The English composer Wilfred Josephs died at his home in London on Monday 17th November 1997. He had celebrated his 70th birthday in July this year, and the Wilfred Josephs Society organised a celebration concert at the Purcell Room on Sunday 6th September.
Wilfred Josephs was born in Newcastle on 24th July 1927 and showed early musical promise, although his parents persuaded him to take up a 'proper' career and he subsequently became a dentist. However, he continued to study and compose and following the success of his requiem in 1963 (1st prize in La Scala Competition, Milan) he gave up dentistry to become a full time composer. He worked successfully in both the classical and commercial fields, and his most popular film and TV credits include I Claudius, Swallows and Amazons, Cider with Rosie, The British Empire and All Creatures Great and Small.
Wilfred Josephs was a prolific composer and his classical works include 12 symphonies, 22 concertos, overtures, chamber music, operas, ballets, vocal works - almost all of which had been written to commission. Opera North commissioned and performed Rebecca which was widely acclaimed for its lyricism and approachability; and his most recent ballet Cyrano de Bergerac, written for the Royal Ballet and premièred at Covent Garden, will hopefully be staged in Australia in 1999.
1997 had seen a resurgence of interest in Wilfred's music and a number of premières took place as part of the 70th birthday celebrations (Lovesongs Book 1 for Soprano and Orchestra / Arabesques for piano / Threnody for organ or string orchestra / Violin Concerto). The recent world première of the Violin Concerto and the British première of Mortales in October was a high point for a composer whose music had been sidelined to a certain extent.
Wilfred Josephs made a significant contribution to the double bass repertoire following a fruitful collaboration with American virtuoso Gary Karr. The Concerto, Sonata and Symphony No.12 'Sinfonia Quixotica', written to celebrate the anniversary of Cervantes and the composer's own 70th birthday, were written for the professional player and certainly push the technique to the limit. These works combine virtuosity with lyricism but always within melodic and coherent framework. Symphony No.12 (Violin, Double Bass & Orchestra) awaits its première.
Wilf will be sadly missed by all who met him. He had a love of life and a generosity of spirit which shone through, even at the most difficult times. He leaves a widow, Valerie and two daughters, Claudia and Philippa.
It was a privilege to be his friend and publisher.
Double Bassist/ Publisher
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