Obituary: Harold Truscott

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The Independent Online
TEN or so years ago, the name of Harold Truscott was only known to me as a perceptive and humorous writer on composers, great and less great, writes Peter Jacobs (further to the obituary by Martin Anderson, 15 October). In common, I suspect, with many other musicians, I had no idea he was a composer. My inclusion of two of his Sonatas at a meeting of the Havergal Brian Society in 1981, when Harold was already 67, proved to be the beginning of one of the most fruitful and intellectually stimulating projects with which I have been involved. Over the next few years I recorded 10 Sonatas for the enterprising Altarus label, and it is a sad reflection that most people's knowledge of Truscott's music should be limited to these discs, since public performances have been almost negligible.

Before a recording session, Harold would come to my house to see what I had made of his music. These were red-letter days. A visit from Harold was special - I would always ask friends to share the occasion. He was the most knowledgeable musician I have ever known. His enormous intellect is reflected in his music - his Sonatas, often playing for more than half an hour, are works of solid concentration of thought. Never in any sense imitative, they nevertheless reflect his love for, and championship of masters such as Brian, Reger, and Nielsen.

Truscott's music is often technically very demanding. He would look surprised when I pointed this out, but his disarming smile indicated he knew the problems full well. However, the problems always grew out of the music - all the notes are necessary. His ear and mind were too cultivated to allow waste.

Harold Truscott's humour, self- effasiveness, and lack of pomp endeared him to everyone. If he had been otherwise, he might have had greater success as a composer, but been a far less delightful man. In a country which can boast all too few major works for solo piano, the neglect of Truscott's Sonatas, not to mention his other music, is more than regrettable.