Philip Ledger: First UEA director of music and artistic director at Aldeburgh

An influential musician, conductor and the first director of music at the University of East Anglia, Sir Philip Ledger, has died aged 74.

A close collaborator of Benjamin Britten, he was a joint artistic director at the Aldeburgh Festival for 21 years from 1968 and conducted the opening performance at the rebuilt Maltings Concert Hall at Snape.

He became the country's youngest cathedral organist when he was appointed to Chelmsford in 1961.

He was only 27 when he was appointed to the newly-created UEA in October 1965, where he remained for eight years including three years as dean of the school of fine arts and music.

The organist, pianist and harpsichordist encouraged a triple entente between the university, cathedral and the Norwich Philharmonic, which also imparted new vitality at the Norfolk and Norwich Triennial Festival. In September 1970, he was asked to take over following the sudden death of the newly-appointed director of the Norwich Philharmonic.


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In 1973, he became director of music and organist at King's College, Cambridge, where he had earlier taken first class honours. In his final performance at St Andrew's Hall, Norwich that December, he was loudly applauded for his contribution to raising the standards of music in the county and further afield as well as creating the UEA choir. In that same year, he became chairman of the Eastern Arts Association's music panel in succession to Ruth, Lady Fermoy.

He was principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama for two decades but had earlier made six appearances at the BBC Proms between 1964 and 1972 featuring music by Bach, Handel, Purcell and Vivaldi.

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When Britten died in 1976, Ledger played the Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Victoria, Britten's only work for solo organ, at the composer's funeral.

After retiring in 2001, he continued to compose. His last two major works were his Requiem (A Thanksgiving for Life) in 2007 and The Risen Christ last year.

He had been appointed CBE in 1985 and was knighted in 1999.

In 1963 he married Mary Wells, a principal soprano at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, whom he had met while he was conducting the European premiere of Copland's The Tender Land in Cambridge.

He leaves a widow and a son and daughter. Michael Pollitt

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