Patrick O’Connor remembered

Gramophone18th Feb 2010
Patrick O'ConnorPatrick O'Connor

Gramophone's editor-in-chief James Jolly pays tribute to Patrick O’Connor, who has died aged 60, a Gramophone critic much-loved by both readers and colleagues.

Patrick was one of those critics whose interests embraced so many different art-forms: he was as happy and authoritative writing about art, or dance, or opera, or Lieder, or Music Hall, or books, or theatre, or film (at all of which he directed a knowledge and passion that was formidable). He brought to his reviews a wealth of knowledge that betrayed a passion not only for the work in hand, but for the world in which that work (be it an opera or a group of songs) was created. He was, I think, above all a Francophile, but his knowledge of Hollywood movies from the age of glamour was as deep as it was broad; among his writings were books on Marlene Dietrich and Joséphine Baker.

He’d relatively recently moved from Richmond, where he’d lived in the family house all his life, and you just knew he was relishing living right in the centre of London: he was thrilled that he could walk to any of his favourite destinations with ease – be that Covent Garden, the Barbican, the South Bank, the British Library or Wigmore Hall, and any one of dozens of little galleries where he was a discerning client.

And living in the centre of things seemed so right for this voracious consumer and connoisseur of art in all its forms. His flat was a testament to his wide-ranging and exquisite taste – a little drawing by Vuillard, a striking portrait acquired at the sale of Rudolf Nureyev’s collection, a library of 78s of singers that he planned to transfer and post on the web, or the mountains of books that sat on any and every horizontal surface (even the kitchen cabinets spilled out opera boxed-sets).

Amid all this, he was a consummate host – casual yet solicitous, and always carried off with understated style: his vast circle of friends embraced people from all walks of life, and his company was pure delight, and he could converse on any subject. His carefree, seemingly slightly absent-minded manner hid a razor-sharp mind and a genuine fascination with what was happening around him. He will be sorely missed both as a terrific writer and as a delightful man.

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