John Leach, 1931-2014
    Composer and cimbalom player who helped create the jarring ‘sound’ of the Cold War for The Ipcress File
  • Cover of What Is On Top?Ray Lonnen, 1940-2014
    Actor whose TV career spanned 50 years and who was best known for his role as an undercover agent in Ulster
  • Lorin Maazel, 1930-2014
    Conductor who ranged across the classical repertoire and became the first American and the first Jew in the postwar period to conduct at Bayreuth
  • Louis Zamperini, 1917-2014
    American Olympian and airman whose extraordinary tale of endurance after being shot down was the subject of the bestselling book Unbroken

Recent necrology, June 2014

Some well-known people who have died recently

  • Cover of Best Poems on the UndergroundGerard Benson, 1931-2014
    Poet who brought Hardy and Milton, Auden and Yeats to the London Underground
  • Patsy Byrne, 1933-2014
    Actress with the RSC who later played the dim-witted Nursie in Blackadder
  • Felix Dennis, 1947-2014
    Hedonistic publisher behind Oz and The Week who dreamed of being a great poet but found his true forte was making money
  • James Douglas-Home, 1952-2014
    Racehorse trainer and writer who castigated the new Ascot racecourse as one of the ‘world’s worst dumps’
  • Cover of Night Night Spot!Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, 1933-2014
    Spanish-born conductor of German parentage who blended Teutonic precision with Iberian sensuality
  • Peter Matthiessen, 1927-2014
    Author, naturalist and reluctant CIA agent who gave up espionage to champion a different kind of wild life in his bestseller The snow leopard
  • Rik Mayall, 1958-2014
    Anarchic comedian who took on the British Establishment in The young ones, and The new statesman
  • Josephine Pullein-Thompson, 1924-2014
    Author whose pony club novels thrilled a generation of girls with the jolly adventures of the gymkhana set
  • Cover of Regal Records Live in New OrleansJimmy Scott, 1925-2014
    Jazz singer who was later in Twin Peaks
  • Horace Silver, 1928-2014
    Jazz pianist and composer behind Latin and hard-bop tunes that became post-war standards
  • Eli Wallach, 1915-2014
    Masterly and versatile actor of stage and screen who particularly delighted in playing villains
  • Bobby Womack, 1944-2014
    ‘Soul survivor’ of an astonishingly lurid lifestyle who fused passionate gospel and dulcet crooning

Recent necrology, November 2013

cover for Andy WarholA list of well-known people who have died recently:

  • John Cloudsley-Thompson, 1921-2013
    Desert naturalist who toured the Sahara after an eventful war in which he faced an SS panzer ace
  • Arthur Danto, 1924-2013
    Critic who championed Warhol’s work and proclaimed the death of art as we had known it
  • Chico Hamilton, 1921-2013
    Drummer who brought the flute and cello to the jazz scene, dividing critics
  • Doris Lessing, 1919-2013
    Prizewinning novelist and feminist flag-bearer whose controversial bestsellers stretched the boundaries of realist fiction
  • Andro Linklater, 1944-2013
    Writer of intellect and panache whose curiosity took him from headhunters to the Hebrides
  • John Tavener, 1944-2013
    Composer admired by the Beatles who turned from playboy to icon of contemplative music
  • Paul Walker, 1973-2013
    American actor best known for his roles in the Fast and Furious action movies
  • Frank Wess, 1922-2013
    Saxophonist who also made his mark on the flute playing with Count Basie

A composer with his own voice

cover for Atchangeli Michaelis interventioneJohn Tavener died aged 69 on 12 November 2013.

Without mentioning his music I find a great deal to admire in John Tavener. He suffered a lifetime of ill health – including a stroke in 1980, a heart attack in 2007 and Marfan syndrome. Diagnosed in 1990 this resulted in an operation, after which he was critically ill and it effected him all his life. Despite this he managed to produce a large body of work and become a significant voice in classical music.

He started out as a radical, coming out with a flourish by being noticed by the Beatles and having two works released on the Apple label in the 1970s, thereby giving himself a burst of fame.

Yet the 80s found him swimming against the tide in many ways. Deeply spiritual (itself unfashionable unless you’re into eastern religion) he became interested in Roman Catholicism and later converted to the Greek Orthodox Church, He wrote a work called The Beautiful Names a mediation on the 99 names of Allah on 2007 and was known for his universalist approach to religion.

He abhorred what he called subjectivity, which I interpret as the cult of the self on which we have all be fed since birth and

his ideal relationship with his spirituality as it’s expressed in his music is that he should be a channel through which the music flows, with as little impediment from the predilections of his own personality as possible. “I wanted to produce music that was the sound of God”.

Could you get less fashionable? This got him labelled as a “holy minimalist” a category which one obituary thought

condemned some of his more accessible works to choral music collections of Relaxing Classics

Clearly he was a man who marched to his own drum. Personally I’m not worried whether I agree with his philosophy and beliefs. Music is visceral for me and if it speaks to me then that’s all I need to know. Tavener’s work does just that and I am grateful for it.

Try listening to The Protecting Veil on Music online.

Happy birthday Gareth Farr

CoverGareth Farr was born on this day in 1968. Back in the 70s we would have called him cool. The New Zealand composer who is a world class drummer and used to have a drag act. He already stands out from the crowd before you hear his music.

I’m no judge of drag acts, but I was once privileged to hear his  Lilith LaCroix drum drag act and I can tell you that the drumming was fantastic – a once in a lifetime experience. As for his music, it is always compelling. His work is heavily influenced by his interest in percussion, especially of the Indonesian Gamelan, but also other Pacific and Maori drumming traditions, making him a New Zealand and Pacific composer.

Educated here and at New York’s Eastman School of Music, he launched his career with a number of works played at the 1996 New Zealand International Festival of the Arts. Since then he has been commissioned to create music for many high profile occasions including the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the opening of the Museum of New Zealand and the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney (a concerto for percussionist Evelyn Glennie ).

One of his most popular works is Kembang Suling, although the dramatic Te Papa has wider appeal. Try this version if you’re looking for something new and exciting. You might also recognise his theme to the TV programme Duggan.

He has also created some haunting works with Richard Nunn on Taonga Puoro, such as this farewell He Poroporoaki

Most recently at the NZSO Odes to Joy concert in 2011 he debuted Kaitiaki, a stunning new work which reflected the spirit of Beethoven’s Ninth. It was commissioned by the NZSO, with words by Witi Ihimaera and sung by an all New Zealand cast of Simon O’Neill, Jonathan Lemalu, Madeleine Pierard and Sarah Castle.

Explore more of Gareth Farr’s music on Naxos which contains many of his recordings from throughout his career.