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Robert Farnon 1917-2005

The Canadian composer Robert Farnon died in Guernsey on 23 April 2005; he was 87 and had been made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1998. Farnon arrived in the UK during the last war as conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force, and settled there. He died three weeks before his Third Symphony was due to be premièred in Edinburgh by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and he was currently working on a bassoon concerto.

Bob Farnon was much better known for his light music, of course: pieces like Westminster Waltz, Portrait of a Flirt and Jumping Bean. Which raises the question 'why, his three symphonies notwithstanding, should his passing be remarked on in a magazine devoted to "classical" music?' My answer would be that the distinction is in any case fairly tenuous: how, for example, should we categorise Elgar's Chanson de Matin or Sibelius's Valse Triste? As well as being tuneful, at its best, Farnon's light music is very carefully crafted indeed. He was simply a great master of his chosen metier.


Posted: 6 May 2005

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