Mourning for an original British pianist, 80

Hamish Milne, a fine pianist renowned for his recordings of the Russian composer, Nikolai Medtner, and of the little-known sonatas of Carl Maria von Weber, died this weekend. He was a much-loved teacher at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

From his website cv:

Hamish Milne was born and grew up in Salisbury of Scottish parents and studied with Harold Craxton at the Royal Academy of Music and then in Italy with Guido Agosti (who had studied with Busoni). At the Accademia Chigiana in Siena he was lucky enough to hear the classes of Casals, Cortot and Segovia at the end of their lives and, in particular, to hear those of Sergiu Celibidache, which made a deep impression on him that lasts to this day. He is interested in film, books, people and cricket, ‘in a completely eclectic and disorganized way’.

UPDATE: Hyperion Records have issued this statement: Hyperion is very sad to hear the news of Hamish Milne’s passing. Hamish made a dozen very fine recordings for Hyperion both as a soloist and as a chamber musician. His wide discography includes Bach transcriptions by Catoire and Kabalevsky, Busoni’s dynamic solo piano music and rare concertos by Lyapunov, Holbrooke and Wood but Hamish is probably best known as a champion of the works of Nikolai Medtner.

UPDATE: Tribute by Gabriela Montero

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  • RIP Hamish Milne. He was a hugely talented but typically self-effacing British pianist of the type we seem to specialise in

  • A wonderful teacher and mentor. I was in awe. I remember that his teaching studio at RAM had an imposing portrait of Anton Rubenstein on the wall – between his intense gaze bearing down on me and Hamish’s equally intense scrutiny of my inept attempts at Chopin and Bach, I felt thoroughly put through the ringer every Tuesday afternoon! Wouldn’t change a single thing though. RIP Maestro

  • Very sorry to hear this. His BBC recording of Edgar Bainton’s ‘Concerto-Fantasia’ from the 1970s was one of my all-time favourite concerto recordings. I had it on a reel-to-reel tape and hope it is still extant elsewhere. When I met him in the late 1990s at a masterclass and congratulated him on it, he seemed to have almost forgotten having recorded it.

    • That was his modesty….. My teacher Klaus Hellwig, a couple of years younger, was also student of Guido Agosti, and Hellwig spoke very highly of Milne.

  • A very fine pianist and true musician. He was not a great “performer” in public, partly cos he disdained any “showy” aspects and any personal glory, a pity, and a loss to the musical world as he gave full value to all the inner qualities of the composers he championed. Typically British- over modest, now a vanished breed. RIP and thanks for many fine recordings.

  • A wonderful pianist who glided skilfully under the radar of media mediocrity, his quality revealing itself to those who understood. Many thanks for all your work.

  • Hamish was an outstanding teacher, wise, philosophical and incredibly generous as well as being a magnificent pianist. He was my greatest inspiration and I owe so much to him. I feel blessed to have known him and to have had such a long and enriching friendship.

  • I was introduced to Medtner’s piano works through Hamish Milne and am still greatly moved by his recordings. Am sorry to hear of his passing.

    • Andrew, I am listening to one of his Medtner’s CDs whilst I write this. I didn’t know he had died and am sad. He was a great pianist, utterly devoted to his craft. RIP.

  • I did have a few lessons with Hamish Milne myself and am very saddened at his passing away. He was very inspirational as a teacher and performer.

  • A very sad day. He was still holding masterclasses well into his 70s. He will be remembered by Medtner enthusiasts worldwide as the man who, more than anyone, took reawakened interest in Medtner in 1970s.

  • Our hearts are heavy. A beautiful man has left us. I will never forget spending the evening with him at Cadogan Hall. My wife, his former student at the RAM, was playing a Beethoven Piano Concerto with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. After the performance I asked him what he thought. “She did nothing I taught her,” he said quietly, with an admiring grin, adding, “But with a performance as compelling as that, who the hell cares?” An open musical mind and heart. I only met him a few times, but treasured every one of those occasions.

  • Sad news indeed. His superlative recordings of Medtner opened my ears to this somewhat neglected Russian master. In particular, his rendering of the Sonata in E minor ‘Night Wind’, Op.25/2 provides ample testimony that this is one of the great piano works of the twentieth century.

  • I may be unusual in having found my way to Hamish because I was already bitten by Medtner. But I was composer first, pianist second, and can’t imagine what a trial to his patience Hamish must have found me. Nonetheless he was an endlessly generous mentor – and one of the first exponents of my piano music. How many artists of his stature would learn an unpublished piece by a 26-year-old simply because they asked him to? I shall be forever in his debt.

  • Hamish Milne’s Medtner recordings joined those of Benno Moiseiwitsch, Medtner himself, Horowitz, Igor Zhukov, Tatiana Nikolayeva. and especially Yevgeny Svetlanov as pianist among the best and most persuasive I know.

    While Rachmaninoff was a friend of Medtner’s and valued him highly as a composer, and dedicated his fourth concerto to Medtner, he left no recordings of Medtner’s music, and Horowitz only one.

    the late Australian pianist Geoffrey Tozer was another champion of Medtner’s music.

    Milne’s reading of Medtner’s “Night Wind” sonata is indeed outstanding, as several comments mention.

  • A wonderful pianist – I first heard him performing Schumann Quintet around 1960, most recently various works at Kutná Hora Summer festival two or three years ago. Milne is certainly a Scottish surname, but his father John Milne and grandfather Forbes Milne were both music teachers in Hertfordshire, John also in Salisbury – not recognizably Scottish.

  • I knew Hamish Milne as a near neighbour and friend during the 1970s. I found out that he wanted to mark the centenary of the birth of Medtner, and I was able to book the Wigmore Hall for the exact date, 5th January 1980. Hamish put together a wonderfu programme of piano solos, songs with soprano Elise Ross and the great Piano quintet with the Gabrieli String Quartet. Hamish played superbly with his usual unobtrusive virtuosity and discerning musicianship. Medtner would have been delighted.

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