Joseph Horovitz (1926–2022)

Joseph Horovitz (1926–2022)
Joseph Horovitz
© Wolfgang Jud

Novello & Company Limited are sad to announce the passing of distinguished composer, conductor and teacher Joseph Horovitz, who died peacefully on 9 February 2022, aged 95. He will be greatly missed by us all and the music world at large.  

After a wonderful 70-year career in music his compositions number twelve ballets, nine concertos – including his much-loved Jazz Concerto, and the Euphonium Concerto – two one-act operas, chamber music, works for brass and wind bands, film, television and radio, and choral works - most famously his Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo. 
Most recently, he celebrated his 95th birthday with many concerts across Europe to mark the occasion and a notable performance of his Harpsichord Concerto at 2021 BBC Proms. 

James Rushton, retired Managing Director of Novello & Company Limited, comments, "It seems extraordinary that I first met Joe Horovitz when he was already 70, and, yet, my memories of him were of an ebullient young man, full of humour and mentally very acute. And I imagine that that was how Joe always was. All who came into contact with him will have loved him for it.

"Joe’s music was very much his own - work of beguiling colours and rhythms, in which the mixing, with his own very appealing musical voice, of styles from earlier periods or of the characteristics of other musical genres created something that was so very representative of certain contemporary trends of the mid-20th century. Joe was a composer who could turn his hand to a great variety of projects - from TV scores (Rumpole of the Bailey being the best known example) and music for the classical concert hall (for example, Jazz Concerto or Fantasia on a Theme of Couperin) to what is probably the work for which he is best known, Captain Noah and His Floating Zoo, part of the ground-breaking series of pop-cantatas commissioned by Novello and performed by so many young people over many years and loved also in its animated version for TV. But never did the range of that work compromise its freshness, quality and memorability. Joe will be much missed by all who have had the privilege to know him and to work with him throughout his long and fruitful life."

“With the death of Joseph Horovitz, an important link with music making in pre-War Europe disappears," says Howard Friend, Managing Editor, Novello 1998-2019. "Though only 12 when his family had to leave the country of his birth for Britain, his upbringing in the heart of Vienna, the son of a distinguished publisher, never seemed far away in either his intellect or undoubted charm and sense of humour.  With a formidable memory for names, faces and works even to the end of his life and clear explanation and delivery in teaching, he attracted enormous affection from his students at the RCM as well as us whose privilege it was to publish many of his practical and finely crafted works. 

"Rather than a disciple of the Second Viennese School, as were so many of his contemporaries, he belonged more in the mitteleuropäische tradition of composers like Fritz Kreisler, Robert Stolz or Mischa Spoliansky, whose work he greatly admired, who could operate effortlessly between popular and concert music traditions, brass band, film scores or theatrical work.  In these fields combined, he probably reached as wide a public as any composer in this country.  If he wasn’t creating his own works, he was performing and arranging widely: his was one of the standard Chopin orchestrations used for the Fokine ballet Les Sylphides, while he first contacted me over thirty years ago in connexion with Otto Deutsch’s German language version of The Mikado. Life will not be the same without his august, sunny yet impish personality.”

Horovitz was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England in 1938. He studied music at New College, Oxford, with Gordon Jacob at the Royal College of Music where he won the Farrar Prize, and for a further year with Nadia Boulanger in Paris. The Festival of Britain in 1951 brought him to London as conductor of ballet and concerts at the Festival Amphitheatre. He then held positions as conductor to the Ballets Russes, associate director of the Intimate Opera Company, on the music staff at Glyndebourne, and as guest composer at the Tanglewood Festival, USA. 
In 1961 he began teaching at the Royal College of Music, where he became a Fellow in 1981. He won two Ivor Novello Awards and in 1996 he was awarded the Gold Order of Merit of the City of Vienna, and in 2007 the Austrian Cross of Honour for Science and Art First Class. The Worshipful Company of Musicians awarded him the Cobbett Medal in 2008 for services to chamber music. In 2017 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Royal College of Music, London. 

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