Death of an indispensable critic
December 31, 2014 by norman lebrecht
We are terribly sad to hear from colleagues on the Telegraph of the passing, this morning, of Michael Kennedy, aged 88.
UPDATE: Comprehensive Telegraph obit here
Michael was one of very few critics who was a journalist before he was a musician. He joined the Telegraph in Manchester at 15 in 1941, went off to have a great war in the Navy and served as the paper’s northern editor from 1960 to 1986. When the edition was hit by printers’ strikes, he produced the paper single-handedly from Manchester. He was a craftsman in all he did, as editor, writer, biographer and music critic.
His musical outlook was shaped by Sir John Barbirolli’s golden era at the Halle. Michael wrote excellent biographies of Mahler, Strauss, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Walton, Britten, Adrian Boult and Barbirolli himself, as well as several Oxford reference works. Passionate as he was about musicians, he never disguised the relativity of his feelings.
Privately, among friends, he placed Strauss above Mahler, VW above Britten and Barbirolli above all other conductors. He and I argued the relative merits of composers long and hard. Michael was always amenable to another point of view, but never to be swayed in his passions.
His writing was a model of clarity, sometimes dry but never dull. He learned much from Neville Cardus, including a devotion to cricket and a talent for friendship. Many musicians and writers will feel the poorer for his passing. We will not see his like again.
Our warmest sympathies to Joyce.
bronze (c) Cecile Elstein
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