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Richard Campbell

1956-2011

 

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  • The Guardian, Sunday 13 March 2011

    Versatile founder member of Fretwork, the group that gave English music for viols an international appeal

    Richard Campbell, who has died unexpectedly aged 55, was a multifaceted musician best known as a founder member of the viol consort Fretwork. From their London debut in 1986, they shook the dust off the English consort repertoire and gave it international appeal as concert music.

    Richard played the treble viol, and later the tenor, in the group, which quickly established a global reputation for fastidiously crafted interpretations of consort music from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods through to Henry Purcell, combined with a creative drive to commission new works that exploited the ensemble’s exotic sound-palette.

    He featured in 31 recorded albums, on Virgin Classics and Harmonia Mundi, as well as on film soundtracks including Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) – Richard’s constant companions – and The Da Vinci Code (2006). The group won two major recording prizes: a French grand prix du disque for their recording Lachrimae, or Seaven Teares, of music by John Dowland, in 1979, and a Gramophone award in 2009 for Purcell: Complete Fantazias. Their tours, including several to Japan and one, in 1989, to Russia when it was still part of the Soviet Union, helped spread Fretwork’s reputation all over the globe.

    Fretwork brought Richard to prominence as the musician he really wanted to be, despite coming from a line of educators. His maternal grandfather was the Cambridge professor of physiology and Nobel laureate Lord (Edgar) Adrian, and his parents were schoolteachers.

    Richard was born in Hammersmith, west London. From Marlborough college, Wiltshire, where he overlapped with Bill Hunt, later to be a Fretwork colleague, he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, graduated in classics in 1976 and remained at the university for a further year of teacher training. But he decided to reject what he saw as his “dubious prospects” as a Latin teacher, and chose instead the perhaps even more uncertain path of devotion to a broad range of early music activities. He began in 1980 by studying the viol for a year at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.

    In the three decades that followed his return to Britain, he appeared as a viol soloist in all the prominent period-instrument ensembles, was ubiquitous as a continuo cellist, and was appointed professor of viol at the Royal Academy of Music. He loved music of all kinds and served it in many ways. His grounding in classics had equipped him for a critical study of historical texts, so that he was able to research and prepare repertoire and programme notes for many of the ensembles in which he played the cello, viol or bandora; he became an adept and elegant interpreter and an enthusiastic teacher of French baroque court dance; and demonstrated as much ease and sensitivity playing or dancing the blues as baroque repertoire.

    With his father as business manager, he convened and organised the Tregye Festival Players near Truro, Cornwall, in the 1980s and 90s, providing a relaxed summer-camp setting for freelance musicians, and a rare opportunity for Cornwall to hear some of London’s best baroque players. In 1987 he married Henrietta Wayne, a freelance baroque and classical violinist. The couple inspired with their love of music both their daughter, Chloe, and son, Joss, who have themselves embarked on promising careers as musicians.

    Hunt noted that Richard’s approach to music was characterised by a rigorous rationality. Often uncompromising in his unwillingness to follow what he saw as superficial effect, he was not an obvious “team player”. But his single-mindedness was never less than sincere and cogently argued, finding a perfect outlet in playing the great English polyphony for which Fretwork was founded, and in his beloved Bach, where the clarity of individual voices gives the music its life.

    In later years he formed a close bond, encompassing both music and poker, with the flautist Martin Feinstein, in whose regular concert series at St Martin-in-the-Fields church, Trafalgar Square, he became a mainstay.

    With an intelligence directed by an intense curiosity rather than the mandates of formal study, Richard could maintain an inexhaustibly argumentative interest in any aspect of musical meaning or performance, particularly when sustained by good company, food and wine. But his vigour and sense of fun were checked by a lifelong struggle with depression, and he was found dead at his family home in Cornwall.

    He had been separated from his wife since 2005. He is survived by his children, his sisters, Emma and Sally, and his mother, Jennet. His father, Peter, predeceased him.

