The fortunes of the little known BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra were transformed under the leadership of the conductor George Hurst. During his ten years at the helm, he turned the orchestra into a major musical force in Manchester, making it a serious rival to the Halle.
By the time he left in 1968, it was known as the BBC Philharmonic. Later that year, Hurst founded the Bournemouth Sinfonietta, an offshoot of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, he was sent from his native Edinburgh to Toronto, where he studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music, quickly achieving distinction as a composer. Moving to America, he worked with the conductor Pierre Monteux, and by the age of 21 was professor of composition at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.
It was the pianist Myra Hess who persuaded Hurst to return to Britain, where he made his debut as a conductor at the Festival Hall in 1953. His Proms debut followed in 1960 with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
During a long career, Hurst worked with every British and Irish orchestra, as well as with European ensembles.
For more than 50 years, he ran a conductors’ course at Canford Summer School in Dorset, now Sherborne Summer School. He was also a visiting professor at the Royal Academy of Music. Among his pupils were Simon Rattle, Andrew Davis and John Eliot Gardiner.
As a youngster, Rattle was transfixed by a performance of Mahler’s Second Symphony, conducted by Hurst, describing it as his road to Damascus moment. He once said: “It was because of that evening that I became a conductor.”
George Hurst, who was born on May 20, 1926, died on September 15, aged 86.