Geoffrey Buckley (1930-2003)

Geoffrey Buckley, pianist, was born on April 3, 1930. He died on May 11, 2003, aged 73.

Geoffrey Buckley established himself in the 1950s and 1960s as a pianist of authority and character. A popular soloist and regular broadcaster, he developed an academic career as pianist-in-residence at University College, Aberystwyth, (1965-77) and as head of keyboard studies at the Welsh College of Music and Drama (1978-90). This brought him into contact with many younger musicians, by whom he was admired as much for his encouragement and wise counsel as for his barnstorming virtuosity.

Geoffrey Whittaker Buckley was born in Lancashire. At 16 he entered the Royal Manchester College of Music, where he studied with the celebrated Russian pianist Iso Elinson and won many prizes, including the coveted Dayas Gold Medal. His 1950 performance of the John Ireland Piano Concerto in Manchester elicited such an excited audience response that Buckley and the orchestra repeated the entire 20-minute work there and then.

Buckley was one of an especially rich cluster of pianists to emerge from the Royal Manchester College during the 1950s, and it was in the musically thriving North of England that he first established himself as a concert artist of distinction. He broadcast with the BBC Northern Orchestra and performed Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto with the Halle Orchestra. He was one of the first three pianists to win a place on the Incorporated Society of Musicians' Young Artists' Recital Scheme in the year of its inception, 1959. He appeared at the Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, throughout the UK and further afield in Moscow and Kuala Lumpur. He broadcast countless recitals for the BBC and Irish radio, and was particularly admired by the composer Kenneth Leighton. Yet it was perhaps with Beethoven above all other composers that Buckley was associated, and in all he gave ten series of the complete sequence of 32 piano sonatas.

He was a pianist of enormous power and of great integrity to whom several composers dedicated new works.

Duncan Honeybourne

The Times, London, May 29, 2003