Prolific English conductor dies at 95

Prolific English conductor dies at 95


norman lebrecht

December 12, 2020

The busy conductor Kenneth Alwyn died yesterday at 95.

He made numerous recordings for Decca and EMI of mostly popular repertoire and he was much in demand at the BBC.

Less well known were his breathrough recordings on CBS of the symphonies of the Israeli composer Paul Ben-Haim.



  • Pete Parker says:

    Sad to hear…. One of my first concerts was a film music concert at the Barbican with Kenneth and the Philharmonia. It was a wonderful concert. Rest in peace.

  • Duncan says:

    I still have his LP recording for Decca of the 1812 Overture and, yes, it still sounds amazing. The cannons are very lifelike but not so over-the-top and the LSO were on top form (and the Grenadier Guards as well). Decca World of the Classics series at 99p. Bargain! Those were the days…!

  • Damian Penfold says:

    Ken was my first conducting teacher, when I was 15, and remained my friend. The firm grounding he gave me was the basis upon which I was able to build when I later studied with Ilya Musin. Neither man was interested in being an ego standing between the composer and the listener – the aim was always to serve the music; not as common an approach from conductors as it should be. It was Ken who very early on stressed to me how much one can learn from observing rehearsals, taking me to his rehearsals with the BBC Concert Orchestra on a number of occasions. I was particularly lucky later on to be able to call upon his experience and knowledge as the conductor of the earliest performances of Britten’s Prince of the Pagodas (taking over from Britten at his request) when I myself was assistant conductor for its first performances in France. Even 45 years later he was able to clearly remember Britten’s own conducting in passages and the ‘corners’ that required care. He gave as much attention to conducting a ‘light’ music standard or film music track as he did a Tchaikovsky symphony or ballet (or to being a flying instructor!). He was a true professional, in the best possible way. His generous, honest and insightful advice was invaluable to me negotiating my early professional career – I was an infinitely better conductor than I would otherwise have been. I will cherish the time I spent with him over our 30 years of friendship and am thankful that the recordings will remain, with often a noticeable characteristic Alwyn sheen to the sound, no matter which orchestra he was conducting. Requiescat in pace Ken.