Tributes to talented harpsichordist who shared his talent with the world

Robert Aldwinckle SUS-170504-144806001
Robert Aldwinckle SUS-170504-144806001

An esteemed Hastings harpsichordist who performed music across the world has passed away.

Robert Aldwinckle died peacefully in the Conquest Hospital after a short illness on March 20, 2017.

Robert Aldwinckle SUS-170704-120302001

Robert Aldwinckle SUS-170704-120302001

Robert was born the third son of Bartholomew William and Kathleen (née Sanders) Aldwinckle on a farm in the village of Barnack in north Cambridgeshire. He attended Stamford School, doing well academically and shining in music. He monopolised the school music prizes for several years with his virtuosity on the piano and flute.

He studied at The Royal Academy of Music from 1963-65. After leaving The Royal Academy, Robert was given his first professional opportunity by Charles Farncombe who had established the Handel Opera Society. This appointment was the first time Robert had been asked to play the harpsichord and continuo for an opera. He mastered not only the instrument but the style in which it was most effectively played with an artistic aplomb and flair that became his signature right up until his death.

Classical Music described Robert as “playing the harpsichord with a verve worthy of Handel himself” while Arkitet-Sweden said: “Robert Aldwinckle showed himself fully worthy of the title harpsichord-master. He plays with splendid musicianship and has a virtuoso technique.”

As a harpsichordist Robert played extensively in North America, the Far East and all over Europe. He toured Japan with the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra playing Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto.

At a performance of the same work in London, the Times critic said: “He played it as if he’d been born playing it.”

Robert’s recordings included works with the English Chamber Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Europe including a CD of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons with Victoria Mullova and Claudio Abbado.

Robert directed performances or played continuo in places as diverse as Carnegie Hall, La Fenice in Venice, an island on the Tiber in Rome, Drottningholm’s 18th century theatre in Sweden, Versailles, Royal Palace in Warsaw, Monte Carlo and Buckingham Palace.

He performed with many famous musicians including Pinchas Zukerman, Nigel Kennedy, Jessye Norman, Teresa Berganza, Crisipan Steele-Perkins, James Bowman, John Shirley-Quirk and numerous others.

Robert coached many of the best British singers and taught at his old college, the Royal Academy of Music, Trinity College of Music, in Sweden, Germany, Italy and Hong Kong. He often financed concerts in and around London to give his students a professional platform and concert experience.

After several recital tours to Poland, Robert helped to fundraise in order to send a harpsichord to the restored Royal Palace in Warsaw which, up until Nazi occupation, boasted a fine English harpsichord, to facilitate their baroque recitals.

Until weeks before his death, Robert accompanied Bexhill Choral Society, directed the Madrigal group ‘Waits and Measures’ and was organist and choirmaster at St. Mark’s Church, Little Common. He was also music director of the Hastings Bach Choir.

Robert was the archetypal Renaissance man. He had a great facility for languages and was fluent in German, French and Italian.

He also had a great love of architecture and had specialist encyclopaedic knowledge of English Churches and country houses. He had a complete set of Pevsner and could instantly recall the historic detail of any church spire on the horizon.

Robert was himself an accomplished amateur artist specialising in pen and ink drawings of historic buildings. He had a passion for the Great Masters and in his illness surrounded himself with images of the Italian school.

Robert was devastated by the passing of his partner two years ago. He is survived by his brothers Bill and Herb, nephews Will and David, niece Binny, grandnieces Amy and Anna, grandnephews Edward and Henry, and his godson Jonathan Burrowes.

Robert’s funeral will take place at Hastings Crematorium on April 19 at 1.15pm.

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