Clarinettist Alan Hacker dies

James Jolly20th Apr 2012
Alan Hacker's art celebrated on a Clarinet Classics portraitAlan Hacker's art celebrated on a Clarinet Classics portrait

The English clarinettist and conductor Alan Hacker has died; he was 73. After school at Dulwich College and study at the Royal Academy of Music, Hacker used the proceeds from a travelling scholarship to study in Paris, Bayreuth and Vienna. An illness in his twenties confined him to a wheelchair but did little to curb his energy and enthusiasm.

In 1958 he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra, becoming a professor at the RAM two years later. He was a passionate advocate of new music (he chaired the Institute of Contemporary Arts' music section) and, in 1965, founded the Pierrot Players with Stephen Pruslin and Harrison Birtwistle: in 1972 the group became the Fires of London. He also founded the ensemble Matrix. He became a noted exponent of Pierre Boulez's Domaines of which he gave the earliest performances.

Alongside his interest in new music, Hacker was a keen champion of the basset clarinet, reviving interest in it and giving performances of the various works which Mozart wrote for Anton Stadler to play on the instrument. In the field of period performance he founded Music Party in 1972 giving much-admired performances of works by Hummel, Mozart, Weber and Haydn (all recorded).

Later, he founded the Classical Orchestra, and established the Early Music Festival in York, where he was a lecturer in music at the University from 1976 to 1987.

As a conductor he gave acclaimed performances of Bach with the Orchestra of La Fenice, Venice, and also conducted Mozart operas. He was a regular guest conductor with Stuttgart Opera.

On disc (he recorded mainly for Decca and Amon Ra), he can be heard in many of the key works of the clarinet repertoire: the Quintet and Concerto by Mozart, the Brahms sonatas and Trio. A frequent partner was the pianist and historic keyboard specialist Richard Burnett. One of his most intriguing discs was one for L'Oiseau-Lyre entitled 'Hymn to the Sun', which brought together traditional music and works by Schumann, Birtwistle, Debussy and Monteverdi (arranged Alexander Goehr). Clarinet Classics has released an album 'A Portrait of Alan Hacker' which includes music by Beresford, Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies, Crusell and Weber (Amazon).

He was awarded the OBE for services to music. 

Read an interview from December 1977 with Alan Hacker in the Gramophone Archive. In April 1994 Hacker appeared on the BBC's 'Desert Island Discs', a programme you can listen to in the BBC Archive.

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