Percy Young
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The Independent Online

The immense amount of good work that Percy Young did in a long life devoted to music ought not to omit his association with the publisher Dennis Dobson (1920-79), writes Nicolas Barker [further to the obituary by Kenneth Shenton, 15 May].

The immense amount of good work that Percy Young did in a long life devoted to music ought not to omit his association with the publisher Dennis Dobson (1920-79), writes Nicolas Barker [further to the obituary by Kenneth Shenton, 15 May].

Dobson had founded his firm in 1944, one of many new firms started to meet the book starvation in and after the Second World War. His was certainly the most avant-garde of them all, not least in building up a list devoted to music theory and musicology. Young and he, both from the Midlands, took to each other at once, and it proved a long-lasting partnership that grew into an even longer friendship.

The Dobson list included books by Wilfred Mellors and Egon Wellesz, Ian Copley's Peter Warlock and books on Havergal Brian and Coleridge Taylor, equally out of fashion then. The Sacred Bridge, that monumental study of the links between ancient and modern music, was already under way. Into this mixture Young fitted easily, and the sheer amount of hard work that he got through was amazing. It began with the translation of Tchaikovsky's letters to Nadezhda von Meck, published in Russia in the Thirties but still little known in the West , but his other early books on Handel, Schumann and Kodály also reflected interests not widely fashionable then.

He was a great populariser, as willing to write introductory books for students as monographs. British music, especially Vaughan Williams and Elgar, rooted in the English countryside, was and remained his favourite subject. All these books were published by Dobson, to whom Young remained loyal and devoted, through all the ups and downs of his pioneering career. Young also provided invaluable advice in the early stages of the sixth edition of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians (published as The New Grove in 1980), and rightly insisted on the parallel publication of the life of its founder, Sir George Grove.

British music in all its aspects owes a great deal to Young's energy and industry, and it was characteristic of both that he was in York for a Selwyn College dinner when he slipped and fell, breaking his pelvis, which hastened his end. He remained lucid and energetic to the last.

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