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A prince among record producers is gone

John H. West, one of the most trusted and hardworking classical studio men in the UK has gone to the great mixing desk in the sky.

Many well-known artists, from Menuhin to Andrew Manze, owe him a measure of their fame in a credit list of some 450 recordings. Here is a fond tribute written for Slipped Disc by one of his last artists, the pianist James Rhodes:

John_West_listening

So back in 2009 I’m a few months out of a mental hospital, living in a grimy basement flat in South London when by fate, chance, dumb luck I find a manager willing to finance my first ever cd. I had not played in years but knew that I wanted to have a career as a pianist. I think I was still somewhat high from all the medication.

We drive down, my manager and I, to Potton Hall and I’m introduced to a kindly looking, softly spoken man called John who was to be my producer. I’d never had a producer before. I had no idea what to expect other than some vague notion of a slightly angry piano teacher type armed with a red pencil and score and ready to interrupt every wrong note with a shout.
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Forty minutes later I knew that I had, miraculously, found a mentor, producer, sage, all round dude who could guide me in ways I’d never ever imagined.
The first piece I played was Bach’s 5th French Suite. He let me play it through twice uninterrupted, gave me some gentle and incredibly prescient advice (ornaments, tempi, questionable added octaves etc) and we repeated the process with Chopin’s 4th Ballade, Beethoven’s Op 90 and a few other pieces and a couple of days later I’d recorded my first album. He was never dictatorial, always open-minded, able to put across suggestions in a way that seemed encouraging and helpful rather than judgemental and punitive. And his editing skills were (thank god) second to none.
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We worked together on my next two – one for Signum one for Warner Bros; the only thing I knew for certain was that no matter what, John had to be the producer and I only looked, regretfully, elsewhere for my fourth album because by then that bastard cancer had reared its ugly head.
He worked a lot with Steve Long and Mike Hatch (Signum boss and sound man extraordinaire) and they were a team that somehow seemed always to get the best out of me. No mean feat.
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John West has produced and worked on over 450 separate albums, including artists such as Danny Driver, Tasmin Little, Libor Pesek, Jamie Walton, Daniel Hope, the Endellion, Philip Langridge, Yehudi Menuhin, John Mark Ainsley, Truls Mork, Christian Tetzlaff, Charles Mackerras, Stephen Hough, Neville Marriner, and on and on.
He was humble, caring, wise and most of all he absolutely loved music. Qualities that are as precious as they are rare in music these days. He will be missed.

James Rhodes

 

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Comments

  1. This is a very sad loss. Very good and loyal friend, … very fine musician and producer.
    TonyF

  2. A very nice tribute. Unfortunately John West may represent a rare species threatened with extinction.

  3. John was passionate about music, and a delight to work with.

  4. I had the privilege of working with John over a period of 25 years and we had wonderful adventures together. John and Lou are some of the most wonderful human beings i have met and a real inspiration to me. He will be very sorely missed.

  5. Sandra Parr says:

    The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic were fortunate to have been recorded by John, many happy memories and the recording world is poorer for losing him. So many artists enjoyed his gentle coaxing and warm humour to bring out the very best of what could be given. Such a wonderful legacy of recordings left behind….John won’t be forgotten.

  6. Clarissa Smid says:

    So sad to have heard this news ahead of press today. I had hoped to have the pleasure of working with and getting to know John, as some of my closest friends spoke so lovingly of him and his musical life. My heart goes out to his partner and the team at Floating Earth.

    In sorry we missed each other.

    Clarissa

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