Tributes to former Hallé conductor James Loughran who led Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra dies at 92

Tributes to former Hallé conductor James Loughran who led Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra dies at 92

### Tributes to Former Hallé Conductor James Loughran Who Led Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra Dies at 92

The world of classical music is mourning the loss of James Loughran, the internationally renowned Scottish orchestral conductor, who passed away at the age of 92. Born in Glasgow on June 30, 1931, Loughran’s illustrious career spanned several decades and saw him work with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras. His family announced his passing, marking the end of an era for many who admired his contributions to music.

Loughran’s journey in music began early. Educated at St Aloysius College and Glasgow University, he was a talented pianist from a young age. His big break came in 1961 when he won the televised Philharmonia Orchestra’s conductor competition, which led to his appointment as assistant conductor with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. This victory set the stage for a career that would see him become a significant figure in the world of classical music.

From 1965 to 1971, Loughran served as the principal conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. However, it was his tenure with the Hallé Orchestra in Manchester that truly cemented his legacy. Succeeding Sir John Barbirolli, Loughran took over as principal conductor in 1971, a position he held until 1983. He then served as conductor laureate from 1983 to 1991. During his time with the Hallé, Loughran was instrumental in shaping the orchestra’s sound and expanding its repertoire.

Loughran’s influence extended beyond the UK. He was the first Briton to be principal conductor of a major German orchestra, the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, from 1979 to 1983. He also served as principal conductor of Denmark’s Aarhus Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 2003. His international engagements included guest conductor roles with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and Vienna Symphony Orchestra.

One of Loughran’s most notable achievements was his introduction of “Auld Lang Syne” to the Last Night of the Proms, a tradition that continues to this day. He conducted the Last Night of the Proms five times between 1977 and 1985, becoming a familiar and beloved figure to British audiences.

Loughran’s recording career was equally impressive. He conducted many orchestral recordings, including the Hallé Orchestra’s version of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” suite, which won a gold disc, and the London Symphony Orchestra’s complete Beethoven symphonies recorded in 1970 as part of the European Broadcasting Union’s Beethoven bicentenary celebrations. His recordings brought classical music to a wider audience, often through budget labels that made high-quality recordings accessible to more people.

Throughout his career, Loughran received numerous honors. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2010 and was a Fellow of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Scottish Conservatoire. He also held the title of honorary conductor of the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra.

Loughran’s personal life was marked by both joy and tragedy. He was married twice and had two sons, Angus and Charles, with his first wife, Nancy née Coggan. After their divorce in 1983, he married violist Ludmila Navratil in 1985. The couple moved to Glasgow in 1995, where they lived happily until her death in November 2021. His first wife Nancy and son Charles also predeceased him. He is survived by his son Angus and grandsons Frazer and Ben.

Angus Loughran, a noted sports journalist and broadcaster, paid tribute to his father, saying, “My father was very proud to be Scottish and loved the great city of Glasgow. Sadly, he latterly suffered from dementia but was well cared for by the NHS and the staff of the Mugdock House Care Home in Bearsden where he passed away on Wednesday, June 19.”

James Loughran’s funeral will be a private family event, but his legacy will continue to resonate through the many recordings and performances he left behind. His contributions to the Hallé Orchestra, in particular, are a testament to his skill and dedication as a conductor. The years between John Barbirolli’s death in 1970 and Mark Elder’s appointment as music director in 1999 were challenging financially for the Hallé Orchestra, but they were also a period of significant artistic achievement, much of which can be attributed to Loughran’s leadership.

Loughran’s tenure with the Hallé saw the orchestra make numerous recordings, many of which were on budget labels, thus bringing the orchestra to the widest possible listening audience. The choir’s repertoire during this period was eclectic, ranging from Beethoven and Brahms to the unaccompanied choral music of Newcastle composer W.G. Whittaker, and from Britten and Mahler to the Cowboy Carol.

The decision to appoint Loughran as Barbirolli’s successor was a critical one, given the distinctive stamp Barbirolli had put on the orchestra’s sound. Loughran first conducted the Hallé Orchestra in the 1964/65 season and impressed with a performance of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony in the autumn of 1970. He was appointed principal conductor and music adviser in December of that year, beginning his first three-year term in September 1971.

Loughran’s recordings with the Hallé included Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody and William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, both of which were recorded at the newly-opened Royal Northern College of Music building on Oxford Road in Manchester. These recordings were part of the Classics for Pleasure (CfP) label, which aimed to provide high-quality recordings of standard classical repertoire at a low price, making classical music more accessible to a wider audience.

In 1976, Loughran conducted the Hallé Orchestra in a recording of Holst’s Planets suite, which earned a gold disc for sales of over 100,000. This recording, along with others, helped to solidify Loughran’s reputation as a conductor who could bring out the best in his musicians and make classical music accessible to all.

James Loughran’s legacy is one of dedication, passion, and a deep love for music. His contributions to the Hallé Orchestra and the wider world of classical music will be remembered and celebrated for years to come.

Source: The Herald, The Guardian, Gramophone

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