    Richard John Campbell, musician, born 21 February 1956; died 8 March 2011

  • The Telegraph, Monday 14 March 2011

    Richard Campbell, who died on March 8 aged 55, was a leading player of the viola da gamba and a founder member of the early music ensemble, Fretwork.

    Fretwork (the name was Campbell’s idea) came together during a tour of Spain in which Campbell and his fellow viol players Richard Boothby and William Hunt were performing in part of a concert arranged by Andrew Parrott’s Taverner Consort. With little else to do, the trio began working on their own repertoire. Soon the group had expanded to six members and they were working with other early music specialists, including the soprano Emma Kirkby and the countertenor Michael Chance.

    An approach from the composer George Benjamin, who had heard their recording of Byrd, opened up a new opportunity: why not write a contemporary work for these early instruments, he suggested. Soon John Tavener, Michael Nyman and Thea Musgrave had also written for them. Another fan was Elvis Costello, who shared Campbell’s interest in John Dowland, the English Renaissance composer. In 1995 the ensemble was invited to perform at his Meltdown Festival.

    Meanwhile, their disc Birds on Fire features music for viols from Jewish composers at the Court of Henry VIII alongside a klezmer-influenced work written for them by Orlando Gough. Two years ago their recording of the complete Fantasias by Henry Purcell won aGramophone Award.

    Campbell also enjoyed a wider musical portfolio, including appearances on albums by Kate Bush and Robbie Williams, dancing a galliard (a Renaissance dance) for Channel 4 television, singing with the Dufay Collective (another early music outfit) and appearing as the onstage musician in the British premiere of Vivaldi’s 1717 opera L’Incoronazione di Dario at Garsington in 2008.

    He was a passionate advocate for his instrument and its music, always happy to discuss its place in the musical firmament and often stressing his point that Dowland was “the Bob Dylan of his day”.

    Richard John Campbell was born in west London on February 21 1956. His mother was from an academic family; his father was a teacher who moved the family to Cornwall when he was appointed headmaster of a school in the county. After Marlborough, where he first played cello and sang in the choir, Richard read Classics at Peterhouse, Cambridge. At the International Cello Centre, held in the Scottish Borders, he developed a fascination for the music of Dowland. After further study at the Guildhall in London and with the Baroque specialist Wieland Kuijken in the Netherlands, Campbell toyed with the idea of becoming a Latin teacher, but instead threw himself into the capital’s musical milieu, joining the Dowland Consort.

    As well as his Fretwork commitments, Campbell played continuo cello for conductors such as John Eliot Gardiner, Harry Christophers and Richard Hickox; appeared with the London Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; and performed frequently with the flautist Martin Feinstein and the violinist Catherine Manson. He taught at the Royal Academy of Music.

    In 1998 Fretwork took part in the Lockerbie Memorial Concert at Westminster Cathedral; three years later they took a stunning series of performances, that included lighting effects, dancers and intricate choreography of the instrumentalists’ movements, around a number of English cathedrals. Latterly they had turned their attention to the music of JS Bach and are presently on tour performing the Goldberg Variations.

    In 1988 Richard Campbell married Henrietta Wayne. In recent years he had spent more time back in Cornwall. There he indulged his passions for Latin, literature and cigarettes; he also had a large collection of early instruments. Latterly he had learnt to ride a motorbike, but in the end failed to fight off the depression which had affected him for much of his life.

    He is survived by his wife and by a son and a daughter.

  • The Times, Monday 14 March 2011

    Baroque cellist, viol player and founder member of the viol consort Fretwork whose early music concerts received worldwide acclaim

    Richard Campbell was one of the outstanding instrumentalists in the world of early music. As well as being a superb exponent of the baroque cello, he was a founder member of Fretwork, the viol consort which, in the 25 years since its foundation, brought the consort music of the 16th and 17th centuries to audiences all over the world.

