The internationally renowned conductor James Loughran has died aged 92

Theo Elwell
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Glasgow born conductor was the first Brit to be appointed principal of a major German orchestra

Conductor James Loughran (photo: Hallé)
Conductor James Loughran (photo: Hallé)

Born in Glasgow on June 30, 1931, James Loughran remained in Scotland for his education, attending St Aloysius College whose alumni also include composer Fred Morrison and writer Armando Ianucci, before moving on to Glasgow University to study law and economics.

While pursuing his own piano studies, Loughran entered the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Conductor Competition, securing first prize in 1961 and catching the eye of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra who invited him to join them as assistant conductor. Three years later, Loughran would make his Covent Garden debut at the age of 33 and was personally selected by Benjamin Britten to be music director of the English Opera Group (eventually becoming the English Music Theatre Company before ceasing to exist in 1980). Loughran conducted the Last Night of the Proms five times between 1977 and 1985, and he is credited for introducing Auld Lang Syne to the Proms, a tradition that stands to this day. Perhaps most notable was Loughran’s association with the Hallé Orchestra, with whom he was Principal Conductor between 1971 and 1983 when the Orchestra celebrated its 125th anniversary.

Loughran conducted many major orchestras during his career, including the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, Aarhus Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Vienna Symphony Orchestra, receiving numerous honours along the way including a CBE in 2010 and a Fellowship from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Some of those partnerships were preserved on record, and indeed in Richard Osborne’s survey of Beethoven’s Pastoral for a Gramophone Collection last October, he praised the conductor thus: ‘Equally sure-footed is James Loughran with the LPO. Back in 1961 the 29-year-old Loughran won the inaugural Philharmonia conducting competition, whose judges were Klemperer, Boult, Giulini and Walter Legge. That this Collins Classics Pastoral is fit to be heard alongside any of those made by Loughran’s erstwhile judges is testimony both to their perspicacity and the skills Loughran always showed in handling the Beethoven-Brahms repertory.’

James Loughran is survived by his son Angus and two grandsons.

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