26 April, 2017

Alan and Margaret Hacker

Alan and Margaret Hacker.

Alan Hacker

Alan and Margaret  Hacker have lived in Broughton for the past 17 years.  Alan came from the South though Alan’s mother was born in Saltburn and his grandmother in Keighley. Alan’s a Londoner from Battersea though.  He had the advantage of a scholarship to Dulwich College which undoubtedly encouraged his music. In his third year at the Royal Academy of Music he joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra and was made a clarinet professor at the Academy (19 years old).

It was a spinal blood clot above the level of his chest that put him in a wheel chair and out of the London Philharmonic in 1966. He had had a great musical time there. Moreover the orchestra spent two months in India, the Far East and Australia: the first tour of a Western orchestra to those parts. Elgar’s Enigma Variations in an aircraft hanger with the steamy jungle outside, with us dressed in tails!

After the LPO he and Harrison Birtwistle put together a group, The Pierrot Players later followed by the Fires of London (Peter Maxwell Davies). These were the lead groups for contemporary music. After the Pierrot Players he has his own all music Group Matrix.

Pioneer in restoration

In classical music Alan was a pioneer of restoring and playing on classical instruments – with his Music Party and the Classical Orchestra which not only gave first modern performances in the York Early Music Festival (which was set up by Alan and others) but also Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in London.

By contrast with the LPO, Benjamin Britten supported his playing in the English Chamber Orchestra and at the Aldeborough Festival. His playing was sort after by film makers; he is a virtual soloist in the historic Thames Television World at War series for which he still receives royalties.

As important as anything else was his restoring of Mozart’s Concerto and Quintet to its original basset clarinet line along with reconstructing the forgotten Mozartian instrument in the 1960s.

After spending eight years at York University he embarked on a conducting career.

After reviving a 19c Swedish opera in Umeå in the North Alan took on another new first modern production this time with Opera North in Leeds; an opera by the 18 year old Mozart – Alan studying the score as Margaret drove to Moss Side Manchester for rehearsals.

There was a kind of repeat of this immediately after their honeymooon: Alan was asked to conduct in Cologne starting the following morning. During a drive to the Channel Tunnel he learnt Shostokovich’s 12th Symphony by torchlight. The next day after the concert we drove to Kracow: after that to Bochum and then Stuttgart! Stuttgart was the chief Opera House where he worked but there was also Vienna, Bonn, Paris, Halle, Berlin, Lille, Barcelona, Oldenzaal, Canada………….and this almost always meant loading up, or rather Margaret loading up the Volvo not only with clothes and some food but the wheel chair and all the medical equipment that has to accompany an incontinent paraplegic everywhere.

The last two operas he conducted in the U.K. were Handel’s Alcina at the Edinburgh Festival with the Stuttgart Opera Company and Birtwistle’s The Io Passion that he scored for Alan’s basset clarinet and string quartet.

Awarded O.B.E.

Alan was awarded the O.B.E. in 1988 for services to music.

For nearly five years concerts were held during the summer months when professional and amateurs came to play. Everyone gave their services free and donations from the audience were given to a different charity each time.

Students from all over the world came to stay for various periods of time to study. Many still write and keep in close contact.

A great interest for both Alan and Margaret is Artlink, an organisation of which Alan is patron. People with learning difficulties are able to participate in the arts and the York group have the first singing, signing choir – Cubemedia.

We’ve had many musical occasions in our house in Broughton principally for our neighbours. On Alan’s 70th birthday we had eight friends playing Mozart, the last movement of Haydn’s 104th Symphony, The London Symphony and the first movement of Brahms fourth movement with many friends and neighbours.

Submitted by Margaret Hacker 2011

See here for more photos which were supplied by Alan and Margaret Hacker.

For further information on  background on Alan Hacker (PDF, 175k) and article by David Blake of York University Music Dept (PDF, 375k)

April 2012.

Alan Hacker died on the 16th April 2012 after a long battle with illness during which he was cared for by Margaret.

I felt privileged to have known him, albeit for a short time, and to have been given the opportunity to include him on our website.  Many enjoyed listening to his music floating over the air on summer evenings and he will be missed by those in Broughton who knew him  as well as his many friends and associates in the musical world.

Gill Woodhead (Web Editor).

The FUNERAL SERVICE for Alan will be held at 2pm on Friday 4th May 2012 at the Octon Crematorium  at Octon Cross Road, Langtoft, Driffield, North Humberside.


