Vale Christopher Hogwood – Master Enabler of Musical Beauty

Hogwood BestChristopher Hogwood (1941- 2014) conductor, harpsichordist, musicologist and all time erudite exponent and trailblazer of early music you kept everyone playing, enjoying and appreciating music of great beauty for years.

You bowed out gracefully, exiting this life on 24th September 2014 and we who admired and respected your innate musical genius salute you.

An accomplished classics and musical scholar, Christopher Hogwood you unknowingly educated me about the joys and beauty of Baroque music, by encouraging my love of early music when playing splendidly on original instruments during a formative period in my musical life.

Christopher Hogwood first made a name for himself in London with his fabulous Early Music Consort, in which he participated from 1965 to 1976. After eagerly listening to their music for years on CD at home it was in his final year with the group that I first encountered the bounteous beauty of early music live when played under his skilled and energetic baton.

This happened when I was travelling to London extensively during the 70’s and 80’s. As the years rolled by each time I would take tickets to the performances of the new group he founded The Academy of Ancient Music.

This stunning group combined brilliant scholarship and playing with a passion for the past that was in the present being gloriously reinvented by their maestro to help embolden the future.

Hogwood & Academy Ancient MusicThe powerful overwhelmingly poignant works they performed were exceptional, exhilarating, emotional and often entirely unpredictable.

For me it was always just like wonderful fireworks going off in both your head and heart at the same time.

Hogwood corrected old scores, adjusted the tempo to what he believed the original composer intended, producing unique sounds that were enhanced through a wonderful layering of musical textures that music of the Baroque era is renowned for.

His intention was always to understandably recreate the original composer’s intention in terms of performance and to that end he prepared nearly all the music of the repertoire the orchestra played.

He was a guiding light to his players, certainly not an autocrat, but a collaborator at the highest professional level, “I’m for democracy to the point of anarchy” he was renowned for declaring.

By the early 80’s in England and in America he had achieved superstar status, a celebrity exponent of the early music movement.

CD CoverThe Academy of Ancient Music produced numerous CD’s all to great acclaim. Christopher Hogwood was given the title of the ‘Karajan of early music’ when he came 3rd on the 1983 Billboard charts just behind the popular Placido Domingo and Dame Kiri te Kanawa.

He was invited to conduct orchestras in America, notably the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, selling out his performances.

He really liked his music sleek and smooth, which got him into trouble from time to time as he refined sounds probably meant to be more robust in an age less sophisticated than he was.

He conducted a 400 musician strong Messiah in the Hollywood Bowl for the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 and was appointed artistic director of the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston in 1986.

This was when historicity, which is so popular right now, perhaps reached its turning point and therefore able to surge forward taking reams of fans with it.

He took an age-old tradition and made it all brand new. He produced musical performances that engaged the soul, pioneering and paving the way others to be inspired to bring forth so many further interpretations and powerful presentations in the future.

Baroque MusiciansHe became Director of music of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra of Minnesota (1987-92; principal guest conductor 1992-98) and artistic adviser to the Australian Chamber Orchestra (1989-93).

In 1996 he began share conducting and directorial responsibilities at the Academy of Ancient Music with Paul Goodwin and Andrew Manze and in 2006 took the title of emeritus director when Richard Egarr succeeded him

Academy of Ancient MusicHogwood appeared in many of the world’s leading opera houses.

This included Covent Garden, the Paris Opéra, the Deutsche Opera Berlin and Sydney Opera House.

He also recorded many operas, including Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Agrippina, Alceste, Orlando and Rinaldo, Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo, and Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail and La Clemenza di Tito.

ClavichordHogwood’s accomplishments as a keyboard player are a legacy all can enjoy, works by Thomas Arne, CPE Bach, Louis and François Couperin, William Byrd, Frescobaldi, Giovanni Gabrielli, Orlando Gibbons, Georg Friderich Handel and others.

BaroqueHis discography also included a wide range of chamber and vocal repertoire, as well as neoclassical music.

Christopher Hogwood was the driving light behind a new edition of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach: The Complete Works printed again to coincide with the composer’s tercentenary in 2014.

Of the numerous books he wrote the most substantial were his authoritative biography of Handel (1984, revised 2007), which was enhanced by entertaining documentary material, as well as his own personal insights into Handel the performer.

Then there was his Music at Court (1977); an early study of The Trio Sonata (1979); Haydn’s Visits to England (1980); and Handel: Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks (2005), all written in superbly erudite prose, as befitting a master of penmanship as well.

In the later decades of his career Christopher Hogwood worked increasingly on the repertoire of the 19th and 20th centuries.

He kept busy by preparing editions of works by among others, Felix Mendelssohn, Bohuslav Martin, Edward Elgar (including the Enigma Variations), Johannes Brahms and Igor Stravinsky.

Of particular note would be the publication of the many alternative versions of the overtures and symphonies of Felix Mendelssohn, revealing new insight into the composer’s working methods.

Christopher Hogwood held guest conductorships with the Kammerorchester Basel (2000-06), Orquesta Ciudad de Granada (2001–04), Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi (2003-06) and the Pozna Philharmonic Orchestra (from 2011).

A visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music (1992–2008), at King’s College London (1992–96) and honorary professor at Cambridge University (2002-08) where he both inspired and encouraged many young musicians who no doubt will always remember him as indeed I do, fondly and with enormous respect for his standards of excellence, erudition and elan.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

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