Michael Axtell former conductor of the HCO, dies after a fall at the age of 85.

Michael Axtell (1939-2024)

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of one of our much-loved conductors, Michael Axtell, who died after a fall at the age of 85.

Michael first conducted the HCO in 1995, marking the start of a fruitful relationship. He returned to conduct again in 1998, bringing his unique flair and passion to each performance. A highlight of his early contributions was in 1999 when he showcased his prowess as a soloist in Vivaldi’s Flute Concerto at our Spring Concert. That same summer, he embraced the role of principal conductor, a position he held with distinction until his final concert in the summer of 2005. Under his leadership, the orchestra flourished, bringing classical music to life with vibrancy and precision.

Our Chairman, Graeme Wright, shares a fond memory: “He once drove off from an HCO rehearsal at Upminster Junior School having accidentally left his flute on top of his car. I don’t believe he ever found it”. Karen Williams, a long standing Orchestra Member, says he was “Charismatic, humorous, a great socialiser … His annual chamber music courses were legendary – besides good music, there was good drinking, socialising, stories and … we ended up playing cricket on the beach or croquet on the lawn. For all his humour, he knew how to get the best out of an orchestra and when to stop the jokes and start with the hard work”. Michael led a remarkably full life and will be greatly missed.

His tribute page can be found here: michaelaxtell.muchloved.com.

Read his bio here https://www.hcoweb.co.uk/people/conductors/michael-axtell