    When Fretwork gave its first concert in 1985, there was nothing quite like it in Britain: a viol ensemble, appearing without a conductor and performing music which had originally been written for amateur groups in a domestic setting.

    Despite the group’s initial misgivings, the enterprise was an enormous success: international tours and a record deal quickly followed. Campbell played the treble (later tenor) viol in the group. His considerable expertise in the music of the period and its performance practices was also a significant influence, and his learned programme notes were often a feature of Fretwork concerts.

    Richard John Campbell was born in West London in 1956. His parents, both teachers, were keen amateur musicians, and in his teens Campbell took up the cello. After school in Sheen and at Marlborough College he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to read classics. His intention at first was to be a teacher, and although his love of Latin never waned it was music which finally won his full attention.

    After graduating in 1976 Campbell took a teacher-training qualification; but rather than use it he opted instead to study at the International Cello Centre, a grandiosely named but tiny institution (it usually had no more than eight students) in the Scottish Borders presided over by the school’s founder, Jane Cowan. She was an inspirational but eccentric figure, described by a contemporary of Campbell’s, Steven Isserlis, as “a mad genius”.

    Campbell continued his studies at the Guildhall School of Music, where he enrolled on the Early Music course. He was particularly interested in studying and playing the works of the great 16th-century polyphonists, whose work he had first encountered when singing in the chapel choir at Marlborough. Postgraduate studies at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague followed, and Campbell also studied privately with the eminent viola da gamba player Wieland Kuijken.

    On his return to London Campbell became a member of Jakob Lindberg’s group the Dowland Ensemble. He was also much in demand as a cello continuo player, appearing with groups such as John Eliot Gardiner’s English Baroque Soloists and Andrew Parrott’s Taverner Consort.

    It was on a Spanish tour with the latter group that Fretwork was first conceived. Campbell and two colleagues, Bill Hunt and Richard Boothby, found themselves in Barcelona at a loose end and, with time on their hands, got together to play through some consort repertoire. The following summer, and now numbering six, they gave their first public concert in Richmond; in June 1986 their London debut at the Wigmore Hall announced an exciting new group.

    At first Fretwork was heard almost exclusively in the consort music in which it excels: the masterpieces of Elizabethan polyphonists such as Gibbons, Byrd and Tye, the Fantasias andIn Nomines of Purcell and the consort songs of Dowland. But in 1990 the British composer George Benjamin, who had been entranced by the group’s playing, offered to write them a work. The resulting song, Upon Silence, a brief but exquisite setting of W. B. Yeats, was unlike anything the ensemble had attempted before. Mastering its difficulties took some time, but the triumphant success of the work led to their commissioning much more contemporary music; to date they have premiered more than 30 new pieces for viols, including music by Sir John Tavener, Michael Nyman and Sally Beamish.

    Although Fretwork tours and teaching duties at the Royal Academy of Music (where he was professor of viola d’amore) took up much of Campbell’s time, he remained busy both as a continuo cellist and also in other groups, including the Dufay Collective, in which he also sometimes played the guitar and lirone (a forerunner of the cello). In the 1980s and 1990s he was also the artistic director of a small music festival at Tregye in Cornwall, not far from where he had spent the latter part of his childhood. In recent years he also regularly played with the baroque flautist Martin Feinstein at St John’s Smith Square, but also in his popular Bach series at the South Bank Centre.

    In rehearsal Campbell could be passionately combative (particularly in Fretwork, an ensemble once described by one of its members as “dangerously democratic”) — but his friends are more likely to recall the laid-back figure who before concerts could often be found sitting in a quiet spot, fag in hand, completing a crossword at improbable speed.

    He had many passions in life, ranging from Bach and brewing to sailing and motorcycles; but throughout his life he struggled with depression, which eventually claimed him.

    Campbell married Henrietta Wayne in 1987; they separated in 2005. She, a son and a daughter survive him.

    Richard Campbell, musician, was born on February 21, 1956. He died on March 8, 2011, aged 55

 

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