Andrew Greenwood obituary

Other lives: Musician and conductor for whom the composer’s intentions were paramount

My husband, Andrew Greenwood, who has died aged 66 of prostate cancer, was a naturally gifted musician and a sympathetic conductor, especially of opera. Whether in a village hall or a top European theatre, his music-making always had integrity. Never a slave to ego, he held the composer’s intentions paramount, closely followed by the wellbeing of the singers and other musicians under his baton. He had a gift for friendship, for creating a team, and was never happier than when galvanising his forces in performance.

Born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, he was the first of the four children of Jeffrey Greenwood, a children’s social worker, and Patricia (nee Jackson). At Manchester grammar school Andrew fell in love with music, and, aged 17, he performed as soloist in Schumann’s Piano Concerto at the Free Trade Hall. After graduating from Clare College, Cambridge, where he studied music, he joined the London Opera Centre and, in 1977, the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, as a repetiteur, soon afterwards also beginning choir training work with the Philharmonia Chorus.

He blossomed as a Yorkshireman in Wales, as chorus master at Welsh National Opera from 1984 to 1990, a golden period for the company, with Andrew at the heart of musical preparation and performance of many memorable productions. Later he was a staff conductor at Cologne Opera, and also performed regularly for Royal Danish Opera among others, gaining a reputation as an accompanist of star singers.

He was a company man at heart, though, and it was two consecutive posts in Britain that gave him most pleasure. As music director of English Touring Opera and, later, artistic director of the Buxton festival, he loved the processes of planning and casting, of encouraging and developing the talents of young singers. He later took this empathy and experience into teaching at the Wales International Academy of Voice and the Royal Northern College of Music. Recently he was happy to come home to WNO and its chorus – in a span of 35 years he conducted 125 performances with them – and was under contract there when the Covid pandemic stopped their spring tour last year.

Andrew’s first marriage, to the harpist Jane Lister, ended in divorce. He and I met at WNO in the 1980s, and married in 1993, later moving to Monmouthshire with our two young children. Life there was full of family, the countryside, good food, wine and company – all very local, but interspersed with trips to Venice. At home, he gave his talents freely, creating (as one audience member said) “great music in muddy churches”. After his diagnosis in 2014, Andrew determined to carry on in music as long as he could, brave and passionate to the end.

He is survived by me and our children, Miranda and Adam, and by his parents, and siblings, Richard, Alison and Jonathan.

Sara Greenwood

The GuardianTramp

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