in memory of Sir Charles Wilson proves to be an uplifting experience
This wonderful opportunity for the
University to remember the work of its first Vice-Chancellor, Sir Charles
Wilson, who died in November last year at the age of ninety-two, was also the
occasion at which to engage two young musicians, the baritone Damian Thantrey
and pianist Peter Hewitt, to perform one of the greatest settings of poems to
music – Schubert’s song-cycle Winterreise.
Amazingly, there is no record of the work having been featured in
any University concert, at least over the past fifty years.
Described by Professor Aubrey Newman in
his obituary of Sir Charles as “the last of its founding fathers”, the
University, in its present flourishing state, has much to thank him for - as
the present Vice-Chancellor, Professor Burgess, reminded the capacity audience
in the Richard Attenborough Centre in his welcome speech.
Sir Charles was responsible for setting up a superbly organised
institution in a period of remarkable expansion during the 1950s and
appointing heads of departments of outstanding ability and influence.
Charles Wilson was also keen to promote
up-and-coming artists, so it was particularly appropriate that one of the
masterpieces of a thirty-year-old composer should be interpreted by artists of
roughly the same age. Winterreise had
been meticulously prepared, the twenty-four heart-rending songs being sung
from memory. It was, indeed, Damian and
Peter’s first performance of the work, and the singing and playing had the
intensity that one experiences only on hearing or seeing something
breathtaking for the first time. Their
stage presence, too, in the “intimate setting of an expanded drawing room”
(as one colleague put it), made it, at times, an almost unbearable experience.
Jane Mayers, Charles Wilson’s daughter,
who acted as the family adviser and who assured us that Schubert was a
particularly favourite composer of her father’s, was quick to respond: “I
found the whole event quite amazing – that such an honour was done in the
memory of my father both through the music itself and through the beautiful
I can only add that in nearly twenty years at the University, there have rarely been evenings that matched this one.
Last updated: 30 September 2003 14:37
Created by: Barbara Whiteman
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