  1. For many years my wife and I have enjoyed the beautiful sound of the clarinet drifting across the gardens to the rear of our house. Only now do we know and understand the origin! What a delight it is for us. Thank you so much.

  2. Jonathan Piercy says:

    The whole village will be saddened to hear the news that Alan Hacker has died. Alan brought a variety of music to Broughton through the concerts he held for friends and neighbours, in accompanying the village carol singing, or by practising in his conservatory in the summer months. The beautiful sound of the clarinet could be heard around Manor Park corner and Moor Lane and will be sadly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with Margaret and the family.

  3. Alan demonstrated throughout his musical life the value, to both humanity and Music of an individual. Without him, much of what happened in modern music would never have been created and his loss is a tragedy and a great sadness. We all need more independent thinkers and creators like Alan. I found him especially empathetic and kind in his relationships with others and have only just heard this sad news as i have been in hospital myself.

  4. Jane Lomax says:

    Thanks always to Alan who helped in every possible way, in the 1970’s, the Endellion Wind Quintet to succeed both musically and pastorally! Latterly he has brought all his wisdom and help, when asked, to Vacation Chamber Orchestras student courses – thank you Alan, you will be greatly missed. Jane & Xen

  5. I spent a good and intense 3 or 4 days with Alan and Margaret at their home in Broughton as recently as 2008. What grabbed me about him for his intensity and love for the instrument and his openness to music in general. A questioning mind, and certainly was one of the first if not the first to reintroduce the use of the Basset Clarinet in the performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto. He made me laugh when he suggested I should play it on the Basset-horn.

    Rest in peace Alan

  6. Mar Garriga says:

    From Spain, I was honoured to receive some lessons from him in the Clarinet Summer Course in Prades in the years 2000-2001. It was a great experience to know him. God bless him and his family. My condolences to his wife. Sincerly, Mar Garriga.

  7. Alan Hacker was one of those names I read on a record or CD jacket as an undergraduate and then, upon hearing the recording, was floored not only by his technique, but by a musical personality that was completely original, vital, and precise. His pleasure in music making was palpable, even through a recording.

    The clarinet world has lost a leading exponent of versatility, musical delight, and exploration. And, we are much poorer for his loss.

    Standing with his family this evening as we remember a remarkable musician.

  8. I am one of Alan’s many former students, and I feel a great debt to him in so many ways. He was incredibly inspiring. One of my cherished memories is of being in the music department at York on a Friday afternoon (a quiet time when most students were out and about, no lectures or rehearsals etc) and hearing Alan in his office practising the high notes from Harrison Birtwhistle’s “Melancolia i” – stratospherically high notes, which he had invented on the clarinet: no-one had played these before him – I had to stop what I was doing and just sit on the steps and listen in awe. After a gap of twenty five years or so I rang Alan just to say hello some time around 2007 and I was stunned that he not only remembered me but knew what I had been doing in my career! He was a formidable advocate of following your own ideas with as much commitment and dedication as you can muster, and the musical world is a much diminished place without him. I hope that whoever has unreleased recordings of him will now make the effort to make them available: I know of some and suspect there are many more.

  9. Nathan Lee says:

    To echo Eddie’s recollections, I was also lucky enough to be at York during Alan’s time.

    Many memories, and my first one was of Alan who happened to interview me for my admission. Having chosen York because of its commitment to the avant garde, I happily found myself drawn into the world of period performance which of course Alan was very much involved in.

    When I first arrived, to me he was the man who played Schoenberg and premiered Birtwistle, and a friend of Stephen Pruslin and Jane Manning. But Alan opened up many other soundworlds to me

    It was his catholic taste and sheer delight in any truly authentic music (or food) that really inspired me. To Alan, it was all “world music”. Without him I probably would never have discovered the shenai virtuoso Ustad Bismillah Khan

    Just a couple of snapshots: Alan’s “annoying” rehearsal techniques – e.g. stopping 5 bars before the end of a movement. Was he perhaps trying to instil some kind of zen discipline? A weird and wonderful performance of Mozart’s Serenade for 13 wind for a not entirely focussed audience in a residential psychiatric hospital. (Yes these still existed then). And being asked one day during a rehearsal to take Alan’s car to collect something from his house. It was only when I got into the Volvo that I discovered the complexities of trying to operate the various clutch and brake levers while trying to navigate out of the car park and into a foggy Heslington night.

    I first discovered Mozart through a set of Columbia 78s of the Clarinet Quintet, a beautifully nuanced performance by Reginald Kell, which I repeatedly played as a child, to the extent that one or two of the disks may have got broken over time. It was only years later and after I had fallen in love with Alan’s Amon Ra recording that I discovered that he had originally studied with Reginald Kell. It seemed fitting that here was a thread that went back through history and it was that which always made Alan’s performances so special. A love and respect for the past. An excitement about the here and now, the moment of performance.

    Alan truly was inspirational.

  10. Alan? He was an individual. Very bright, inspiring and especially inclusive of those who shared a similar passion and drive. What a mentor! I partly decided to study music at York because I knew I needed to know how he played in his unique way. The intensity of his playing and the powerful coherence of his musical interpretation was bewildering to my young ears as I heard it on the radio. I had only been exposed at that stage to the staid, beautiful-for-its-own-sake delivery of other famous British players, which itself contrasted with the bland, straight-jacketed colourless playing of some of the others beginning to make a name for themselves in the 1980s.. Alan had the mix right, I thought. I just had to find out how he did it! And I did. It was womderful. A rigorously focussed sound in the Viennese tradition. An astonishing range of expressionistic tone colours, dynamics and intense contrasts. Electrifying in live concerts! The ability to shape an outwardly simple phrase in an interesting, persuasive way. All added up to a world-class phenomenon. God bless you Alan. And thank you for what you did for me.

  11. Anyone interested in music knows about Alan’s amazing career as a clarinettist and conductor. Those of us who were lucky enough to be taught by him will especially miss an always inspiring, and generous teacher. I was impressed by the attention and detailed help, both technical and musical, which he was kind enough to give me as a keen amateur. In workshops and masterclasses at Da rtington he was equally welcoming and encouraging to amateurs like myself as to the young professionals who attended – and I know experienced professionals were also appreciative of his helpl We shall always remember him. Thinking of Margaret and the family .

  12. Wir haben unseren besten Freund verloren. We lost our best friend. Unsere Gedanken sind bei ihm und bei Margaret und der Familie.

  13. I just heard the tragic news of Alan’s death. I’m so very sorry to hear this. Margaret, Katie, Sophie, Alcuin and all family members must be devasted, and madly busy with funeral preparations. If it’s a public event, it will be a big one.

    I know many people who will also be devasted to hear and I know there are many more who I do not know or know of, but whose lives Alan touched, who will be equally devasted.

    I remember, many years ago when I was a record producer and alone in a hotel in Eisenstadt mid-sessions, hearing on the radio in the small hours that Morton Feldman had died. I immediately phoned Alan to tell him, as I’d heard it on the World Service late at night and thought he may not otherwise hear for a while. I was right – he hadn’t. I think he appreciated me thinking of him.

    He did so much for me: took me under his wing at York, taught me to play the saxophone to the best standard I could achieve, introduced me to much new and different music, and generally supported and befriended me. He took me seriously and he trusted me with many intimate things. One summer, I got some fellow student mates to decorate his house for him. Took us a week. I drove him to the Bath Festival to perform one year, and Michael Tippet ruffled his hair! We shared many meals (mostly curries) and many drives together. He just smelled of the old-school, British musical establishment – Sir Adrian (as he called him), Vaughan Williams, the Kingsway Hall – but was also right up-to-date and a leading commissioner of our current great composers. And of course he was to become a fine conductor himself – a difficult transition to make from clarinettist, however great.

    He could be very direct, a bit scary, and very ironic. Sometimes one felt uncomfortable, particularly when he was very serious. But he was always warm, usually humourous and always wise. I learned a lot from him, and his memory will always be with me. We made a CD together once of the Finzi Concerto. It was slightly uncomfortable because of the role reversal – student hiring teacher. But he made light of this and we got down to work and produced what I believe is a fine recording of this classic. I’m honoured to have been part of it, and to have made it happen. You can hear his wonderful, unique, delicate, passionate playing and his searing, sometimes shrill, always yearning, forward-moving, multi-coloured sound. His recording of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet with the Fitzwilliam Quartet is a red letter day in recording history. The finest performance ever, beautifully captured and using the basset clarinet. He once wryly commented to me that he’d made more money out of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet than Brahms ever did. Let’s hope Decca now release this on CD or something.

    He will be sadly missed by many, and never forgotten.

