Obituary: Geoffrey Parsons

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The Independent Online
If I had to choose one word to describe the playing of Geoffrey Parsons, it would be "immaculate", writes Roger Vignoles [further to the obituary by Noel Goodwin, 28 January]. No other can do justice to the seamless fluency of his playing, let alo ne theflawless platform manner - the well-shot cuffs, the gently proprietorial air, combining courtesy and regard for his partner with a justified sense of his own worth. A master of flexibility, he refuted any idea of the accompanist as yes-man, merely waiting on the interpretative ideas of his singer. When asked how he managed to adapt the same music to so many different voices and interpretations, his answer was "You must always know how you want the music to go."

Parsons was noted for his generosity, not only to the artists with whom he worked but also to the dozens of younger musicians, often itinerant, to whom he gave an unfailingly warm welcome at his house in west Hampstead. Younger accompanists were always given an appreciative, helping hand: as a relative novice, I was engaged to play for Rita Streich, an eminent soprano, but not famous for her tact or delicacy in dealing with accompanists. Geoffrey, before flying abroad, made a point of sending his partner, the singer and teacher Erich Vietheer, to the rehearsal, to see that I was properly treated.

Later, when I found myself booked for a Schwarzkopf "farewell" recital he invited me to his house to run through the repertoire beforehand. In the event the recital was cancelled but, not before I had been given an insight into the meticulous and painstaking attention to detail that gave his playing its assurance and patina. Much of this had of course been absorbed at the hands of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and her husband, Walter Legge, but he always knew how to temper their kind of high-powered intensity with a disarming breath of common sense.

His urbanity at the keyboard was matched by a cultivated enjoyment of life off the concert platform. His enthusiasms complemented his art - good food, fine wines, books, paintings, straight theatre and of course opera (Glyndebourne talked for years of the summer when he played for rehearsals of Rosenkavalier just because he loved it so much). Mention any concert venue in Europe and he would invariably have found a "marvellous little gallery" nearby stocked with unknown treasures. He was an excellent andfamously hospitable cook, and the last time I saw him on his feet was in November, outside his favourite fishmonger off Marylebone Lane, surveying the morning's catch. He had just been rehearsing at the Wigmore Hall for what turned out to be his last London appearance. He left us while still at the peak of his powers.