Thursday, 1 January 2015

Michael Kennedy 1926-2014

Michael Kennedy has died, and with him one hopes not, the end of an era when writing about music meant a level of knowledge,  but even more importantly , integrity, humanity and the idea that there's always more to learn. Like Neville Cardus before him, he wasn't formally trained, but had a good ear, and a good mind, things which can't really be taught.  He cared about music and how people listened. As he famously said, there's no need to dumb down, since good people will rise to the stimulation that is good music.

Kennedy's great forte was British music. His work on Elgar raised the bar for British music studies, firmly placing Elgar in the mainstream of European tradition.  He also wrote, and taught about other British composers, like Vaughan Williams. Donald Mitchell, born only 13 days before Kennedy, cornered the market for Britten, but both men promoted Mahler. Mitchell's work on Mahler is scholarly : Kennedy's book on Mahler reached non specialist readers and brought many into the realm of Mahler studies. Kennedy's liner notes and reviews weren't  ephemeral filler but genuinely informative. He wanted to share his enthusiasm and listen more sensitively.He wasn't a celebrity, but eager to keep learning.  Until recent years, he was often at British music events, in the audience, giving talks, and approachable. The last time I saw him, a few years ago, he looked extremely frail. But he will live on forever, in his books and in memory, as long as there are people who believe enough in good music to appreciate that it can inspire without being turned into pabulum. 

Most detailed obit HERE in the Telegraph.

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