Στα 69 του έφυγε από τη ζωή ο διεθνώς αναγνωρισμένος Βρετανός μουσικοσυνθέτης Τζέφρι Μπέργκον. Ο Μπέργκον είχε στο ενεργητικό του πολλές κινηματογραφικές και τηλεοπτικές συνεργασίες, ενώ το 1981 κέρδισε δύο βραβεία Αϊβορ Νοβέλο για την τηλεοπτική μίνι σειρά «Επιστροφή στο Brideshead», με πρωταγωνιστή τον Τζέρεμι Αϊρονς. Ανάμεσα στις δουλειές του ήταν και τα σάουντρακ που συνέθεσε για τις ταινίες «Το χρονικό της Νάρνια» και «Ενας προφήτης... μα τι προφήτης!». Γεννημένος το 1941 στο Χαμσάιρ της Αγγλίας, ο Μπέργκον ξεκίνησε την καριέρα του στη Μουσική Σχολή του Γκίλντχολ, ενώ οι πρώτες του συνθέσεις ήταν κυρίως για μπαλέτο.
- Composer of television and film scores for Brideshead Revisited and Monty Python, as well as many concert and stage works
- guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 September 2010
Burgon produced a vast volume of classical work as well as the popular themes for which he is best known. Photograph: Martyn Goddard / Rex Features
The composer Geoffrey Burgon, who has died aged 69 after a short illness, wrote some of the most memorable music for television drama of recent decades. He was also versatile and prolific, producing a wealth of refined, compelling music in many other genres.
Though an old friend, Geoff, born in Hampshire, wasn't my friend to begin with. He was my elder brother Nigel's best mate at Pewley school, Guildford, in Surrey. It was there that my brother persuaded Geoff to buy a trumpet so that he could play alongside Nigel's clarinet in the school jazz band. But his ambitions to be a jazz trumpeter were thwarted by his yearning to write music. He taught himself notation while he was still at school, played the trumpet in a local youth orchestra, and was soon writing music for them.
He applied for a place at the Guildhall School of Music in London as a trumpeter, but they were more interested in his composing skills. Under the guidance of Peter Wishart, he found that writing music began to become more important than playing it. He later said, "I'd realised I wasn't going to be the next Miles Davis," so he asked Wishart if he thought he could make it as a composer. "You don't seem to be able to stop," was the reply. From that moment he bowed to the inevitable.
After leaving the Guildhall, he scraped together a living as a professional trumpeter, largely with chamber orchestras such as the London Mozart Players and the Northern Sinfonia, but at the age of 30 he sold all his instruments bar one, and devoted himself to composition.
At first it was hard going, and he lived through 10 years of poverty, but he kept at it and eventually started getting the odd bit of television work. As he said, "One thing just led to another."
He composed music for Doctor Who in 1975 and 1976, and in 1979 scored a direct hit with his music for the BBC's television dramatisation of John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guinness as George Smiley. The closing Nunc Dimittis theme entered the UK charts, and he won his first Ivor Novello award.
That same year I was directing Monty Python's Life of Brian, and my brother suggested I should ask Geoff to write the music for the film. So – not knowing any other composers – I did.
I remember going to his house, and Geoff apologising for being a poor pianist, but he picked out the theme tunes and I liked what I heard, although I had no idea how wonderful the final score would turn out to be. The music he wrote now seems to be inseparable from the film. He gave it a simple but biblical-epic sound – so important in making the audience believe in the world, so the comedy could play against it.
In the next decade his TV work included Brideshead Revisited (1981) for Granada and The Chronicles of Narnia (1988) for the BBC. Brideshead went gold, selling more than 100,000 copies, and brought him another Ivor Novello award. With characteristic modesty, Geoff later claimed one of the highlights of his career was when he was standing in the checkout line in Tesco, "and a little girl about 10 years old started singing the theme from Narnia and I thought, 'Wow, that is really nice.' " He went on to win Bafta awards for best television music for Longitude (2000) and The Forsyte Saga (2002).
Though he never looked down on creating music for film and TV, he always, I suspect, regarded it as subsidising his classical work. He produced a vast body of classical music, including works for full orchestra and for soloists, dance scores for the Royal Ballet, London Contemporary Dance Theatre and Ballet Rambert, and an opera based on Charles Dickens's Hard Times.
His first great success was his Requiem, premiered when the Three Choirs Festival was at Hereford in 1976, and described by the Times as "this year's most important new work". This was followed a year later by a piece based on a medieval Chester miracle play called The Fall of Lucifer.
In 1994 he wrote a concerto for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and three years later a piano concerto for Joanna MacGregor. But he was always passionate about the human voice, and integrated it into much of his output. The song cycle Merciless Beauty of 1997 was followed, three years later, by Heavenly Things. In 2003 came Three Mysteries, for soloists, choir and chamber orchestra. It is not surprising that so much of his choral work has become standard for cathedral choirs.
After working together on Life of Brian, Geoff and I became close friends. When my brother died, he gave a funeral oration in which he told the story of how my brother had got him into music, something I would otherwise never have known. He was a modest, calm, reassuring man – a good listener and a good talker – someone you longed to be with. Someone to love.
In 1963 he married Janice Elizabeth Garwood, with whom he had one son, Matthew, and a daughter, Hannah. The marriage was later dissolved. In 1992 he married the pianist and singer Jacqueline Kroft, with whom he had a son, Daniel. He is survived by Jacqueline and his three children.
Martin Buckley writes: Geoffrey appeared on my doorstep about 10 years ago, shortly after I moved to Stroud, in Gloucestershire. He was hoping to sell me an old Mercedes. I didn't buy the car, but I did become good friends with Geoffrey, who would regularly consult me about what he was thinking of buying. He was the only person I can think of who was more promiscuous in terms of the number of old cars he bought and sold than I am; in the space of a year (fully encouraged by me) he went through every variant of Lancia Flavia, trying to find the perfect specification. Over the last few years his cottage became a rest home for distressed Lancias and the occasional classic Mercedes. However, he remained faithful to the Bristol marque, and in particular to his 405 convertible, which he owned for at least 20 years. It was the one car I don't think Geoffrey would ever have sold, but he was far from precious about it and lent it to me more than once for photo shoots in Classic and Sports Car magazine.
He bought his first Bristol in the early 1970s, quite a while before he became famous for his music. He learned to drive when he was 30 and had earlier shown little interest in motoring. By the time I met him he'd already owned 14 other Bristols plus a Ferrari and a Porsche.
His latest enthusiasm was for a 1960s Maserati which, as usual, he managed to buy just before the prices went crazy. Money was not one of Geoffrey's driving motivations, but he always did OK out of his cars without intending to. He had one of those faces you could trust. He was a handsome, tall man who was effortlessly stylish in a very English way. In my mind's eye he was always wearing a corduroy jacket. When he wasn't writing music he'd taken to writing detective novels featuring a Lancia-driving musician lead character, of course.
Geoffrey was a fast but safe driver, possibly not such a good passenger. He had a gentle way about him, and he and Jacqueline always made me feel welcome with a cup of tea and a slice of cake, or a beer at his favourite pub, the Bear at Bisley. I will miss him a lot.
• Geoffrey Burgon, composer, born 15 July 1941; died 21 September 2010