Geoffrey Crankshaw: Music critic whose writings spanned eight decades

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.

Kenneth Shenton

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.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

MBDA UK Ltd: Electronic Sub-System Design Verification engineer

Flexible working, annual bonus, pension & more.: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the oppor...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Architect

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? MBDA has e...

MBDA UK Ltd: Test Systems Design Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity?MBDA has en...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor