Hector Quine, 1926-2015

-Posted on 08.01.2015

Hector Quine Hon.RAM

(born 30th December 1926; died 1st January 2015)

With the New Year came the sad announcement of the death of a unique figure in the history of the Royal Academy of Music. Invited by the then Principal, Sir Thomas Armstrong, to become the Academy’s first Professor of Guitar, Hector Quine held this position with distinction from 1959 until his retirement in 1987. By that time the Guitar Department, which he had founded, had become recognised both nationally and internationally as among the finest in the world.

This success was the result of a clear and unswerving vision that he had for training young guitarists from the early stages of learning the instrument to the advanced level required for entry into the musical profession. The goal he emphasised was ‘to become a musician who plays the guitar, not just a guitarist who plays music'. Consequently, he insisted on a proficiency in sight-reading as a pre-requisite for his students’ participation in chamber music with other Academy instrumentalists, and regularly asked the leading string professors to coach or examine his students. In addition, he arranged workshops and seminars with composers from the Academy and elsewhere, and instituted fingerboard harmony as part of the curriculum.

His long association with two outstanding musicians, Julian Bream and Stephen Dodgson, was particularly significant, the former being invited to adjudicate an annual prize for Academy guitar students, which continued for almost fifty years and carried considerable prestige outside the Academy; while with the latter he collaborated on a series of ground-breaking studies and didactic works, published by OUP and Ricordi. As the Guitar Editor for OUP, he was tireless in commissioning new works from their stable of composers and saw the setting of new syllabi for the ABRSM and other examination boards as an important adjunct of his educational objectives. His book ‘Guitar Technique – Intermediate to Advanced’ was published by OUP in 1990 and summarises his approach to teaching and playing the instrument he loved; it is methodically laid out, rationally argued and forthright in its expression – yet also leavened, as was so typical of Hector, with a caring wisdom and a dry sense of humour.

His practicality and attention to detail may have been inherited from his father, who was a naval engineer. After the war good guitars were hard to find and so he resolved, with Julian Bream’s encouragement, to make some himself. It is not widely known but one of Hector’s instruments was played by Bream in both his Wigmore Hall debut and some early recordings on the Westminster label.

In the wake of all the prizes awarded to his students, especially David Russell (now a visiting professor here), he was often invited to serve on juries at guitar competitions abroad; and when, in 1981, the first major international guitar competition was held in England, chaired by no less a figure than Andrés Segovia, it further cemented his reputation that one of his students from the Academy won it.

He limited his own playing to occasional orchestral duties at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and elsewhere, since initially he was so much in demand as a teacher that he was on the staff, too, at Trinity College of Music and Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where his protégés followed in his footsteps. But it was the Academy that was always closest to his heart.

It has, therefore, been all the more a privilege for me to carry on the pioneering work he started. Over the years since his retirement he would quite frequently come to concerts and events here. In 2010 it was a special pleasure to welcome him back for the Guitar Department’s 50th Anniversary Reunion, which was attended by alumni from 17 countries and afforded him evident satisfaction. More recently, he travelled from his home in Suffolk to listen to the Barbirolli interview with John Williams, whom he had known since boyhood.

In many ways Hector Quine was the unsung hero of the classical guitar in this country. He never sought fame for himself, but his contribution to the serious study of the instrument will certainly outlive him and continue to inspire those who, like me, knew him as a teacher and a friend. He is survived by his wife Penny and their two children, Adrian and Francesca, to whom we extend our deepest condolence.

Michael Lewin (Head of Guitar)

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