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
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

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'