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THE TIMES FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 5, 1986

OBITUARY

Mr Philip Radcliffe

Mr Philip Radcliffe, the Cambridge music critic and composer, died with his sister, Susan, in a motor accident in France on September 2. He was 81.

Philip Fitzhugh Radcliffe was born on April 27, 1905, the son of A.F.Radcliffe, a housemaster at Charterhouse, where he was educated. In 1924, he went as a Classical Scholar to King's College, Cambridge.

He was shy and sensitive, but immediately began to make friends through his distinction as a musician and a play-reader.

After a First in Classical Tripos, Part I, he turned increasingly to music, being elected a Fellow in the subject in 1931, and a university lecturer in 1947. King's became his home for life. He never left it for more than a few weeks, and was one of those who remained to its traditions alive during the war.

His main gifts were a passion for music and remarkable musical memory. His sympathies lay with the music of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, huge amounts of which he memorised with apparent ease. Yet his curiosity was boundless and did not deteriorate with the years.

One of the things that gave him most pleasure as the years went by, was that he found himself able to respond to much early music that he once thought cold and unmoving, and to twentieth century music that had seemed dischordant and unrewarding.

To his pupils, Radcliffe was a wise counsellor and good friend, never imposing his views, but always trying to help them find their own; he was particularly successful in helping composers to reach a consistent style which best suited their ideas.

He regarded teaching (and for him that meant individual supervision) as his most important activity, and he continued to teach long after his official retirement.

His nature made him particularly good with the shy, sensitive or insecure undergraduate.

His writings ranged over a wide variety of subjects - his fellowship dissertation on tonality in the sixteenth century; articles on song in Grove's Dictionary and Denis Stevens's symposium.The History of Song; the article on Brahms in Grove, chapters for volumes of the New Oxford History of Music (To mention but a few); and two books, Mendelssohn (1954) and Beethoven's String Quartet (1965.)

The writings sprang naturally from his deep love of music. They fall into the category of perceptive and sensitive, rather than analytical and scholarly, criticism. He was also a charming and witty writer about people, as may be seen from a memoir he wrote for his college on Bernhard (Boris) Ord and his E.F.Bent; A Centenary Memoir (1976.)

His love of music found one further outlet: composition. He never ceased to compose, and indeed found it hard to believe that anyone could be a true musician without possessing this urge.His idiom was traditional and restrained, and he sometimes referred to it as "Vaughan-Brahms". Yet those who knew him well found it idiosyncratic and highly expressive of his gentle personality.

Only a few of his pieces (Most of them are small scale) have been printed - two short choral introits, a part-song for male voices, and three songs for voice and piano.His most ambitious effort was the music for Cambridge Greek Play Society's Oedipus Tyrannus (1965.)

Radcliffe was steeped in Greek drama, and he also composed less extensive but highly successful music for Aristophanes's Clouds (1962), Euripides's Medea (1974) and Sophocles's Electra (1977.)

Since his talent was lyric rather than dramatic, the music was unobtrusive but served valuable ends, especially in the more reflective moments.

His warmth of nature and his amusing recollections endeared him to all who penetrated his shyness. He never married.