Raphael Terroni: Acclaimed pianist and teacher


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The Independent Online

At his Wigmore Hall debut in 1974 the pianist Raphael Terroni played sonatas by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov; but it is the promotion of music by 20th-century British composers with which his name will be associated, and for his involvement in the British Music Society from its formation in 1978, serving as chairman from 1983-86 and 2000-06.

Raphael Terroni was born in London and studied piano at the London College of Music with John Vallier – a virtuoso who had family links with Paderewski and Clara Schumann. He also studied privately for three years with Cyril Smith.

From early on Terroni co-operated with the broadcaster Richard Baker, initially in a concert version of Baker's radio programme These You Have Loved (sold out at the Royal Festival Hall in 1976), but soon taking in a range of works with narrator, including John Dankworth's Tom Sawyer's Saturday and the first performance (1981) of The Pied Piper of Hamelin by Paul Barker ("irresistible entertainment for the young of all ages", wrote one critic). These were given in in London, at festivals, and in modest locations around the country.

In a concert tribute to Benjamin Britten at the Wigmore Hall in October 1978 he accompanied the tenor Philip Langridge in a performance of Winter Words, having had to abandon earlier in the programme Ronald Stevenson's Fantasy on Themes from Peter Grimes, saying he was unwell; but he played it the following month in a solo recital at the Purcell Room, in a programme that also included Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and music by Bach, Britten (Night Piece), Camilleri, Chopin, Liszt and Rachmaninov. In 1980 he gave a recital of French music at the Wigmore Hall with the flautist Christopher Taylor – Roussel, Dutilleux, Fauré, Milhaud, Ibert, Bozza, Messiaen and Françaix.

Typical of his commitment to British music was a recital in the Purcell Room in May 1981 comprising Lennox Berkeley's Six Preludes and Sonata, Cyril Scott's Sonata No 3, Kaleidoscope by Eugene Goossens and the first London performance of Percy Turnbull's Sonatina. The piano concertos of John Ireland and Montague Phillips were also in his repertoire.

Terroni was an excellent partner to singers and instrumentalists and a good chamber music player, and examples of his work may be heard on disc: piano music and songs by Howard Ferguson and Robin Milford (the latter was Editor's Choice in Gramophone magazine); Cyril Scott's Third Piano Sonata; a recital with Raphael Wallfisch of British Music for Cello and Piano by William Wordsworth, Josef Holbrooke and William Busch and of the Complete Chamber Works for Cello of Kenneth Leighton; three string sonatas and the world premiere of two piano sonatas by Arnold Cooke; piano trios and violin sonata by Arthur Butterworth; and music for piano solo and piano duet by Lennox Berkeley, with Norman Beedie.

But perhaps his most treasurable – and most widely appreciated – recording was The Songs of Eric Coates, with that fine baritone Brian Rayner Cook. Issued on LP in 1986, it was available on CD from 1993 until the demise of the ASV record label and its successors and is still sought after.

With Norman Beedie in 1990 Terroni founded the Arts Festival in Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, where he lived until his death. He travelled in Britain and overseas as a performer, adjudicator and examiner for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. In 2008-09 he was warden of the Performers and Composers section of the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Terroni was also chairman of the British Music Society Charitable Trust, formed to administer a bequest of Michael Hurd, the composer who died in 2006. I was privileged to serve as a fellow trustee and earlier this year went with him to Oxford to look at Hurd song manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. His quiet demeanour and firm resolve were characteristic, as well as his superb piano technique and impeccable musicianship.

He was a tutor at the Benslow Music Trust in Hertfordshire, with the Bingham String Quartet and with his group the Terroni Trio, and was due to coach string and piano ensembles and chamber music there. The Trust's website aptly sums him up as "one whose generosity of spirit and gentle encouragement was deeply valued by the many pianists and string and piano trios who came under his influence".

Raphael Terroni, pianist and teacher: born London 6 November 1945; married 1971 Pamela Bowen (two sons, one daughter); died Ramsey Forty Foot 31 August 2012.