Vernon Handley, 77, conductor and champion of British music
LONDON - Vernon Handley, who championed British music in his long career as an orchestra conductor, has died.
He was 77.
Mr. Handley died Wednesday at his home in Wales, said Nicholas Curry of the Clarion Seven Muses agency. The cause of death was not announced, but Mr. Handley had been ill for some time, Curry said yesterday.
Of the 150 recordings Mr. Handley made with various orchestras, more than 90 were of British music from the likes of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold, Robert Simpson, Granville Bantock, and Arnold Bax.
Mr. Handley was a protege of Adrian Boult, whose restrained gestures on the podium influenced Handley's own style.
During his career, he was chief guest conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of the Malmo (Sweden) Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor and artistic director of the Ulster Orchestra in Northern Ireland, chief guest conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, chief guest conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, chief conductor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, and chief guest conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Mr. Handley never was principal conductor of a London orchestra, but in 1983 the London Philharmonic appointed him associate conductor.
His reputation as a proponent of British music sometimes chafed.
"I do love championing British music because I believe in it," he said last year in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.
"But, in fact, the problem for me is that I've got pigeonholed for it much too early. I would prefer to have come to it from an established position rather than as a freak, as it were, doing nothing but British music.
"When I'm abroad I'm asked to do Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Brahms, Beethoven, Berlioz, all sorts of things. And I always say to the British public and those who have pigeonholed me, don't worry, whenever I play any of these composers, after the first few bars I can make them all sound like Vaughan Williams."
Funeral arrangements were not announced.