George Hurst (1926-2012)

The influential conductor and teacher has died at the age of 86

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George Hurst, who transformed the fortunes of the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra and taught conductors including Sir Andrew Davis and Sir Simon Rattle, has died aged 86.

Hurst was born in Edinburgh in 1926 and went to Canada when war broke out. He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and became professor of composition at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore at the age of 21.

After returning to England he made his British conducting debut at the Festival Hall in 1953 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1958 he became principal conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra – now the BBC Philharmonic – and is credited with raising the orchestra’s profile.

He made his Proms debut in 1960, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and later founded the Bournemouth Sinfonietta – an offshoot of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

Arguably, though, Hurst’s biggest influence on the classical world was through his role as a teacher at the Canford Summer School of Music – now the Sherborne Summer School of Music. His students over the 63 years that he taught there included John Eliot Gardiner and Mark Wigglesworth.

Speaking to the BBC news website, Malcolm Binney, director of music for the summer school said: ‘He changed people’s lives. He was charismatic, had incredible technique and all the people who worked with him adored him.’

Hurst is survived by his wife, Denise Ham and by a daughter from a previous marriage.

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