The subtle, profoundly influential conductor George Hurst died on Saturday, aged 86.
Born in Edinburgh to Russian and Rumanian parents, Hurst was the formative head of orchestras at either end of England. For ten years from 1958 in Manchester, he turned the BBC Northern (now BBC Philharmonic) from an also-ran to a serious competitor to the Halle. He then went on to found and lead the Bournemouth Sinfonietta as a much-needed touring ensemble in the sorely neglected south-west. In 1990 he rebuilt Ireland’s RTE Symphony Orchestra.
(all photographs (c) Godfrey MacDominic/Lebrecht Music&Arts, rights protected)
Never one for fuss or fame, Hurst worked everyone’s socks off in rehearsal and gave his students a hard time. The results could be astonishing. A late recording of the first Elgar symphony (on Naxos) reveals an uncanny feel for organic tempi and an ability to find emotional dynamite in what others treat as a transitional passage. Hurst was a great conductor with no airs or graces, therefore greatly underrated.