Obituary:Terence Beckles

In his 50-year career as a stylish pianist, Terence Beckles suffered perhaps more than his full share of pre-concert nerves - "Help! I can't find middle C"; and he allotted much of his time to teaching. He took on posts at the Guildhall School of Music, in London, and at Dulwich College and for over 40 years gave generations of pupils the benefit of his musical insights, technical know-how, whimsy, wit, kindness, encouragement, style, good manners and enthusiasm for life.

Beckles never neglected his own playing during this period - it remained complementary to his teaching - but in 1975 his public career gained new momentum when his friend Phyllis Sellick invited him to form a piano duo with her. Appropriately one of their first joint recitals was a splendid affair at Dulwich Picture Gallery, where the Friends of the Gallery had just started a series of concerts and lectures.

From early boyhood Beckles had shown outstanding talent as a pianist. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Harold Craxton and later with the illustrious Friedrich Whrer in Germany and entered the concert world equipped with a fine technique and a deep seriousness of purpose.

But his career had only just got under way when the Second World War started and Beckles found himself a gunner in an army establishment in Essex. Despite the noise of the guns he managed to give many recitals, where he impressed wartime audiences with the brilliance and poetry of his playing.

After more than five years in the Army he resumed his professional work and gave many broadcasts (Music at Night, and live early morning broadcasts on the BBC Third Programme), solo recitals and concerto performances, including a performance of Beethoven's First Piano Concerto, at the Festival Hall, conducted by Royalton Kisch. Although he loved to play the standard repertoire, Beckles also explored new ground and composers such as Copland, Tippett, Dello Joio, Dallapiccola and Messiaen were presented with flair. He had a special liking for French composers from Faur to Messiaen, their refinement, subtlety, capriciousness and wit. He also enjoyed playing chamber music and for several seasons was the pianist of the Richards Piano Quartet.

Outside piano-playing and teaching Beckles had a particular interest in opera - he was a frequent visitor to Covent Garden - and musicals; he was very knowledgeable on Gershwin and Sondheim.

Alan Morgan

Terence Beckles, pianist: born Bushey, Hertfordshire 1 December 1912; died London 12 February 1995.

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