Tony Fell: Forward-thinking music publisher

 

We generally think we know the people who shape the musical world around us: the singers we like, the instrumentalists whose work we admire.

But the executants sit at the end of a lengthy production process: an army of men and women work to make those performances possible.

Tony Fell was one of the senior officers of that army: as the managing director of the music-publisher Boosey & Hawkes for 22 years, he had a direct influence on the composers and the music the company promoted. It was no easy task: when Fell took up the reins, Boosey & Hawkes was in poor health.

Fell was an only child: his father had managed both the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Scottish Orchestras. Young Tony studied the cello and piano, becoming proficient at both. After a degree in English and Modern Languages at King's College, Cambridge, Fell spent his two years' national service in the Royal Artillery.

He then joined Ibbs and Tillett, the leading music agency in London, where he became assistant London concerts manager. But finding that his dedication to music was inversely reflected in his salary, in 1956 "poverty drove me to ICI". He became an employee of their publicity department.

Two years later he was transferred to Johannesburg as assistant publicity manager of an ICI subsidiary, leaving after five years to become sales director at the Johannesburg printers Hortors. While there, he founded and conducted the Johannesburg Bach Choir.

In 1967 he became office manager of the company which published Drum, a South African investigative magazine; his responsibilities included the rotogravure and rotary lithography for its newspapers and magazines. The outspoken Drum had an urban African readership and reported on township life under apartheid.

In 1968 he returned to Hortors as managing director, and while there was headhunted for the job of managing director of Boosey & Hawkes. He was the Hercules these Augean Stables required: the company was an organisational mess, divided in an uncoordinated manner between its music-publishing activities in central London (which made money) and its instrument-manufacture in Edgware (which often lost it).

With Rachmaninov, Stravinsky, Britten and Strauss among the "house" composers, B&H had once been at the forefront of contemporary music, but at the time of Fell's arrival it had been over a decade since the company had signed up a new composer – it was, he said, "like running an atomic power station without any physicists". Almost immediately he appointed David Drew, already editor of the B&H periodical Tempo. Working together, the two men conscripted an astonishing array of composers in Europe and North America, among them John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Berthold Goldschmidt, Henryk Górecki, H K Gruber, Robin Holloway, James MacMillan, Steve Reich, Kurt Schwertsik and Michael Torke. Fell also expanded the relationship with Leonard Bernstein to include the representation of most of his major works.

As he navigated the internal company politics from his office at the top of Regent Street, Fell also moved up the structure, becoming a director of the parent company that owned B&H in 1977 and, in 1985, managing director, Group Publishing. As his power increased, so did his scope to take awkward decisions to safeguard the long-term health of the enterprise.

In 1996, he retired from B&H, though he retained a place on the board for another four years. In 1997 he became chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, the august institution which in 1824 had commissioned Beethoven's Ninth Symphony for 50 guineas. In his eight years in the post he put new music, young musicians and live performance at the centre of its activities. He was behind the sale, in 2002, of the RPS archive to the British Library, which secured the Society finances and opened the vaults to scholars. Earlier this year the RPS made him an honorary member.

For almost four decades Fell was a guaranteed presence – latterly with his third wife, Janis Susskind – at any London concert where an interesting new piece was going to be heard, his urbane demeanour never quite concealing a boyish delight at the prospect.

Robert Antony Fell, music publisher: born Liverpool 27 December 1931; married 1957 Katinka Mullins (marriage dissolved 1967, one son, one daughter), 1968 Patricia Blackwell (marriage dissolved 1992, two daughters), 1993 Janis Susskind; died London 6 December 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power