Sir Peter Moores, best known to classical record collectors for his support of numerous recording projects, has died: he was 83. Born into the wealthy Moores family – owners of the Littlewoods empire of pools, department stores and mail-order business – Moores was sent to school at Eton where, as he told Gramophone in March 2003, ‘that was the start of my real musical education because you could get to Covent Garden. I remember seeing Welitsch in Salome, and Erich Kleiber's Wozzeck, which made a tremendous impression. I would go and see everything. I don't think it was the spectacle that drew me to opera - productions then weren't particularly sophisticated - but it was the idea of “performance”, the singers creating characters and bringing the work to life that really attracted me.’
He then went to Christ Church, Oxford where he read German and Italian. His passion for opera was already formed and he worked at Glyndebourne during his 'gap' year. He later studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and worked at the Vienna State Opera (as an assistant producer), at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples and at the Rome Opera.
He joined the family firm in 1957, ascending to Vice-Chairman and then Chairman. He remained on the board and as a director until 1993. But his first love was his charitable and philanthropic work which he’d established, as a Foundation, in his early twenties when he inherited a half share in the Moores empire.
He supported numerous young artists early in their careers through his Foundation: some of our greatest names benefited – Sir Colin Davis, Dame Joan Sutherland and Sir Geraint Evans among them – and he still offers bursaries to music students. Here the names are equally illustrious: Joan Rodgers, Rosalind Plowright, Toby Spence and Simon Keenlyside have received support from his Foundation.
He helped fund recording projects that the record companies baulked at – such as Wagner’s Ring cycle, sung in English and condcuted by Reginald Goodall, and recorded at the Coliseum by EMI. He was a passionate advocate of opera sung in the language of its audience and financed the Chandos Opera in English series of complete works and recitals. And he also set up Opera Rara to record operatic rarities and, often, related stage and concert performances, a company that continues to thrive though he wound up his Foundation two years ago, after half a century.
In the visual arts he supported art exhibitions at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and from 1983 the magnificent gallery at Compton Verney in Warwickshire. He was also a major donor to business studies at Oxford University as well as endowing a Peter Moores Professorship of Management Studies.
Sir Peter Moores was given Gramophone’s Special Achievement Award in 2008, at which time we wrote that ‘The Arts have long benefited from the patronage and generosity of wealthy men, but in the UK – which lags a long way behind the US in individual donations – there have been few people who have supported music, and above all opera, with the interested and informed generosity of Sir Peter Moores.'