Death of a versatile UK music critic

Death of a versatile UK music critic


norman lebrecht

November 20, 2017

We have been notified of the death on November 17 of Conrad Wilson, music critic for many years of The Scotsman and later of the Herald.

Conrad had just turned 85.

As well as reviewing music in the Scotsman, he also had a food and wine column.

He published a biography of the conductor Alexander Gibson and histories of the national orchestra and the national opera. I commissioned him 25 years ago to write a biography of Puccini for Phaidon’s 20th century composer series. The result sparkled with merriment and appreciation. He was a lovely colleague, a joy to work with.





  • Kate says:

    I remember him coming into the shop with his wee girls in a pushchair. RiP Conrad.

  • Edward McGuire says:

    Very sorry to hear this. His reviews – and obituaries on other musicians – were always perceptive and fascinating. He also fought against the decline of classical music reviewing in the British press.

  • Nick says:

    Very sad news! Scotland was exceedingly fortunate that as perceptive a critic and commentator as Conrad was to return to work in Edinburgh to write for The Scotsman very soon after Alexander Gibson had been invited to take over at the Scottish National Orchestra. Over the next quarter century he witnessed and chronicled what Robert Ponsonby called “the gold age” of music in Scotland. Conrad wrote of the major revolution that was already under way, first with Gibson’s programming for the orchestra, its first overseas tours (at the Musikverein with Janet Baker and Jacqueline du Pre as soloists and later being the first British Orchestra outside London to appear in Carnegie Hall), the founding of the renowned Edinburgh Festival Chorus, of Glasgow’s triennial contemporary music Festival ‘Musica Viva’, the founding and nurturing of Scottish Opera and the consequent founding of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. And that is just part of the list.

    Throughout this period there was no more passionate advocate than Conrad Wilson. He never failed to keep his readers abreast of all the developments, praising and equally handing out brickbats when they were due, the latter often aimed at the burghers of his home city for their lack of funding of the hole in the ground that was intended to be the long promised opera house and their often parsimonious attitude towards the International Festival.

    As Scotland’s musical fabric gradually became untangled towards the end of the last century, there were more brickbats (thoroughly deserved) than praise. But the passion remained. Through his books, the glories of those earlier years are lovingly described. Not all remain in print. It would be a fitting tribute to his memory if the publishers were to consider another print run.

  • Cliff Fogarty says:

    50 years ago I bought Conrad Wilson’s book ” A Critic’s Choice”. This was his choice of 300 key recordings for your record shelf. It was stimulating & educative. It enabled to collect LPs with more discrimination.