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
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
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: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all