Sad passing of a British composer

Sad passing of a British composer


norman lebrecht

February 10, 2022

The delightful composer Joseph Horovitz died yesterday at the age of 95.

A child fugitive from Nazi Vienna, he wrote music that was original and useful, the most widely heard being his theme music for the TV series Rumpole of the Bailey.

He was much loved by musicians for works for diverse instruments and ensemble sizes, among them a jazz concerto based on Couperin and a pop cantata for children, Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo.

His 5th string quartet, harking back to his expulsion from Vienna, is a masterpiece.

Joe was a lovely man, positive, happily married and with many friends.


  • Tony Britten says:

    Joe was my favourite Professor at the Royal College of Music and became a dear friend and mentor. He should be mourned by anyone who cares about music – and the sanctity of life, for his was a life truly well lived. For all sorts of reasons the end of an era.

    • Anthony Sayer says:

      Are you the Tony Britten of Boulez/Pelléas fame? If so, many thanks; it’s my favourite recording of my favourite opera.

    • Rachelle Goldberg says:

      I too was very fortunate to have Joseph Horowitz as one of my Professors at the RCM. He led a new course for 3rd year GRSM students in Performance. We greatly enjoyed his lectures and talks. He had a very good sense of humour. Joseph was very popular member of Staff.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    Great composer, great innings. RIP and thanks for your wonderful music.

  • Dave says:

    Lovely man. So sad. Performed for him for his 90th birthday and managed to chat with him afterwards. An extraordinary life and such a sunny demeanour. He will be missed.

  • Mark Powell says:

    His arrangements and original compositions for The Kings Singers were superb.

  • Ricardo says:

    Sad news. Only recently I was writing about his oratorio “Samson” and becoming acquainted with his work.
    Let’s celebrate a life well lived and be grateful for what he left us.
    Rest in peace.

  • RW2013 says:

    He sent me a score of Gentleman’s Island after we talked about it in Berlin many years ago, and it has been on my to-do list ever since.
    A real Gentleman he was too.

  • Michael Turner (conductor) says:

    I met this charming man a few times many years ago when I was working in the copyright and royalties world. Captain Noah was an ‘O’ level work of mine and our school performed Horatorio. I love those works of his that I know but have many more to explore. A sad loss of an excellent composer.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I remember him on the panel of the final of the Barclaycard Composer of the Year competition, back in the late 1970s. He was clearly horrified by all the pieces on offer save one (a piano piece) but remained graceful and generous despite all. An object lesson in self control while remaining faithful to one’s feelings.

  • Armchair Bard says:

    What a life! and now it is complete. Joseph Horovitz, alav ha-shalom.

  • Among the other pieces mentioned here, one should not forget the works Joseph Horovitz composed for the Hoffnung Festivals, such as “Metamorphosis on a Bed-time” (1958) and “Horrortorio” (1961) !

  • Rob Keeley says:

    Lovely man, and a damn good composer. RIP.

  • christopher storey says:

    The wonderfully quirky Rumpole music is beyond compare – I never miss it, and it makes me wish I had been able to play the bassoon ! RIP Joseph Horowitz

  • Alank says:

    Rumpole of the Bailey was a wonderful program and Horovitz’s music was perfect; especially his use of the bassoon in he leitmotif for Rumpole!

  • Martin says:

    Loved playing his brass music as a kid/student. Euphonium Concerto and Brass Quintet spring to mind. Always went down well with all types of audience.

  • Igor Kennaway says:

    Very sad to learn today that the composer, conductor and teacher, Joseph Horowitz, has died aged 95. He was one of the most charming, delightful and widely educated people I have known. We had countless fascinating conversations over a wide range of subjects when we would meet in the RCM professors’ room for lunch. I last saw him when he attended an evening In which I was playing the piano at the Austrian Cultural Forum. He was as alert as ever and I was so pleased to see him. I, and countless others, will miss him. He was a Renaissance figure. I thank him for enhancing my life.