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Christopher Hogwood, 1941-2014

Christopher Hogwood

Former SPCO Director of Music Christopher Hogwood passed away last week at age 73. By the time he first conducted the SPCO in 1986, he had established himself as one of the leading forces in historically-informed performance—the idea that the music of Mozart, for example, should be performed in a manner that the composer had intended.

Hogwood’s role as Director of Music was part of an Artistic Commission—sometimes called the “triumvirate”—created in 1988 by SPCO President Deborah Borda to provide a new model of artistic leadership after the Pinchas Zukerman era.  The group also included Hugh Wolff as Principal Conductor and John Adams as Creative Chair. In turning to a combination of artistic leaders with distinct areas of expertise, the Artistic Commission was an inspiration for our current Artistic Partners model.

After the end of the Artistic Commission in 1992, Hogwood continued a relationship with the SPCO as Principal Guest Conductor. In all, he conducted 264 of our concerts from 1986 to 1999.

Principal Bassoonist Charles Ullery and Violinist Daria Adams shared their thoughts in the Star Tribune:

Chuck Ullery, the SPCO’s principal bassoonist, credited Hogwood for opening the door to historical performance practices.

“The orchestra really started to pay attention to how it played Baroque music and Haydn in a different way,” Ullery said. “He started that, and even though a lot of those musicians aren’t here anymore, the approach we use is still influenced by Chris.”

Violinist Daria Adams said Hogwood’s “vast knowledge and refined musicianship helped to shape the way we perform early music. He was a joy to work with.”

Pioneer Press critic Rob Hubbard, reviewing this weekend’s program, thought that Hogwood would approve of what he heard.

Christopher Hogwood probably would have loved his old orchestra’s interpretation of a Vivaldi Double Concerto in Apple Valley on Thursday evening. Not that it stayed within the “historically informed performance” parameters that Hogwood helped make all the rage before becoming the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s music director from 1988 to ’92. But Hogwood, who died Wednesday at age 73, surely would have appreciated the spirit that suffused the work and the blithely bantered musical conversation it became between violinist Ruggero Allifranchini and cellist Suren Bagratuni.

The Vivaldi demonstrated that the SPCO is still a top-notch ensemble when it comes to interpreting Hogwood’s beloved baroque repertoire. …

If Hogwood’s spirit was making one last set of rounds and checking out his old ensembles on his way to the hereafter, he likely would have ascended out of Apple Valley with a smile, assured that the SPCO is playing with as much passion as in his heyday.

 Find more about Christopher Hogwood in New York Times and National Public Radio obituaries.