Alison Balsom: We have lost a Hollywood superstar

Alison Balsom: We have lost a Hollywood superstar


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2014

The trumpet virtuoso has sent us these reflections on the death of Rod Franks, former principal trumpet of the London Symphony Orchestra.

alison balsom



I first met Rod Franks when I was a star-struck teenager in the NYO – where he simply dazzled us with his terrific playing, his intriguing tales of touring, concerts, mischief he got up to with his colleagues, and famous conductors, but also simply his encouraging and powerful, gentle and inspiring, boldly brilliant teaching and coaching. He helped me greatly with my own playing and career at many of the steps along the way.

Hearing him play countless fiendish solos in the LSO with such ease and panache was always awe-inspiring for me, and then to meet him in real life – with his incredible football skills, charming and funny personality – he seemed like a kind of glamorous superstar straight from the world of Hollywood, where indeed, even there, he made such a huge impression with his wonderful playing.

After learning of the dreadful news of his brain tumour, many of us hoped but didn’t dare believe Rod could continue to be the extraordinary player he once was – but that same sheer determination, strength of character and great talent for learning, that had already helped him achieve so much – proved us all wrong. An incredible, life-affirming comeback from a man of such enormous talent, surely inspired thousands of us musicians on through the harder times.

The tragedy that we learn of this week leaves the entire music world a lesser place – but also I’m sure every single person who knew him will feel a bright light has gone out. I know I will always remember a man really and truly larger than life in the very best way. All my thoughts go to his family at this deeply sad time.


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  • ruben greenberg says:

    A beautiful, moving tribute. Thank you, Alison.

  • Paul Quigley says:

    Lovely tribute from a hugely talented artist who is now a role model in her own right, inspiring young players to follow in the footsteps of both Rod and herself. Well said Alison.