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HELD WITH LOVE

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HALIDA DINOVA remembers
Howard Smith (1939-2015)

 

Howard Smith, British journalist, music critic and artist's manager, passed away on 4 August 2015 at the age of seventy-six.

Since the mid 1990s, Smith lived with his family in Wellington province, New Zealand, most recently in Masterton. For the last fourteen years he was a regular contributor to Music & Vision.

Clive Alfred Howard Smith, to give him his full name, was born in Chester, England on 7 July 1939 where he lived with his parents and two older brothers Rodney and Graeme. The family moved to Hamilton, New Zealand when Howard was seven. Music was always a large part of Smith's family life, so he learned to play violin and played with his brother Rodney in groups and local orchestras.

Howard Smith as a young man
Howard Smith as a young man

After a degree in Theology from Victoria University in Wellington, Smith began his long career as a journalist, working first for The Dominion in Wellington. He left New Zealand to work as sole leader writer for The China Mail in Hong Kong. From the mid 1970s until 1987 he worked for Thomson Regional Newspapers (TRN) in North East England, writing exclusively on arts, travel and news background topics. Subsequently from his then base in Minneapolis MN, he provided copy for a variety of outlets throughout the American mid-west.

Amy and Howard Smith beside Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, USA
Amy and Howard Smith beside Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis, USA

In the mid 1990s, Smith with his wife Pauline and two children Amy and Ben moved back to New Zealand.

Ben and Howard Smith
Ben and Howard Smith. Click on the image for higher resolution

For some years he was a senior interviewer/writer, TV and arts critic with major dailies including The New Zealand Herald (Auckland), The Dominion and Evening Post (Wellington), Waikato Times (Hamilton), Wairarapa Times Age (Masterton) and Christchurch Press.

He supplied programme notes for the NZ International Festival of the Arts in Wellington (1996-8), the Naxos Chamber Music Festival 1999, and The Strad, London (1999-2001). He also wrote commentary for Decca Records (UK), EMI Records (UK), Hyperion Records, Opera North (Leeds), Opera Wellington, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Wellington), the Auckland Philharmonia, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (MN, USA), Hamilton Chamber Music Society (Waikato), Greytown Music Group (Wairarapa NZ) among others, and presented a weekly program on Arrow FM radio (Hitz 89 FM Masterton NZ).

Since the mid 1990s, Smith has been on assignments in Hatsukaichi, Japan, Almaty and Uralsk, Kazakhstan, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Pacific Russia, and Nouméa, New Caledonia.

Howard Smith was also an award-winning photographer. This photo of a Kazakh archaeologist is an example of his work. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith
Howard Smith was also an award-winning photographer. This photo of a Kazakh archaeologist is an example of his work. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith

In the last decade Smith has been the New Zealand agent for Kazakh-born virtuoso violinist Marat Bisengaliev and Serbian pianist Sonja Radojkovic, and recently also for me.

Howard Smith with Tatar / USA pianist Halida Dinova at Masterton Art Museum, New Zealand, on 30 April 2015
Howard Smith with Tatar / USA pianist Halida Dinova at Masterton Art Museum, New Zealand, on 30 April 2015. Click on the image for higher resolution

There are wonderful comments from some eminent musicians regarding Smith's quality of music journalism :

He is a brilliant journalist with an exceptionally wide background, As a music critic Smith is definitely one of the best in the world. His articles in The Strad are considered by many as most interesting essays with deep philosophical insights and an impressive knowledge of all practical and theoretical aspects of music performanace.Professor Alexander Ivashkin (1948-2014), cellist, Head of Russian Music, University of London, Professor of Canterbury University, Christchurch

His writing shows perception, depth, and humanity. His musical awareness is remarkable. — Dame Fanny Waterman (born 1920), Founder / Director Leeds International Piano Competition

Howard Smith: a fine music writer ... and much needed. — Libby Larsen, contemporary American composer

It is amazing how he found time for so much in his professional career. It is important to note that family was the centre of his life.

From left to right: Ben, Montego and Amy Smith in 2004. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith
From left to right: Ben, Montego and Amy Smith in 2004. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith

His daughter Amy wrote about her father:

To my dad, family meant everything, and he spent as much time as possible with myself and his grandchildren. He was an amazing father to me and Ben and a loving grandfather to my children Montego, Ashton, Aria and Indiana. My children have always called him 'Daddad Howard'.

