Death of a tonal British composer

Death of a tonal British composer


norman lebrecht

February 02, 2017

We have belatedly been made aware of the death on Christmas Eve of Philip Cannon, a fine composer and teacher, at the age of 87.

A student of Imogen Holst, Vaughan Williams and Hindemith, he wrote against the modernist grain and was not played much on the BBC after 1960.

Despite this, his lovely piano concertino received more than 1,000 performances.

The Guardian has an obituary.


  • John Borstlap says:

    Indeed a lovely piece, this concertino, with the spirit of the Parisian twenties, a playful and innocent period – on the surface. It must have sent William Glock into the curtains with embarrassment….. so, all recollection of prewar ‘decadence’ had to be stamped-out.

    • Karlheinz says:

      Spot on John – so many of the best recollections of 1920s’ Paris were written by post-WW2 British composers who had no first-hand knowledge of the place or the period, and were stamped out by the cruel realism of Glock and his ilk. Sad!

      • John Borstlap says:

        Yes…. but interestingly, sometimes that cultural sphere is revived, and interpreted anew, as by North-Irish/London composer Alan Mills who writes beautiful songs in the tradition of Poulenc.

        Also in France itself the twenties are sometimes revived as by Guillaume Connesson:

  • David Heyes says:

    Philip was my theory professor at the RCM from 1980-83 and was brilliant. A true maverick, with a strong voice of his own, full of confidence about his compositional abilities, and rightly so, and he was a great but much underrated composer. I kept in contact with him from 1983 until about a week before his death and he was the only one of my RCM teachers who really made a lasting impression on me. He is the composer I knew the longest but had the fewest pieces from – one work in 37 years, but what a work! I will play it at his Memorial Concert at the Savile Club in London, where he was a member for many years, on Wednesday 25 October 2017 (still to be confirmed). A true one-off who will be sadly missed.