Heart attack kills Hickox on eve of ENO season

Tributes pour in for conductor who founded City of London Sinfonia

Richard Hickox, one of Britain's foremost conductors and the founder and musical director of the City of London Sinfonia, has died of a suspected heart attack.

The 60-year-old, who was musical director of Opera Australia and one of the most widely-decorated conductors in the world, died after a recording session in Wales.

He was due to conduct the English National Opera's production of Riders To The Sea, by Vaughan Williams, which will open this Thursday. The ENO said yesterday that the production will go ahead and will now be dedicated to Mr Hickox. Thursday's performance will be led by Edward Gardner, the music director of the ENO.

In a career which saw him conduct more than 300 recordings and receive five Gramophone Awards, including his most recent in 2006, Hickox acquired a plethora of prestigious titles.

Awarded a CBE in 2002 for his contribution to British musical life, he was associate guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, recently had his contract as musical director of Opera Australia extended until 2012, had been director at the Spoleto Festival in Italy for five years, and was Conductor Emeritus of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

He had been working with the orchestra on a CD recording in the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, when he was taken ill on Sunday.

David Murray, the director of the orchestra, said: "As well as losing an inspiring conductor, we have lost a great friend and supporter of the orchestra and chorus. His repertoire was wide and varied but his advocacy of British music was second to none." Hickox's agent, Stephen Lumsden, said yesterday: "The shock of Richard Hickox's unexpected death ...has robbed the music world of one of its most popular and respected musicians.

"Literally thousands of musicians who were touched by his talent, energy, and that remarkable generosity of spirit of his will feel that loss as well."

Mr Hickox, who was a regular guest at the Royal Festival Hall-based Philharmonia Orchestra, also conducted several of the world's leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony, the Leipzig Gewandhaus and Orchestre de Paris.

The recipient of Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards, Classical Brit Awards, and the first Sir Charles Grove Award, as well as his five Grammys, Mr Hickox also appeared at many BBC Proms, including Cheltenham, Bath, and Aldeburgh.

Roger Wright, BBC Radio controller and director of the BBC Proms, paid tribute to the man he described as "a wonderful colleague".

"The classical music world has lost a major figure whose musicianship and enthusiasm endeared him to audiences in opera houses and concert halls throughout the world.

"Richard was a magnificent conductor and did wonderful work with many BBC performing groups, particularly his wonderful spell as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales," Mr Wright added.

Mr Hickox had a long connection with the Royal Opera in Covent Garden, where this season he was scheduled to conduct both L'Elisir d'Amore and The Beggar's Opera. He is survived by his wife, the mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen, and his three children.

Explainer: The stresses of the orchestra pit

*Stress will the first suspect as the cause of Richard Hickox's tragic early death. All performers have to face it but for conductors, the most visible member of the orchestra who carries the greatest responsibility, it is multiplied many times over. Stress is often suspected as a cause of heart attacks, sometimes unfairly. Research shows it can trigger a heart attack in vulnerable patients with pre-existing disease. But there is no evidence that stress causes heart problems in people with healthy arteries. Stress increases the blood pressure and makes the blood stickier by boosting the platelet count, so it clots faster. This is useful in battle when there is a high risk of injury but not helpful when arteries are already narrowed by fatty deposits. In these circumstances, stress may cause a blood clot to form which circulates round the body until it becomes lodged in the tiny coronary arteries that supply the heart muscle, causing a blockage and a heart attack. Evidence suggests that patients whose blood pressure is slowest to return to normal following a period of stress and those with the highest platelet counts are most at risk of a stress-triggered heart attack.

Jeremy Laurance

Arts and Entertainment
Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

Film review Tom Cruise, 50, is still like a puppy in this relentless action soap opera

Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

    I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
    Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

    Margaret Attwood on climate change

    The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

    New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

    What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
    Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

    The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

    Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
    Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

    Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

    The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
    Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

    Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

    The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

    Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

    Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

    Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

    The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
    10 best waterproof mascaras

    Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

    We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
    Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

    Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

    Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
    Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

    The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic