Philip Ledger


As an undergraduate, Philip Ledger took a double first in music at Kings College, Cambridge, and 16 years later was appointed its director of music, overseeing the most important date in its calendar, the Christmas service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

Immediately previously, he had held a similar post at the new University of East Anglia and strengthened his links with the region by working closely with Benjamin Britten and the tenor Peter Pears as joint artistic director of the Aldeburgh festival on the Suffolk coast.

He played in first performances of Britten’s works, and when the composer died in 1976 Ledger played the Prelude and Fugue on a Theme of Victoria, Britten’s only work for solo organ, at the funeral. At Kings, he succeeded David Willcocks, whom he once credited with exercising the strongest influence on his musical development.

Between 1964 and 1972, he made six appearances at the BBC Proms, featuring music by Bach, Purcell and Vivaldi. From 1982 until his retirement in 2001, he was principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. He was knighted in 1999.

Besides many recordings and compositions, Ledger edited the Oxford Book of English Madrigals and wrote books on composers, including Byrd and Handel. This year, he composed a cantata, a setting of the Christmas story with five original carols. It will receive its premiere on December 16.

Philip Ledger, who was born on December 12, 1937, died on November 18 at the age of 74.