BBC violinist driven to retirement by hearing loss

BBC violinist driven to retirement by hearing loss


norman lebrecht

November 18, 2019

The death has been reported of Russell Dawson, a violinist in the BBC Symphony Orchestra for 27 years until hearing loss forced him into early retirement in 2003.

Moving to Poundbury, Russell formed the Dorchester Piano Trio with Peter Oakes and Sally Flann. He was an active music teacher, alongside much charity and church work.

Russell died on September 5 at the age of 67.

Obituary here.


  • fflambeau says:

    To his credit, he was honest about his hearing loss.

    This is a phenomenon of old age and very typical. I’m surprised that we have so many aged conductors (many of whom are probably suffering from the same condition) but who do not retire.

    • David Ward says:

      Maybe most of the conductors you mention are lucky and retain nearly all their hearing. It’s certainly possible: I’m 78 and when tested recently had ‘the hearing of a 30 year old.’ As a trombonist my sound went away from me: pity the poor viola player in a pit once who was so close that my extended slide went beside his chair… Mind you, conductors are on the receiving end of all that noise, so perhaps easily deafened over time.

    • dd says:

      not Necessarily, m
      fflambeau, …speaking as a bad violinist,mechanic & racer , whose hearing now,at 65, [as well as eyesight] is more acute than it was 4 decades ago…just search, ‘subluxation hearing loss’ =About 25,270,000,000 results…viz., …Osteopathic manipulation & structural integration have turned back the clock from a dozen crashes in this body..Re-alignment works on humans as well as cars. We are all in need of it.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      fflambeau: conductors hearing

      I have to agree. I have sat in the centre front in the first two-three rows for a concert before. But never again. It is just too loud for me to hear anything.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    I recognise his face from many live and televised concerts.
    Sad him being forced to take early retirement like that.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Odd headline. “Driven to retirement” when he in fact died. The retirement was 16 years ago, his death 10 weeks ago.

    • Chris says:

      Not an odd headline – he WAS driven to retire, because his hearing had deteriorated at that time, to such an extent that he could no longer hold down his position in the orchestra. What the trio was like I have no idea, but it can be very distracting if a section player is not seriously able to fit his playing with the rest of the section (for whatever reason).

  • Kevin says:

    A good man gone too soon. I’m impressed and respectful of him for continuing to contribute valuable work in music after leaving the orchestra, under what must have been a disheartening and frustrating disability. May he rest in peace.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      I wholeheartedly second your emotions, Kevin.
      Hearing loss is wrenching enough for anyone, but to a musician, it is shattering. It may be “typical”, fflambeau, but it is no less devastating.
      Bravo, Russell. Simply, Bravo.

      • Rustier spoon says:

        Russell was always the nicest person you could meet and I’m sure he was a fine violinist…I can’t help but think the BBCSO repertoire, particularly at the time he was there, did not help. RIP Russell.