    Alan Wiltshire
    24 April 2012

  14. Alan has been a great inspiration to me throughout my career. I was introduced to his playing whilst studying overseas in the seventies and have always had a great admiration for his playing and his research. It is due to Alan that we have a clear idea of the reconstruction of the basset clarinet and the Mozart Quintet and Concerto. Alan also extended the repertoire for the instrument by asking modern composers to write for it. It is because of Alan that I have been researching the history of Anton Stadler which will culminate in a series of concerts throughout 2012 and a biography to mark the bicentenary of his death.

    Thank you so much Alan for your great work as a clarinetist and a musician. Whenever I hear your recording of the Finzi Concerto it brings home to me what a great musician you were. You will be very fondly remembered and very sadly missed. Rest in peace.

  15. Alan Hacker was a clarinettist who pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the instrument in the fields of contemporary and early music. His legacy lives on through the work of his numerous students and through his research, scholarship, publications and recordings as well as through the works which were written for him. I often feel that fame is surprisingly insular and great players in the UK are not known abroad but Alan Hacker had truly international recognition. His passing is a sad loss to all in the music world and especially all lovers of the clarinet.

    David Campbell
    Chair, Clarinet and Saxophone Society of Great Britain
    UK Chair, International Clarinet Association

  16. Catriona Smith says:

    we are so sorry to hear this news.Our sincere wishes go to Margaret and the family.
    Catriona and Paul

  17. Alan gave me clarinet lessons at the RNCM, Manchester. His passion and honesty for music, especially Weber was inspirational. We met years later at Dartington where both Alan and Margaret became family friends. I played the saxophone by then. When we last visited them Alan asked me to blow a Selmer sopranino saxophone. Afterwards, he said that no one else had made it sound like that and did I want it! He continued that I was a bit sharp on my top B though…This generosity of spirit is my abiding memory of him. I am playing that beautiful instrument in a concert in Aberystwyth tonight, May 3rd.

  18. Alan had a tremendous influence on me-and on many others ,of course.

    He was very generous with his time and energy.Unlike most ‘classlcal’ musicians, he really understood jazz.

    The world is a different place without him.

    Tony Coe

  19. Alan. Had a tremendous influence on measwith many others.
    He was exceedingly generous with his time and energy and refreshingly had a rare understanding
    Of jazz.
    without him ,the world is a different place

  20. Gerard McCann says:

    Just read the obit in today’s Guardian – very sad news.

    Reading my co-York student Alan Wiltshire’s comments above reminds me not only of the decorating session at the house, but also the occasional sax lesson, where I would accompany Mr Wiltshire on the piano, out of sight in the adjacent bedroom, when Alan H was teaching whilst bed-bound – a slightly surreal scene, but indelible in my memory.
    My own v limited ability on the alto was also encouraged by Mr Hacker, and it was that type of generosity of spirit in music that I feel the world will most now miss.

    Gerard McCann

  21. Kath Clarke nee may says:

    Condolences to Alan’s family,especially to Sophie whom I taught at primary school in Upper Norwood. Remember the Wizard of Oz?! So sad to hear news of Alan’s death..only met him a couple of times but he left a great impression.thinking of you all
    Kath Clarke

  22. Micahel whitmore says:

    Along with a handful of other young clarinetists, I was very fortunate to attend clarinet masterclasses given by Mr. Hacker in Banff, Canada in the summer of 1987. Previously I had known of Mr. Hacker as a virtuosic, pioneering performer of contemporary music. Since that time I have come closer to understanding how gifted a man he was: his remarkable understanding of the traditions of the instrument; his devoted, penetrating teaching; and his incredibly fertile imagination. His performance of the Mozart Clarinet Quintet at Banff was the most fascinating I have heard. I recall the slow movement as a revelation of beautifully conceived improvisation.

    Thank you Mr. Hacker.

    Michael Whitmore

  23. Antonio Graziani says:

    I wish you play for the beautiful array of angels,
    with your radiant, bright, festive, magnificent way of playing,
    accompained by the ones that,
    like you,
    made life a passionate,
    wealthy, amazing, touching, marvelous
    Thank you very much Alan,
    rest in peace

  24. It’s hard to believe that it is over one year since Alan left us. As with all the composers he loved and explored, whether Mozart, Haydn, Birtwistle or whoever, Alan cared about the integrity of music and he wanted to communicate that to all his listeners. As well as being an inspirational person.

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