Professor Ian Kemp: Noted scholar of Berlioz and Tippett


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The Independent Online

Ian Kemp enriched the world of music in a variety of ways. A distinguished academic who helped mould the careers of many of Britain's most eminent practitioners, he was also one of the leading musicologists of his generation. Amid a lifetime's devotion to Hector Berlioz came equally authoritative studies of Michael Tippett, Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill.

Born in Scotland, Ian Kemp spent his formative years in Essex. He was educated at Felsted School, his prodigious talents taking him to St John's College, Cambridge. There, amid regular trips to the New Music Courses at Darmstadt, he benefited from the stern but benevolent tutelage of two musical heavyweights, Robin Orr and Patrick Hadley, who instilled in him the academic rigour that so characterised his later career.

He had a brief flirtation with musical criticism for the New Statesman. Finding his feet with the publishing house of Schott and Co, he enjoyed a most productive decade as a music editor, establishing productive friendships with many of leading composers, most notably Michael Tippett.

Erudite and persuasive, Kemp proved to be a fine writer, his articles appearing in many academic journals as well as The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. His early reputation, forged with a stylish 60th birthday tribute to Michael Tippett, published in 1965, was eventually followed in 1984 by the more magisterial Tippett: the Composer and his Music. In the interim came less expansive volumes on Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill.

An equally enduring legacy will be his contribution to our understanding of the music of the French composer, Hector Berlioz. Proving a pivotal figure in the establishment of the New Berlioz Edition, he took responsibility for the 1975 volume of Songs for Voice and Orchestra. His painstaking study of Les Troyens, published in 1988, also attracted widespread critical acclaim. After leaving music publishing, Kemp moved into higher education. Lecturing at Aberdeen University and then Cambridge, in 1977, he succeeded his friend Alexander Goehr as Professor of Music at the University of Leeds. Three years later he moved to Manchester University.

He was seen too rarely as a conductor with professional orchestras but led student and amateurs with humour and inexhaustible enthusiasm. At Cambridge in 1973 he was responsible for the University Opera Society production of Verdi's rarely heard I Due Foscari. Particularly memorable was his shaping in 1980 of the first performance of the elegiac Cello Concerto by his Leeds colleague James Brown. He wore his distinction lightly but his scholarly mind and a high musical intellect were apparent. Many were the lives he enriched and the minds he engaged.

Ian Manson Kemp, musician and scholar: born Edinburgh 26 June 1931; married firstly Gillian Turner (one son, three daughters), secondly Sian Edwards (one son); died Lewes, East Sussex 16 September 2011.