Death of an Oxford instrument historian

Death of an Oxford instrument historian


norman lebrecht

September 22, 2020

Jeremy Montagu has died at 92.

A fellow of Wadham College, Oxford, he spent much of his life researching the origins and development of musical instruments. Having first played percussion for Sir Thomas Beecham in the Royal Philharmonic Orchetsra, he became an expert on all things beaten and blown, writing an important book on Timpani & Percussion in 2002.

He served as curator of the Bate Collection of Musical Instruments. His final book was on the shofar, which he blew with distinction.


  • Steven Jones says:

    He had an amazing experience of so many instruments in his work at the Bate Collection. I remember having difficulty in getting a contra bassoon player for a period instrument Beethoven Mass performance at Cheltenham Town Hall. He agreed to our request to borrow an instrument from the Bate Collection – I had to collect it from him and take it onto Liverpool for a player to become familiar with its eccentricities.
    They don’t make them like him anymore!

  • Boz says:

    I had a tinkle on the 1720 Handel Harpsichord (William Smith) a single manual with a wide compass. The same one Martin Souter used in his recording.

  • David Howell says:

    I might have ‘misrememberd’ but I might have been on stage with him at the Festival Hall when he was playing an alpine horn!

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Jeremy was SO IMPORTANT in the world of old percussion instruments.
    He wrote many articles, pamphlets, and books on the subject, many of them unfortunately not widely available here in the colonies.
    Decades ago, I had a problem with roping calf drumheads and I took a shot and wrote him a letter.
    He wrote me a long, friendly letter back, including hand-drawn diagrams, instructing me on how to do it the right way.
    What a gentleman he was!
    Rest in peace, dear Jeremy.