Obituary: Kathleen Anderson
Monday 10 April 1995
The cellist Kathleen Anderson was one of those inspirational teachers who had a profound effect on everyone who came within her orbit. She would constantly review her ideas, even into her seventies, and was particularly successful in incorporating them in her teaching of the young.
She was born Kathleen Buckingham in 1911 and studied with Herbert Whelan and Sela Trau at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, graduating in 1933. As an orchestral cellist she played in a number of British orchestras including the British Women's Symphony Orchestra under conductors such as Boyd Neel and Henry Wood. She was also in demand as a continuo player - a role in which she specialised - and for many years was regularly engaged for the cello solos in oratorio performances at Winchester Cathedral.
As a performer she had a naturally graceful style, but like most good musicians she was never satisfied with her own performance and always sought further improvement. One of the teachers who influenced her considerably was the Italian Enrico Mainardi, whose master-classes she attended. Even in her maturity she admitted to having completely rethought her technique under the guidance of that doyenne of teachers, the late Joan Dickson - who happened to have been Mainardi's most devoted disciple.
Her marriage to William Anderson, a brigadier in the Royal Engineers, the raising of their four children and the Second World War interrupted her musical activities for some years. But when her husband was taken prisoner at Dunkirk in 1940 and incarcerated first in Laufen and later Colditz, she set up a POW relatives' association. She also organised the second Packing Centre for POWs which soon became a model for other such operations.
When her husband was posted to Delhi in 1946, Anderson followed him, only to find herself engulfed by the riots following Partition. In addition to her musical skills she had received some training in midwifery and this she put to good use in the Purana Kila Camp where 57,000 Muslim refugees were held without food, water or medical supplies. She campaigned tirelessly to gain the attention of the outside world, which included appealing directly to the Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, at his home.
When her husband was later posted to Kuala Lumpur she hosted concerts and entertained visiting musicians, all of whom were delighted to find a kindred spirit so far from home. She also broadcast on the World Service of the BBC with the pianist Angus Morrison.
It was in the Sixties, after returning to Farnham, that Anderson took up her music once more and established herself as the most important cello teacher in the Surrey/Hampshire region. She became the official tutor for holders of Hampshire County Music Awards, attracting young cellists who had to travel quite a distance for their lessons, and was a valued member of Esta (the European String Teachers' Association). She also made successful experiments with massed and group cello-playing and commissioned works by a number of well-known composers including David Fanshawe, Nicola LeFanu and Stephen Dodgson.
Her energy, her vision and insistence upon high standards revolutionised the local festivals and music societies. Her husband, too, was the guiding force behind the rebuilding of the derelict Farnham Maltings; and together they made it the lively arts centre that it is today.
It was no coincidence that so many musical children in Surrey and Hampshire decided to learn the cello, writes Helen Wallace. The reason was Kathleen Anderson.
Her imperious but infectious enthusiasm transformed the bulky, expensive instrument into the only possible option. To watch her play was an inspiration: her long limbs and large, elegant hands seemed to have been designed solely for that purpose. But above her natural fluency and formidable analytical intelligence was the gift of meeting children and teenagers halfway: she was genuinely interested by their individual responses to life and music and pushy parents, and delighted by their "priceless" school anecdotes.
Anderson also knew how to let go. She never demanded the reward of prizes or public achievements, though many pupils were successful: she belonged to a wider world and knew that music was a punishing business. Nothing made her prouder than to hear a pupil had made it to university but was keeping up their music. Her legacy lives on in the extraordinarily rich cello lexicon she invented which pupils have taken on into their own playing, writing and teaching; the series of works for cello ensemble which she boldly commissioned from leading composers; and in her aural vision: intent, long-lined, spurning the flashy, and with an almost spiritual search for musical truth. As she would say, "Fold your wings. Now you can begin."
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