Geoffrey Crankshaw: Music critic whose writings spanned eight decades
Thursday 12 March 2009
Geoffrey Crankshaw was a man of many parts. By profession a distinguished civil servant, he was also a writer of distinction who, for more than 80 years, proved a consummate chronicler of the musical life of this country.
He was born in Woodend Green in Essex two months after the sinking of the Titanic in 1912; both Geoffrey and his elder brother, Edward, were educated at Bishop's Stortford College, Hertfordshire. Here, he proved a talented performer on both organ and piano, having inherited a love of music from his mother, Amy, a fine amateur performer. It was she who, in September 1924, took Geoffrey, then a 12-year-old, to hear the pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch's brilliant exposition of Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto at the Queen's Hall on Langham Place (later destroyed during the Second World War). For the young Crankshaw, the concert proved pivotal in determining the shape of his future career.
He read history and English at King's College, London, and graduated with a double first, then followed his father into the civil service. Here, for many years until retirement, he first served as Deputy Chief Clerk of the Metropolitan Juvenile Court before moving to become Chief Clerk at Greenwich and Woolwich Magistrates' Court. Before too long, however, in addition to his day job, the evenings would find him amid the capital's many concert halls, happily pursuing his trade as a most industrious concert critic.
His journalistic career began in the 1920s with the appearance of early reviews in the specialist monthly magazine, Musical Opinion. Over the coming years he would also regularly contribute a wealth of finely written and knowledgeable critiques to a wide range of periodicals including Music and Musicians, Records and Recording, Classical Music, Musical Times, The Organ and Classical CD. He also revelled in the time spent chewing over new ideas with musicians he had come to know and respect. For him, this sharing of experiences was unquestionably what the job was all about.
As a music critic, Crankshaw always took great delight in visiting the capital's smaller, more intimate venues, never missing an opportunity to hear emerging young talent. Thus, for more decades than he would care to admit, he happily designated the Wigmore Hall as his second home. Here, as everywhere, artists would unfailingly find his notices set out with a clarity and consideration. He never found fault without substantiating his findings in detail, writing in such a way that strictures offered useful suggestions for improvement. Particularly sensitive to mood, he was quick to appreciate difficulties and even quicker to give help and support.
Having served as an Intelligence Officer in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, a return to civilian life brought both marriage and a young family. At this time, exciting musical challenges came courtesy of the rapidly developing vinyl long-playing record. Here, as a writer of sleeve notes, each meticulously researched, literate, elegant and stylish, his work increasingly graced the catalogues of all the major record labels.
A noted specialist in English music, particularly fine was his distinctive contribution to Sir Georg Solti's epic 1972 recording of Elgar's 1st Symphony. But he wrote, too, with ease and authority on subjects as diverse as the choral music of Heinrich Schütz or the piano quartets of Richard Strauss. In addition, he also proved remarkably adept at providing synopses for filmed operatic productions, such as Rossini's La Gazza Ladra.
A devoted family man, he was increasingly handicapped by blindness in recent years, though he still retained many of his old enthusiasms, most notably gardening. In typical style, his final article, a charming retrospective for Musical Opinion, appeared as recently as April 2005, almost 80 years to the day since his first. Sadly, it now serves as a most poignant and fitting monument, not only to an accomplished and erudite writer but, perhaps more importantly, to a most delightful human being.
Geoffrey Crankshaw, civil servant, writer and music critic: born Woodend Green, Essex 18 June 1912; married Maud (Phil) Barnes (died 1986; one son deceased and three daughters); died Ruislip, Middlesex 1 February 2009.
- 1 Hair loss explained: How and why men go bald
- 2 Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe the Stark may have a twin sister
- 3 Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
- 4 A pint of water every day is the key to losing weight, scientists say
- 5 Russia 'accidentally reveals' number of its soldiers killed in eastern Ukraine
Most expensive city to live in for expatriates: Luanda, Angola takes number one spot with Hong Kong and Zurich in top three
Video of Irish 'professional boxer' fighting Istanbul neighbourhood goes viral in Turkey
Irish tourist filmed fighting with shopkeepers in Turkey says 'they messed with the wrong man'
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are handed peerages
Moody neurotics are more likely to be creative geniuses, study says
Dresden riots: Protesters in Germany attack refugee buses shouting 'foreigners out'
France train shooting: US soldiers speak of the moment they stopped gunman and 'beat him until he was unconscious'
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs
£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...
£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...
£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...