Death of a Radio 3 veteran

We hear word of the death of Leo Black, a member of the all-star BBC Radio 3 team of Deryck Cooke, Robert Simpson, Leo Black, Basil Lam, Alan Walker, Eleanor Warren and Julian Budden. He was 86.

Born in London in 1932, he attended grammar schools in Amersham and Cheltenham and Wadham College Oxford. After two years with Universal Edition in Vienna, he joined the BBC Radio 3 Music Department in 1960 and stayed until 1988.

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  • Looking at that list of names (while adding Julian Herbage and Anna Instone), as also the reference to 1960, brought to mind the fine, musically erudite writers of Gramophone Magazine at that time. Inevitably, then, I think of the devastation visited on both Radio 3 and Gramophone over more recent years. ‘Dumbing down’ is something of an understatement. All in all, an utter disgrace and, of course, counterproductive. Gramophone lost half its readership in about five years, and Radio 3’s listeners decline in number steadily.

  • So sorry to hear of his passing. I remember reading his 1970s Musical Times article on Hugh Wood’s music and admiring the exceptional quality of his writing then and last week I ordered his book BBC Music in the Glock Era and After. A great loss.

  • I’m sorry to hear that Leo Black has died. His ‘BBC Music in the Glock Era’ is an absolutely fascinating book written by a man whose name was familiar as a provider of ‘programme notes’ for broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 in the good old days (i.e., before it started to ape Classic FM). I imagined him then to be a rather solemn musicologist (‘Leo Black has provided the following note’, the announcer would intone with suitable gravitas), but on the evidence of this book he is a witty, astute and observant recorder of life at the BBC during his time. Parts of the book are very funny indeed.

    One reviewer described the author as ‘refreshingly immodest’, and that’s part of the attraction, for it is a story from his point of view, telling truthfully how it was and how he felt among such gifted colleagues at the centre of British musical life at the time.

    • From the Andre Tchaikowsky website and from Leo’ book:

      Quote: André was definitely one of the great eccentrics; my favourite saying of his concerned the “improving machine,” which he insisted the BBC must have somewhere on the premises – “I come and make these awful recordings, you put them in the improving machine for a few months and they come out sounding wonderful!” The other great André-ism should ring a bell with any honest pianist confronted by a passage marked “espr.”: “I did not play it very well but I pulled a very expressive face.”

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