Death of a noble conductor

Death of a noble conductor


norman lebrecht

May 28, 2014

We have been informed of the death, aged 84, of Francesco d’Avalos, descendant of centuries of Spanish-Italian nobility and a determined propagator of some of his country’s lesser-known glories.

I first came across him as conductor, with the Philharmonia Orchestra, of luscious, little-known works by the quasi-Mahlerian Giuseppe Martucci. he also composed two operas, one about his ancestor Maria d’Avalos, wife of the wife-murdering composer Gesualdo.

Francesco died on Monday in the palazzo where he was born. May he rest in peace.




  • Colin Deane says:

    Dear Mr Lebrecht

    I’d like to add one important detail to the biography of the late Maestro Francesco d’Avalos. His career as an international conductor was entirely financed by Janine, Countess of Warwick, third and last wife of Fulke Warwick, the seventh Earl. Janine was a close friend of mine and I was the intermediary in the sudden appearance of Francesco d’Avalos on the London musical scene. He had never been anything more than a professor at the San Pietro a Majella in Naples before that, with the occasional dabbling in provincial concert halls.

    I was working at the ENO at the time and I set up a meeting with Janine and the Hochhausers in what was then the royal retiring room at the ENO. I worked, albeit independently, alongside Stephen Flintwood, then concert manager for Victor Hochhauser Ltd, to create and further the career of d’Avalos. Janine, a widow, paid for every concert and recording made by Francesco and squandered her considerable fortune in the process. She sold her enchanting beach house in Barbados, which is where she and Fulke became close friends of mine and of my family, her splendid apartment on the Avenue d’Iéna her house is Caen and her apartment in Geneva and, finally, the glorious villa on the Via Appia Antica outside Rome where I was a frequent guest.

    When Francesco was in London, which was often, she provided him with a suite at the Savoy and I was there every day to discuss the schedule with the Philharmonia Orchestra and attend recording sessions. She even tried to help him in his efforts to restore the Palazzo d’Avalos in Naples and invited the magazine, Interiors, to come and write a piece about the palazzo (Interiors, October 1985) and later organised the tabloid coverage of his walk through parts of Naples with her house-guest in Rome, Princess Margaret. She acted as his PR and, because of my friendship with her, I did what I could, organising a newspaper interview with Richard Osborne and a meeting with Barry Millington, as well as a filmed interview at the Palazzo d’Avalos with Helena Matheopoulou as the interviewer. It was a sort of madness on Janine’s side and she was never acknowledged nor thanked. I don’t know if Francesco thanked her in his recently-published autobiography. I’d like to think so. He always gave the impression, albeit engineered by Janine, that his talent burst like a comet on to the musical scene in London through ‘pirate’ tapes of his conducting in Naples which had led to his invitation to come to London and give a Wagner concert at the RFH with the Philharmonia and the wonderful Anne Evans. That was hardly the case.

    I think that all who enjoy Francesco’s recordings and write his obituaries should pay tribute to the person who made his musical career, as a conductor and composer, possible – Janine, Countess of Warwick. She died nine years ago, in 2005, penniless.

    I know that the superb sound technician, Brian Culverhouse, and the legendary Victor and Lilian Hochhauser would be the first to confirm all that I am saying. I, myself, am happy to back it up with documentation and photographs. It is no less than Janine deserves.

    Yours sincerely

    Colin Deane

  • Alex Milaurowsky says:

    How touching is Mr. Deane’s worried attitude about a sponsoring benefactor credit…
    With a short googling, it is possible to know that Maestro d’Avalos wrote a large-scale book about his first period of musical life: 1930-1957 (not a word od his later British experience). He was already a composer heard in Milano (La Scala) and conducting his works for instance in Germany (not just in “provincial cities in Italy”: there are recordings on youtube).
    I’m sorry Mr. Deane lost The possibility to enjoy a holidays house in Barbados, but I’m so glad we can listen Martucci recordings…

  • Francesco Libetta says:

    Reading Mr. Dean’s comment one can think Prince D’Avalos seduced Lady Warwick and destroyed her fortune…
    Even the musical life in Italy becomes “provincial concert hall” and his palace (a gorgeous palace built in XVI Century) semms to need help to be noticed by journalists.
    Is Mr. Dean not really serious in writing conments, is he eating very heavy meals, is he in a troubled period or are we speaking of different people?