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London loses a leader of legend

We have been informed of the death of Hugh Maguire on Friday, at the age of 86.

hugh maguire

Dublin born, Hugh was leader of the London Symphony Orchestra during the turbulent late 1950s (1956-61), when strong-minded players exerted their contrasting wills on an always turbulent ensemble. Neville Marriner was leader of the seconds, Simon Stretfeild was principal viola, Kenneth Heath led the cellos and Stuart Knussen the double-bass section.

Losing one argument too many, Hugh joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra as leader from 1962 to 1967, while also playing in Marriner’s newly founded Academy and founding the Cremona Quartet with his student, Iona Brown.

He later led the Allegri Quartet and taught at the Royal Academy of Music and the Britten-Pears School. His strong, clear tone can be heard on hundreds of recording.  May he rest in blessed peace. His death was first announced at Aldeburgh.


Hugh Maguire interview from Elias String Quartet on Vimeo.

 hugh maguire2

Brian Brooks, Hugh Maguire and Peter Pears backstage at Aldeburgh, June 1980. Photo (c) Nigel Luckhurst/Lebrecht Music&Arts

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  1. Hugh Maguire a great man an wonderful musician. Conducted the Irish Youth Orchestra for many years in the 70s/80s. The first conductor I ever played under in a symphony orchestras. I will remember him with great affection. RIP

  2. I became 1st trombone of the LSO in March 1957.Most of the principal players had left in 1955/6 to form the Sinfonia of London,taking much of of the best (recording and film) work with them. Then various unknown youngsters – Gervase de Peyer, a budding clarinet soloist, Barry Tuckwell a brilliant young horn player from Bournemouth, Bill Waterhouse from 2nd bassoon at Covent Garden, myself from the CBSO – came in to fill the spaces left by the departing rebels. Hugh Maguire’s quiet authority as leader did so much to focus all the young talent around the orchestra, as did the other string principals, Stuart Knussen, Ken Heath Simon Streatfeild.and Neville Marriner. We in the brass had a great time, but it is with most affection that I remember Roger Lord (oboe) and the other winds. The recordings with the 86-year-old Pierre Monteux are testaments to those thrilling years and in particular to the wonderful focus of Hugh Maguire’s leadership.

    • Lovely memories, Dennis. Legend.

      • Chumalovsky says:

        Hugh was very inspiring to all us young ,budding musicians in the 70′s. Later ,socialising with him I loved listening to his anecdotes about his London years playing under the great maestri such has Monteux,Toscanini and many more . He is sadly missed.How poignant that we’re writing about him on father’s day . He was the father of the Irish Youth Orchestra which inspired many more orchestras to be formed.. We,his children and grandchildren in music, are incredibly indebted to him.
        Slan A Hughie!

        Ar dheis de go raibh a t’anam

  3. John Parfrey says:

    I heard the Irish Youth Orchestra under his baton at the International Festival of Youth Orchestras in Aberdeen. Stunning performance. Sadly, the group only had money enough to come and play the concert, then travel back to Ireland. I think that with my youth orchestra (from Milwaukee), IRO was one of the big hits of the festival. I also remember and love his Lark Ascending with Adrian Boult. Hopefully RVW heard it as well.

  4. David Roth says:

    What a sad day.
    I owe most of my career in music to Hugh. He first heard me when I did an audition to play as an extra in the LSO in 1959. I played behind him later in the BBC Symphony and St Martin in the Fields and beside him in the Allegri. I have many wonderful memories, including travelling to Hong Kong with Fou Tsong and making the recording of Britten’s quartets nos. 1 and 2 at Snape with the composer in attendance.
    David Roth

  5. Yet another musician whose performances in the LSO shaped my listening life as a member of the concert going public and in recordings.

    It is easy to forget that when people are in their formative years, and I listened to many recordings of Hugh whist at Sixth Form College and as an Undergraduate, musicians of his caliber serve as such an important inspiration to the next generation. He was a very fine player indeed.

    I may not be a string player, but much choice of degree subject and decision to end up as a Soprano and Instrumental Teacher were thanks to Orchestral players like Hugh whose legacy of recordings helped foster a love of classical music in general. That spark encouraged me to practise all my instruments, my oboe, my recorders, the piano and my singing, develop an interest in musicology, theoretical, historical and in performance practice and have turned me into the musician I am today.

    Unlike others who have contributed, I may not have met you, but you have shaped me.

    May you rest in peace.

  6. Russell Platt says:

    What a wonderful musician. His first recording of the Mendelssohn Octet was a huge inspiration to me when I was a kid—it is “fine,” in the Hemingway sense: minimum of showiness, maximum of coordination, profound effect.

  7. John Skuse says:

    I seem to recall that Hugh led the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra either in the late 40s or early 50s. He must have been one of the youngest leaders ever if I am correct.

  8. Michael Healy says:

    Really sad to hear about Hugh. He was the one who made me decide to be an orchestral player. Hugh was the violin, (it was a fiddle as far as he was concerned) coach of the NYO of GB when I was leader around 1970-71. What an inspiration, with the glint in the eye and a very friendly word of encouragement for everyone. Wonderful man.

  9. Caroline Maguire says:

    Thank you all for such heartwarming comments!

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