Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Monday, 24 November 2008

UK conductor Hickox dies, aged 60

Richard Hickox
Hickox was founder and musical director of the City of London Sinfonia

Leading British conductor Richard Hickox has died of a suspected heart attack at the age of 60.

Hickox, who was the musical director of Opera Australia as well as a regular conductor of major UK orchestras, died after a recording session in Wales.

He conducted on more than 300 recordings and in 2006 received his fifth Gramophone Award.

He is survived by his wife, mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen, and his three children.

'Generosity of spirit'

Hickox, who was awarded a CBE in 2002 for his contribution to British musical life, was the founder and musical director of the City of London Sinfonia and associate guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Hickox
His repertoire was wide and varied but his advocacy of British music and the great choral classics was second to none
David Murray
Director of BBC National Orchestra of Wales

He was also Conductor Emeritus of BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

He had been working with the orchestra on a CD recording in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, when he was suddenly taken ill on Sunday.

The orchestra's director, David Murray, said: "As well as losing an inspiring conductor, we have lost a great friend and supporter of the orchestra and chorus.

"His repertoire was wide and varied but his advocacy of British music and the great choral classics was second to none."

Hickox had been due to conduct the English National Opera's production of Riders to the Sea, by Vaughan Williams, which will open this Thursday.

The ENO says the performance will go ahead and will now be dedicated to his memory.

Hickox's agent, Stephen Lumsden, said: "The shock of Richard Hickox's sudden and unexpected death will resonate right around the globe and has robbed the music world of one of its most popular and respected musicians."

He added: "Literally thousands of musicians who were touched by his talent, energy and that remarkable generosity of spirit of his will feel that loss as well."

'Wonderful colleague'

Hickox had been musical director of Opera Australia since 2005 and his contract had recently been extended until 2012.

The classical music world has lost a major figure whose musicianship and enthusiasm endeared him to audiences in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world
BBC Radio 3 controller Roger Wright

He appeared many times at festivals including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, Bath and Aldeburgh.

Controller of BBC Radio 3, Roger Wright, who is also the director of BBC Proms, paid tribute to "a wonderful colleague".

"The classical music world has lost a major figure whose musicianship and enthusiasm endeared him to audiences in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world," he added.

In 2006, Hickox received his fifth Gramophone Award - the Editor's Choice award for his recording of sea songs by composer Stanford, with baritone Gerald Finley, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Chorus of Wales.

Richard Hickox at an Opera Australia rehearsal in Sydney in 2006
Hickox conducted many of the world's leading orchestras

He also won a Grammy - for Peter Grimes - Classical Brit Awards, Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards and the first Sir Charles Groves Award.

Hickox had a long connection with the Royal Opera, in London's Covent Garden, and had been due to conduct works including Britten's arrangement of The Beggar's Opera there this season.

He conducted Britten's Billy Budd at the Washington Opera, the Vienna State Opera and in Cologne, as well as conducting at the Los Angeles Opera.

Hickox, who was a regular guest with the Royal Festival Hall-based Philharmonia Orchestra, also conducted many of the world's leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Orchestre de Paris.

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