Students mourn death of ‘an amateur in the greatest sense’

Students mourn death of ‘an amateur in the greatest sense’


norman lebrecht

January 13, 2016

Nicholas Daniel, oboist and conductor, informs us of his teacher’s death:

purcell school


Today I heard that Lenore Reynell died. She was the Head of Music at the Purcell School for many years, during my whole time there, and I’ve often thought about her huge musical influence on me and so many others. Today is a good day to celebrate it.

She was someone who TOTALLY loved music. I remember her literally exploding at Pat Bloomfield (now Lady Haitink) when she declared she had to leave to go to a gig. Lenore spasmed in horror at the idea of earning money through music and almost hit her with a music stand!

But this is because she was an amateur in the very greatest sense, she loved music wholly and completely, and dedicated her whole life to it and to us, thought the school and Piggots Music camp. The Beethoven 1 we learned with her is still truly memorable for me, in fact so much so that I still know the whole work from memory and I’ve never played it or conducted it since. The same goes for Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb. I’ve never forgotten the way she forced the whole school choir to sing my highly experimental, Penderecki influenced Gloria, berating people for laughing at it… And making something memorable (for me) from it.

When I did my audition for the school, I remember Richard Taylor the headmaster trying to be cool and keep my Mum guessing, and Lenore waltzed into the room and declared “yes marvellous, wonderfully musical, give him a scholarship”.

When she coached me in the Poulenc Sonata, she almost literally fell off her seat working with me on the last movement as the music hit her so hard. She was never afraid to show how the music affected her.
Later on it was she who taught me the Vaughan Williams concerto first of all, which I played when I won BBC Young Musician. She gave me her conducting score of it as a gift and wrote in it such inspiring and supportive words, and I was so happy to be able to write to her before I finally recorded it last year and thank her for her unique and most special insight into the piece.

When Lenore retired she spent some years teaching English to the Gujarati speaking community in Wembley and caring for her dear old Mum. I remember dropping in on her once and I felt that she had rather moved on from school, quite correctly, and yet her musical love and uncompromising manner with the music will be part of who I am for ever, and the same goes for so many of my contemporaries from school.

That woman is conducting a choir of angels right now, possibly throwing music stands at those who say they have to leave early for a paid gig.


  • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

    “… literally exploding …” May the mountains crumble! Can one not construct a sentence without the use of the totally inane incorrect usage of the word “literal”! Forgive the cruel reference. Please consider the consequences of Ms Rynell’s literal explosion.

  • Alexander says:

    Just to be a pedant, she’s actually Mrs Haitink, not Lady Haitink. Bernard Haitink’s knighthood is honorary, as he is not a British citizen, and his wife is therefore denied the status of the wife of a substantive knight.

  • Ian Lush says:

    Although I was not at the Purcell School, many of my friends were and I have fond memories of being invited to lead the violas for one of the Piggots music camps playing Mahler 1 with Lenore conducting. She rightly gave me a hard stare when I brought the entire section in a bar early during a rehearsal, but was warm with her praise and appreciation once we had successfully negotiated the end of course performance – an inspirational woman.

  • Gillian Perry says:

    I was just listening to Dido and Aeneas. I sang it at Pilgrim Scchool Bedford where Lenore Reynell taught for some time late ’60s early ’70s. She has remained an inspiration to me all my life. Through her I sang lots of beautiful music. Sad she is not here anymore.