Wilson, who had the vision, organisation, energy and persuasive
power to introduce much Russian music to thousands of collectors
worldwide, died on 15th march aged 69 in London, of complications
after cancer surgery.
Francis was born in Edinburgh in 1941 and always loved the arts
and culture, music especially. He studied modern languages at
Edinburgh which involved studies at the Sorbonne and Heidelberg.
He became an avid LP collector of Russian music, (and multi-linguist)
while travelling the world as Export Manager for Clarkes Shoes,
Rotel Hi-fi and Twinlock, before joining Disctronics to help
the CD revolution in music in his adopted beloved London.
Here he had his inspiration for Olympia - a "joint venture"
with the Soviet State Melodiya and later MK companies: he would
provide the technology for them to make CDs in return for the
rights to their catalogue in the West, thereby fulfilling his
own and so many music lovers' ambitions.
In 1986 he travelled to Moscow to sign, in the days before Perestroika
and his last words, before meeting an unknown person, to stay
at an unknown destination were: 'If you don't hear from me within
three days, contact the Foreign Office'. Humour was another fine
Wilson had evangelical zeal to promote the neglected music that
he believed in, and this was seen at the official launch for his
label in 1987 when Myaskovsky symphony excerpts were played!
Olympia unleashed complete Shostakovich symphonies (Rozhdestvensky)
and String quartets, not to mention cycles of wonderful (then)
rare composers such as Weinberg, Kabalevsky, Myaskovsky etc with
widely admired recordings of artists including Richter, Gilels,
Svetlanov, Shostakovich Quartet, and not least the first issue
of Gorecki's Symphony No.3, years before Classic FM discovery.
His enthusiasm extended to part-funding new recordings in Moscow,
as well as a whole series in Europe (19 discs of Russian piano
composers with Murray McLachlan, plus blossoming inventive artists
such as Donna Amato, Goldstone & Clemmow), having launched
with the established Peter Katin.
Olympia also extended into similar deals to introduce music from
Poland, Romania, Holland and China.
When Melodiya was briefly seduced by BMG, Wilson's passion and
zeal meant that he was forced to finance Olympia partly from his
own personal savings, entirely in keeping with the character of
a man who was devoted to the music, so that Olympia continued
issuing well into the 21st century, long after many independents
in a failing industry, then subsequently ensuring continuity via
licensing out to new labels.
Francis had a fabulous sense of humour and a great gift for mimickry.
His generosity and kindness will never be forgotten by all those
fortunate enough to have known him.
Astrid, his Estonian wife, met Francis at a university New Year
party in 1962, they were married at Hampstead in 1968. She continues
as a tutor at London Southbank University.
Robin Vaughan and Murray McLachlan