Obituary for Peter Evans, Vice President of Malvern Concert Club

Peter Angus Evans (1929 – 2018)

Peter Evans, Vice President of Malvern Concert ClubIt is with enormous sadness that we record the death of Peter Evans, Vice President and a former Chairman of the Club, on 1st January after a decline in health over a period of three years.

Peter was a distinguished musicologist as well as a keen practitioner, playing piano, organ, viols, violin and viola. After a brief spell teaching at Bishop Wordsworth’s School in Salisbury, he was appointed as lecturer at Durham University. In 1961 he became Professor of Music at Southampton University, later turning down offers of professorships at both Oxford and Cambridge because he wanted to remain an integral part of University musical life rather than be purely an academic. This he was able to do at Southampton conducting The Southampton Philharmonic Society Choir with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Sinfonietta as well as various University ensembles. Appointed to a new department, he set it up from scratch, in his own vision, creating a unique course, inspiring many students over the years, a number of whom are now eminent musicologists themselves. During his professorship he initiated the building of the Turner Sims Concert Hall and later the installation of a fine Peter Collins organ, though sadly, since his retirement, it has been removed. Ever modest, he would be embarrassed about the accolades now given to him.

After his retirement in 1990, Peter moved to Ledbury where one of his first actions was to join the Malvern Concert Club. When the chairmanship became vacant in 1996, he was the logical person to appoint and he continued in that role for nearly a decade. From 2003 until 2006 he also brought his deep musical knowledge and what has been described as his ‘analytical mind’ to the provision of programme notes for the Club, which in their breadth and appreciation are testimony to his perceptiveness and erudition; indeed, composer Antony Payne described him as having ‘the sharpest musical mind I have ever encountered’.

Peter Evans performing. Vice President of Malvern Concert ClubPeter was deeply respected for his knowledge of twentieth century music, and his study of The Music of Benjamin Britten (published 1979) remains an important work in the understanding and appreciation of Britten’s music. While Chairman, he was instrumental in persuading Anthony Payne, then still enjoying the publicity from his completion of Elgar’s unfinished third symphony, to accept a commission from the Club. The result was a setting of poems by Edward Thomas for soprano and piano quartet, which was performed at the opening concert of the Club’s 2003-04 centenary season, just one of two seasons (2002-04) in which one hundred years of continuous music promotion by the Club was celebrated, and which were extraordinary for their range, for there was nothing narrow about Peter’s appreciation of music. Over the years of his chairmanship early music in the shape of the Rose Consort of Viols, for example, bumped up against the standard classics of the chamber music repertoire and a regular smattering of more modern and contemporary pieces, the last best embodied in Kathryn Stott’s 2000 programme of piano works from each decade of the twentieth century, while 2001 was notable for the first ever complete performance of a Schubert song-cycle: Die schöne Müllerin performed by Christopher Maltman and Malcolm Martineau.

After the diagnosis of illness of his wife, June, and the ensuing demands of home life, Peter no longer felt able to devote the necessary time and commitment as Chairman and resigned in 2005, though he continued to attend Club concerts and was generally to be seen sitting unobtrusively near the front of the hall on the left-hand side. As a person, he could seem somewhat austere (another university Head of Music has described him as ‘a formidable presence’) but, as well as his innate and unfailing courtesy, he had real warmth, as those who worked with him within the Club can testify. The Club rightly made him one of its Vice Presidents in recognition of the major contribution he had made to the Club over a number of years, and he will be sadly missed by those of us who knew and worked with him.

With thanks to Michael Messenger and Carol Green