August 12th, I942—May I5th, 1976
There must be many of David Munrow's friends who, like me, find it hard to accept the fact that he is dead. His continued presence on television and on records makes it even more difficult to realize fully that so vital a person has gone. He leaves behind the very happiest memories, both musical and personal.
David first bounced into my life in 1970, when we did a BBC programme together of madrigals accompanied by instruments. Basil Lam suggested that we should use David's recorder consort, and when I heard them play I realised that I had never heard recorders play in tune before. After the programme, I drove David from Broadcasting House to St John's Wood station, and on that short journey he told me about his work. That was typical of him—he never wasted a minute. Next morning he flew into my office with a tape of the full Consort, with a view to making a record. The music was the Susato dances, and I was bowled over by the energy and stylishness of the performances. We signed him up, and he was to make twenty LPs for us between 1971 and 1976—some of which have still to be issued.
He made his name in the concert hall, where his charming personality made a great impression on audiences, but he was also very much a man of the gramophone. Some artists regard records only as a means of perpetuating their performances, but David had a uniquely creative view of records which made him very stimulating to work with. He concerned himself with all aspects of recording, and followed through his records from their conception to their finished state. He chose the cover pictures, wrote the sleeve-notes, and of course he chose the music and arranged it. I remember that when he discussed with us "The Art of Courtly Love" [HMV SL5863, 12/73] he described every detail of the finished box, and even 'sold' it to us by suggesting that we could eventually issue the three records separately.
To have such a perfectionist on the tail of each department, checking and worrying away at every detail could have been rather frightening, but his charm and humour made everyone want to do their best for him—not to mention the fact that in such specialised music we were glad to have him to, keep an eye on our work.
He was a man of manic energy—not least in the recording studio. He would stay up most of the night preparing parts, and then be at the session an hour before it started, putting out the music and even the music stands. We had to restrain him from putting out the microphones as well. He would never spare himself during a session, and usually ended up popeyed with exhaustion.
It is hard to foresee how his career would have developed, but he had already shown his ability to conduct larger groups, and I feel that he might well have sailed into the sharkinfested sea of orchestral conducting. No one who listened regularly to his BBC Radio 3 "Pied Piper" programme could imagine that early music was his sole interest.
I know of no musician more widely talented than David Munrow, nor anyone whose absence from the musical scene could be more bitterly felt by his audiences, and by his friends.