I first met Christopher whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge University, when he introduced me to his extensive keyboard collection at his home in Brookside on which he kindly allowed me to practise. Since then, I had the fortune of playing for him on a number of occasions, ranging from concerts and opera performances to lecture recitals. Sadly, I never heard him perform live at the keyboard.
In addition to his fame as a performer, Chris was a consummate orator. His Cambridge Classics degree no doubt nurtured his amazing ability for using rhetoric to compel audiences with an ideal combination of wide-ranging knowledge, anecdotes and wit; he could have sold fridges to the Eskimos! How I would have loved to see him spar with David Munrow at the outset of his career.
Similarly, Chris’s company was remarkably stimulating. His house in Cambridge, eventually replete with two AGAs, provided a perfect environment for him to hold court with conversations ranging effortlessly from, say, the merits of Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry to a history of the picnic. I particularly liked his ability to state shocking truths, clearly remembering his relish in praising wine that came from Mussolini’s vineyards.
An anecdote relates that such was Gustav Leonhardt’s work ethic, one of his daughters never saw his knees! This applies perfectly to Chris, his erstwhile pupil. Forever industrious, Chris was always planning a new edition or penning yet another article. His insatiable curiosity, combined with his wealth of knowledge and charismatic charm, will continue to be an example and inspiration for musicians and scholars of many specialities. It seems fitting that he often signed off correspondence: ‘Sempre, Chris’.
© Julian Perkins