OBITUARY: Hugo Cole

Hugo Cole will no doubt be best remembered for his well- informed, well-written and highly readable music criticism in the Guardian and Country Life, but he was also a fine cellist, who played with several orchestras, and a successful composer who wrote seven operas, as well as a fair amount of chamber music, several choral works and some songs. In addition, he published two books, Sounds and Signs (1974), a study of modern notation, and The Changing Face of Music (1978).

Born in London, Cole was educated at Winchester and King's College, Cambridge, where he read natural sciences. He entered the Royal College of Music in 1944 to study the cello, and composition with Herbert Howells. He also studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. In 1950 his first children's opera, Asses' Ears, was performed by Rokeby School, Wimbledon. Cole provided his own libretto, as he did for his next two operas, A Statue for the Mayor (1955) and Persephone (1955), both given by the pupils of Wimbledon High School. Cole's undemanding, tuneful style was perfectly suited to performance by children - or indeed by amateurs.

The John Lewis Partnership Music Society organised an opera competition for the inauguration of the auditorium in their newly built Oxford Street store. Cole won the competition with The Tunnel, for which, as usual, he wrote his own libretto. First performed on 24 October 1960, The Tunnel dealt with a disaster during the railway- construction boom of the 1840s. The piece was carefully tailored for the Partnership Music Society, with 18 solo singing roles, and a great deal of work for the chorus. The excellent production was staged by Anthony Besch and conducted by James Robertson.

In 1964 Cole became one of the music critics on the Guardian, and consequently composed rather less than in previous years. Another children's opera, Flax into Gold, which had been written in 1957, was performed at Oxford in 1966. Two years later The Falcon, a one-act chamber piece with text by Norman Platt, based on a story by Boccaccio, was given at Shawford Mill, Bath. Cole's final dramatic work The Fair Trader was an opera for boys, produced at Wokingham Town Hall in 1971.

Cole's orchestral and chamber works, for ensembles of various instruments, and his choral pieces, which included A Company of Fools, with text by James Kirkup; Of the Nativitie of Christ, a setting of William Dunbar, the 15th-century Scottish poet and priest; and Jonah were mostly composed during the 1950s and 1960s.

Hugo Cole himself was thoroughly professional in everything he did, whether as instrumentalist, composer or writer of music criticism.

Elizabeth Forbes

Hugo Cole, composer, music critic: born 6 July 1917; married (two daughters); died 2 March 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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 People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

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
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there