Farewell to Christopher Hogwood (1941–2014), harpsichordist, conductor and early music pioneer

Christopher Hogwood, conducting in 1976

I was very sad, and also quite surprised, to hear that Christopher Hogwood CBE had passed away on 24 September 2014. His own website says he had been suffering from a brain tumour for several months.
I interviewed him on the phone in March 2006, primarily about Mary Potts, the harpsichord teacher we both had in common, see here.

Although I’ve talked to a lot of well-known people, I was really quite star-struck during that conversation, as his voice was, unsurprisingly, just the same as when I’d listened to his BBC radio programme, ‘The Young Idea’, when I was a schoolboy. At that time, ‘Pied Piper’, written and presented by David Munrow, with whom Hogwood co-founded the Early Music Consort of London was another firm favourite of mine.

Hogwood playing the medieval harp and percussion as well as keyboards in this group from 1965, and then became the continuo player and musicologist for the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, where, according to Sir Neville Marriner, their scores were “hogwoodized”. Partly due to frustration that there was no real attempt at “authenticity”, he started his own period-instrument group, the Academy of Ancient Music, in 1973 (borrowing the name from an 18th-century ensemble). He led the AAM until 2006, when Richard Egarr took over.

During my conversation with Hogwood, fragments of information about Hogwood himself surfaced, of course. He told me, for example, that he had had a few lessons from George Malcolm, making Mary Potts his second harpsichord teacher, not his first, as I’d thought. He joked that he was not keen for this to be widely known, given that Malcolm had a famously non-historical approach, and that he had needed to be weaned off playing a harpsichord with seven pedals.

Apart from studying with Mary Potts when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Hogwood also lodged in her house in Bateman Street for ten years. At this time, David Munrow (remembered here in Tom Service’s 2012 blog) was also a regular lodger and would often bring the whole Early Music Consort to practise in Mary’s living room.

I have picked up various other crumbs of information about Hogwood in the course of researching the lives of various forgotten pioneers of the early music movement, but nothing very substantial.

One story that sticks in my mind is about his pre-rehearsal warm-up routine on Mary’s late 18th-century Shudi harpsichord, which reportedly consisted of him playing as many preludes and fugues from Bach’s Wohltemperierte Klavier as could be managed in the time that it took to make some mulled wine.

He had a considerable keyboard instrument collection of his own, including a Kirckman and an 18th-century Dutch chamber organ previously owned by Thurston Dart, along with several modern instruments; see the catalogue here. I wonder what will happen to this collection and his “vast” personal library?

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Hogwood’s life has been well documented in the press and online, so, rather than writing any more, I list here some links to sites which may be of interest, plus some of the current obituaries, which include appreciations, career highlights and embedded videos.

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1 comment to Farewell to Christopher Hogwood (1941–2014), harpsichordist, conductor and early music pioneer

  • Saddened to hear the news of CH’s demise. Interesting to hear his views on George Malcolm. I found this quote recently:

    “I was interested in historical keyboard music when I was at school; I think perhaps I had heard George Malcolm in concert, but I certainly sought out harpsichords. When I went up to Cambridge I initially read Classics, but tired of this and took music courses. Working with colleagues such as David Munrow (with whom I founded the Early Music Consort) shaped my early musical career further.
    In terms of tuition, I would have to say that a number of my teachers have shaped my career, including Raphael Puyana and George Malcolm. The Cambridge based harpsichordist Mary Potts was particularly influential as a teacher; I even lived in her house for a while and particularly enjoyed playing her Schudi-Broadwood harpsichord of c.1775, which had formerly belonged to Arnold Dolmetsch whose son Rudolph had been her teacher.” Chis Hogwood, Early Music (2012)

    I also have fond memories from 1969 when Chris and David Munrow gave the first performance of my “Miniature Suite” for Recorder and Harpsichord.

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