It was so sad that John Whitfield, bassoonist, conductor and musician extraordinary, died on 4 November. He had not enjoyed good health for some time but even so he has left us far too early. From his phenomenal arrival on the scene, through his years as a fine player (LSO, London Mozart Players etc.) and then to his founding work with the Endymion Ensemble, his was an extraordinary life. As Quentin Poole said in his beautiful eulogy at his funeral on 21 November in Mortlake, John was always pushing at bounderies and often beyond them. In musical terms this involved an idealism that brought him admiration from musicans and everyone. It was strange that his funeral should finally be modest in numbers of people, but the profession was superbly represented and what was said and played so very understanding of John himself. He would have been touched.
But even more so, the concert held for him at the Wigmore Hall on 5 December was quite amazing. Featuring John’s arrangements of Brahms’ C Minor String Quartet and Bartok’s Mikrokosmos Book V as well as a memorable performance of the Bach Chaconne by Krysia Osostowicz, a large audience of colleagues friends and admirers gathered to say farewell. The Bartok arrangement was for wind quintet (Helen Keen, Melinda Maxwell, Andrew Marriner, Jonathan Williams, Rachel Gough conducted by Noah Max) and the Brahms for wind nonet with double bass (Helen Keen, Melinda Maxwell, George Caird, Andrew Marriner, David Fuest, Richard Watkins, Jonathan Williams, Rachel Gough, Wendy Phillips and Chi-Chi Nwanoku conducted by Sian Edwards). John’s arrangements are brilliant and wonderful to play especially with such colleagues……
Will Casson-Smith, Quentin Poole, and Noah Max did a great job in organising everything down to the last detail. It was a memorable way both at the funeral and at the concert to celebrate John’s life . And it was so good, too, to see so many old friends.