A fine conductor has died, at 92

We have received notice of the death today of Raymond Leppard, a leading figure in British music, prolifici recording artist and long-serving music director of the Indiannapolis Symphony.

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announces the loss of a long-time artistic leader and friend, as Raymond Leppard died earlier today in the presence of his closest friends and husband, Dr. John Bloom. Maestro Leppard, Conductor Laureate and Music Director from 1987 to 2001, was 92 years old.

A harpsichordist in 1950s London, he became involved with the period awakenings of Thurston Dart, Neville Marriner and George Malcolm. In 1963 he presented a breakthrough Monteverdi production at Glyndebourne. In the 1970s he was principal conductor of what is now the BBC Philharmonic in Manchester.

A friend of Benjamin Britten’s, he conducted his operas at the Met, Covent Garden and elsewhere.

But this is what he did best.

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  • The Indianapolis Symphony made a number of nice recordings with Leppard conducting for the Koss Classics label (part of the well-known stereo headphone company). Koss’s business plan was that audio shops, not record stores, would be their primary distribution but I’m not sure it ever quite worked out that way. In any event the Koss website shows just a handful of recordings left for sale, but one of them is Leppard’s all-Schubert disc with Indianapolis.


    • There is also an all- Schumann CD on the same label with the same performers which includes the Symphony No. 1, Op. 38. Both date from 1991.

    • Had the pleasure of hearing Leppard lead the Milwaukee Symphony in Elgar’s Cello Concerto (with Lynn Harrell) and Vaughan Williams’s rarely performed (in the U.S., at least) “London” Symphony ca. 2003 – *WONDERFUL* performances. I was sitting in the front row in Uihlein Hall, so could have almost reached up and tapped either artist on the shoe! Leppard clearly loved the music and had the MSO in the palm of his hand. Good times.

      Plenty of Koss Classics to be found on the eBay and Amazon used market. Leppard’s Indianapolis discs are gems, and there are some good Milwaukee Symphony productions, too.

  • I met him on a flight from Manchester to New York, and we had a very cordial and friendly chat. He had just been with the Halle and he was on his way to Indianapolis. I heard him in concert several times. He accompanied Rostropovich in Don Quixote with the BBC Northern Symphony broadcast by the BBC, a superb performance. Struck me as a very nice man. Certainly unusually willing to chat to a stranger about music!

  • One of the most respected music directors. I will forever hold our collaboration close to the heart. We performed Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto together with the St. Louis Symphony. His was a heart of gold. Now join the pantheon of the greatest conductors of the past in the Heavens. Thank you, Maestro.

  • Mr. Leppard was a joy to work with and a pleasure to know. His sense of humor lightened the mood in many a long rehearsal. Unlike many conductors, he also took responsibility for his mistakes. In one evening performance he forgot to take a repeat, so he stopped conducting for a moment, but the ISO musicians took the repeat and continued on. At a rehearsal the next morning he apologized to us profusely and thanked us for “saving him.” He rarely made mistakes in performances.

    The public may not know one thing we musicians loved about recording and performing with him. He unfailingly struck the same tempo on each take without the need of a metronome or listening to the last take. His interpretation of pieces included his phenomenal memory of the exact tempo he had chosen for a work, each time we performed it.

    We retired, after 30 years, from the ISO just one year after Mr. Leppard retired as Music Director. We knew we would not see another conductor who would please us as much as he did.

  • Have not seen him in quite a few years, but if I remember correctly he did not look like Ronald Reagan as much as he does in the top picture here.

  • Well done Raymond. We were lucky to count him as a friend in Indianapolis. I had been a fan while in college in the early 1970s. Never would have quessed to have known him and shared good time as we catered often for him and ISO in the 1980s and 1990s. A gentle man and scholar.

  • Not a flashy conductor, didn’t spend time “playing” the media, but I distinctly remember listening to his Indianapolis concerts on the radio and realizing how much depth there was in his interpretations. He certainly was not just a Baroque specialist (tho he did that repertoire very, very well!).

    Great talent does not always reside in nice people. I’m so glad to hear Leppard was as warm and genial off the podium as he was on it. Nothing says our artist-heros have to be great human beings, too, but it’s certainly a pleasant extra when they are!

    • I have just heard of the death of Raymond Leppard and am very sorry. Tho grateful on his behalf for a long life. I have just listened to him in Bburg Concerto 3 and read your comments. As I listened I could visualise his warm smile. He always seemed to smile. The music he conducted seemed to smile. Says it all, I think. — Peter M. Cooke, UK

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