Ronald Crichton

Chief music critic at the 'FT'

Ronald Crichton, music critic and writer: born Scarborough, Yorkshire 29 December 1913; music critic, Financial Times 1962-78, chief music critic 1972-78; died Barcelona 15 November 2005.

Ronald Crichton worked on The Financial Times as a music critic for 16 years, first as a freelance, then from 1967 to his retirement in 1978 as an accredited member of the staff.

He had two passions, French music and opera: when those passions coincided, as in French opera from Rameau to Debussy, he was particularly knowledgeable. However, he had wide sympathies, as a critic should have, and he was, above all, fair in his judgements. His standards were high, so, if he really felt that an artist was not giving the best performance of which he or she was capable, he made that absolutely plain; but he never descended into the personal vilification that certain journalists consider, quite wrongly, to be criticism.

Crichton was born in Scarborough in 1913. He was educated at Radley College and then read French at Christ Church, Oxford, where he first discovered opera through the Oxford University Opera Club. His first job was as organising secretary of the Anglo-French Art and Travel Society, for whom he arranged visits from French theatre companies, orchestras and individual artists. From 1940 to 1946 he served in the Army, in the UK and in Greece. On demobilisation he joined the British Council, for whom he worked for 21 years, in Greece, Belgium, West Germany and finally at the London headquarters. It was at this period that I got to know him, when he used to visit the bookshop where I worked.

Crichton first wrote for the FT in 1962, when its Arts Page, especially the music section, headed by Andrew Porter, boasted some of the finest critics of the day. When Porter went to The New Yorker in 1972, Crichton took over as chief music critic. Meanwhile I had been asked to write for the paper in 1970 - strictly as a freelance - and considered it a great honour.

Ronald taught me almost everything I knew about newspaper journalism: for instance to put everything important in a criticism of an opera - the director, conductor, etc, etc - in the first paragraph, then it would not be cut by a scissor-happy sub-editor. We often found ourselves travelling together to operatic events. Once we went by train to Birmingham for a performance of Handel's Giulio Cesare at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. A strike at the university meant that no refreshments, not even a glass of water, were available. Ronald and I had come prepared, and in the station waiting room we laced black tea with whisky and ate smoked salmon sandwiches, while (this was 1977) an innocent-looking party of four young Irish people at the next table was somewhat roughly arrested by the police. Another time, in Brighton, we ordered fish in a steak house, and, on the principle that red plonk is better than white plonk, Ronald ordered a bottle of Beaujolais. "You can't drink red wine with fish," declared the wine waitress. "My dear madam," replied Ronald politely, "we are the customers, so we can drink what we like!"

Ronald Crichton also wrote for Opera magazine and other periodicals. His book on one of his favourite composers Manuel de Falla: descriptive catalogue of his works was published in 1976, and he wrote the BBC Music Guide Falla (1982).

After he left the FT at the age of 65, he continued to act as a freelance critic. He contributed to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and the New Grove Dictionary of Opera and in 1987 edited a version of the Memoirs of Dame Ethel Smyth, whose operas he considered under-valued. Finally he retired to Eastbourne with his great friend Juan Soriano. Later they moved to Barcelona, Soriano's native city.

Elizabeth Forbes

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own