From left to right: Indiana Smith, Pauline Harter, Montego Smith, Howard Smith, Aria Smith, Halida Dinova and Ashton Smith in Masterton, New Zealand, on 28 April 2015. Photo © 2015 Amy Jacquilla Smith
From left to right: Indiana Smith, Pauline Harter, Montego Smith, Howard Smith, Aria Smith, Halida Dinova and Ashton Smith in Masterton, New Zealand, on 28 April 2015. Photo © 2015 Amy Jacquilla Smith. Click on the image for higher resolution

Dad was an interesting man and his colourful life was filled with love, adventure, and entertaining family, with friendships around the world. Our love for him will never die ...

From left to right: Pauline Harter, Aria Smith, Montego Smith, Howard Smith, Ben Smith and Ashton Smith
From left to right: Pauline Harter, Aria Smith, Montego Smith, Howard Smith, Ben Smith and Ashton Smith. Click on the image for higher resolution

Smith was aware of the difficulties of a musical profession and was a most gentle and understanding friend to so many of us. His mind was always active even if health issues created problems with breathing and mobility. He was at his happiest talking about life, events and music with his friends, constantly writing (and often sending more than one CD review each day to Music & Vision's editor), listening to recordings and communicating with musical venues around New Zealand to convince them to engage artists.

Violinist Marat Bisengaliev wrote :

I have received really sad news about our dear friend Howard. Lots of good memories ... Our first meeting happened in Grassington where I performed a recital where Howard lived then with his wife and two little children.

I invited him and his family to my place, and since then we became close friends. Howard is the only person who has managed to cover all my discography up to date and he has written a book about me which was translated into Russian and published together with my memoirs under the title Do Re.

From left to right: Howard Smith, Bronislav Fainitski, Marat Bisengaliev and Ed Cooke in 2007
From left to right: Howard Smith, Bronislav Fainitski, Marat Bisengaliev and Ed Cooke in 2007

I talked to him through emails constantly as he was keen on organizing a tour for me next year. We were planning for him to come back to Kazakhstan, which he really loved, and perhaps visit me in France. (I moved to the South of France nearly four years ago.) A truly sincere, wonderful human being and the very best friend. For me his loss is a huge void in my life.

From left to right: Ben, Montego, Amy and Marat in 2004. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith
From left to right: Ben, Montego, Amy and Marat in 2004. Photo © Estate of the late Howard Smith

Serbian pianist Sonja Radojkovic wrote :

Howard was my good friend and impresario and a person who supported me in every part of life. With his death we all lost a man who shone with love, who lived for love and from love. Music was a very important part of his life, and he gave himself to it with a full heart, the same as he gave to his family and friends ... He suffered with health problems in his last years, and I pray to God that he found a place in Heaven, and that we will be together one day ...

Sonja Radojkovic and Howard Smith
Sonja Radojkovic and Howard Smith

My personal encounter with Howard Smith was a happy one. In 2008 I unexpectedly received an email from him in New Zealand with encouraging words about my recording of Brahms' Concerto No 2 Op 83 with Gustavo Plis-Sterenberg and the St Petersburg Academy Symphony Orchestra. I was so grateful that a serious critic had listened with an open mind to somebody who is not a famous authority on Brahms. He wrote a good review in Music & Vision [Distinctive Spontaneity, 5 October 2008] and invited me to tour in New Zealand in 2012 (with a return in 2015) to perform solo recitals. I feel I have lost a close friend and will be forever grateful for him accepting me into his heart and introducing me to his family and friends.

Howard and Amy Smith in 2010
Howard and Amy Smith in 2010. Click on the image for higher resolution

On all sides he was held with love.

Copyright © 4 September 2015 Halida Dinova,
Ohio, USA

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Halida Dinova and Music & Vision Magazine would like to thank Marat Bisengaliev, Sonja Radojkovic, Ed Cooke and members of the Smith family - Pauline Harter, Amy and Ben - for their help in researching and writing this tribute, and also for providing photos.

There's more information about Howard Smith on his website, islamey.com, and on Howard's Music & Vision page, where you can read his many M&V features. Many of his fascinating musical travel articles, often illustrated with his own photos, can be found near the bottom of the M&V list.

Howard was a very prolific writer, and over eighty of his CD reviews have yet to be published. We plan to make them available over the next couple of years.

HOWARD SMITH

NEW ZEALAND

UNITED KINGDOM

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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