Christopher Hogwood, a British conductor, harpsichordist and music scholar who became a luminary in the early music movement, using period instruments and bringing an estimable vigor to classical warhorses, died Sept. 24 at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 73.
The Academy of Ancient Music, the Cambridge-based orchestra he founded in 1973, announced his death but did not cite a cause.
In a career spanning five decades, Mr. Hogwood gave countless performances and made hundreds of recordings using 17th- and 18th-century instruments. They used gut strings, shorter bows and lower tuning, causing the music to sound in a different key. But they had “a certain clarity and speed” that Mr. Hogwood felt was lacking in their modern descendants.
His musical portfolio included a much-admired version of Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” from the early 1980s that featured soprano Emma Kirkby. In addition, he recorded Mozart’s and Haydn’s symphonies as well as Beethoven’s symphonies and piano concertos — all of which displayed a rousing, dancelike quality that brought Mr. Hogwood classical superstardom in the 1980s.
His 1985 LP recording of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” led to an improbable spot on the British pop charts after he received an award from England’s equivalent of the Grammys.
“It was the fact that I had appeared on television clutching this effigy and saying to this enormous audience that Vivaldi would be very glad and so on,” he told The Washington Post at the time. “The awards were 90 percent pop, so I shared the stage with Wham and Police and Prince and all those curious people with their bodyguards.”
“In that context, suddenly a lot of people heard of this music who never had before,” Mr. Hogwood added. “They felt that because they went out and bought Prince’s record they ought to go out and buy this curious man called Vivaldi. And, you see, within hours almost, this record, which had been selling a comfortable, sort of, 200 a week suddenly was selling 500 a day.”
The royalty checks helped Mr. Hogwood build up an already formidable musical library of historical instruments, including clavichords, spinets, virginals and fortepianos.
Mr. Hogwood, who served as director of the Academy of Ancient Music until 2006, was a frequent presence on American stages and concert halls. He served as artistic director of Boston’s venerable Handel and Haydn Society from 1986 to 2001, thereafter holding the title of conductor laureate.
From 1988 to 1992, he was musical director of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota. For the following eight years, he was artistic director of the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Summer Mozart Festival.” He also held the positions of principal guest conductor of the Kammerorchester Basel in Switzerland and the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada in Spain.
Mr. Hogwood was hardly the first conductor to advocate for historically informed performance, known as HIP. As a young harpsichord student, he studied under Gustav Leonhardt, a revered figure in the early music movement. But it was Mr. Hogwood — along with British conductors Roger Norrington, John Eliot Gardiner and Trevor Pinnock — who helped popularize HIP starting in the 1960s and 1970s.
In particular, Mr. Hogwood gained a following during a long stint as commentator on a BBC radio show, “The Young Idea.” He learned how to express musical ideas in terms that most of the lay audience could understand, likening the HIP movement to the Campaign for Real Ale in its bid for authenticity.
On stage, as well, Mr. Hogwood had a charisma that was irresistible to ticket buyers used to formal and formidable conductors in white-tie-and-tails. With ad hoc wit, he long sought to abolish artificial barriers between the conductor and the patrons.
During one outdoor NSO concert, a rain cloud burst while the orchestra played Handel’s Water Music. Mr. Hogwood, soaked through, turned to the audience after concluding the piece. “See?” he said, “It works.”
Christopher Jarvis Haley Hogwood was born Sept. 10, 1941, in Nottingham. He was one of five children of a scientist father and legal secretary mother, both of whom were music lovers.
He said he began piano lessons at age 8 with a teacher who was “a very stern old lady, not very encouraging,” but he developed an interest in the harpsichord after hearing a recording by Wanda Landowska.
On scholarship, he entered Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge in 1960 with the intent of studying Greek and Latin. He switched his focus to music after meeting the conductor and musicologist Raymond Leppard and Thurston Dart, a harpsichordist and conductor who was a forceful advocate for authentic scores and instruments.
During his college years, Mr. Hogwood toured England in a repurposed laundry van and demonstrated medieval instruments.
After graduating in 1964, he won a British Council scholarship to study harpsichord in Prague with Zuzana Ruzickova, then as a harpsichordist, he joined the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, a pacesetter for baroque and classical performance led by the eminent conductor Neville Marriner.
In 1967, he co-founded the Early Music Consort with a like-minded Cambridge chum, David Munrow. The group achieved a degree of prominence after recording the themes to BBC series such as “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” but went fallow after Munrow’s suicide in 1976.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hogwood formed the Academy of Ancient Music, named after an early 18th-century London society for specialized musical study. The orchestra, championed initially by a producer at Decca records, undertook 18th-century harpsichord sonatas of the obscure Englishman Thomas Arne, which suited Mr. Hogwood’s taste for the esoteric.
The group reached an early pinnacle with its cycle of Mozart symphonies, recorded between 1979 and 1982. By the time Mr. Hogwood completed the work, he was being hailed by New York Times music critic John Rockwell as “perhaps the most persuasive present-day translator of musicological scholarship into actual performance.”
Beyond the Baroque repertoire, Mr. Hogwood branched into modern composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Benjamin Britten, Aaron Copland, Michael Tippett and Bohuslav Martinu. He also wrote books about classical composers and was a fellow of Jesus and Pembroke colleges at Cambridge.
Survivors include three sisters and a brother, according to the Academy of Ancient Music.
Although he was one of its greatest apostles, Mr. Hogwood was not a zealot about historically informed playing.
“There’s nothing wrong with playing things historically completely incorrectly,” he told Classical Music magazine last year. “Music is not a moral business, so you can play absolutely in a style that suits you and pleases your public. It may be completely unrecognizable to the composer, but so what, he’s dead.”