Geoffrey Burgon, the British composer and jazz musician, who became famous to television audiences for his soundtracks on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Brideshead Revisited, has died at the age of 69.
Burgon, who was born in Hampshire, England, in 1941, and played the trumpet from the age of 15, studied at the Guildhall School of Music. His early professional work was largely for ballet for Ballet Rambert and the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. It was the critical success he received at the 1976 Three Choirs Festival for his Requiem that cemented his reputation as a composer, leading to countless commissions in the decades that followed.
Burgon’s career as a TV-music composer, which began in 1969 with The Letter, saw him provide scores for a number of well-known dramas over more than four decades, including As You Like It (1978), Bleak House (1985), Silent Witness (1996) and The Forsyte Saga (2002).
In the mid-1970’s, he worked on the BBC’s long-running science-fiction drama series, Doctor Who, composing music to two of the show’s most fondly remembered stories – Terror of the Zygons (1975) and The Seeds of Doom (1976), which starred Tom Baker, as the fourth Doctor and Elisabeth Sladen (The Sarah Jane Adventures).
From 1988 to 1990, Burgon worked on the BBC’s Chronicles of Narnia series – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Prince Caspian and The Silver Chair.
However, it’s for his compositions for the BBC’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979) and, most notably, the critically acclaimed ITV series, Brideshead Revisited (1981), that he is best remembered for. He won two Ivor Novello awards, one for each series, and sold 100,000 copies of his Brideshead Revisited album.
Burgon, who is also renowned for his large body of chamber, choral and orchestral music, has composed music for the stage and screen, including Nicholas Nickleby (2001) and Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). Although he was made many lucrative offers from Hollywood, Burgon concentrated on his concert music. Speaking to BBC News, James Rushton, for his publisher, Chester Music, said:
Geoff was much more than simply a media composer. Most of his musical conversation was about the classical concert world and he retained a keen ear for the classical music of his peers.
His large catalogue of concert works, from the imposing and dramatic Requiem from the mid-1970s to the recent viola concerto and cello concerto, reveals a composer in full control of a very immediate, lyrical and varied language, and one whose work deserves wide attention.
He is survived by his wife, the Canadian pianist and singer, Jacqueline Kroft, their son, Daniel, and a son and daughter from his previous marriage to Janice Elizabeth Garwood.