Thurston Dart

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Robert Thurston Dart
Dart (1961)
Born(1921-09-03)3 September 1921
Died6 March 1971(1971-03-06) (aged 49)
Occupation Musicologist, Professor

Robert Thurston ("Bob") Dart (3 September 1921 – 6 March 1971), was an English musicologist, conductor and keyboard player. From 1964 until his death he was Professor of Music at King's College London.


Early life

Dart was born on 3 September 1921 in Surbiton, then part of Surrey. His father, Henry Thurston Dart, married his mother, Elisabeth Martha (née Orf) in 1915. Dart attended Hampton Grammar School and he sang in the choir at Hampton Court.

Dart studied keyboard instruments at the Royal College of Music in London from 1938 to 1939, and then studied mathematics at University College, Exeter, being awarded his degree in 1942. He served as a Junior Scientific Officer and then as a statistician and researcher for the RAF Strategic Bombing Planning Unit under Air Vice Marshall Basil Embry from 1942 to 1945. Dart was injured in a plane crash in Calais in November 1944, and while convalescing from his injuries at a nursing home in Swanley, he first met Neville Marriner. After leaving the services, he studied for a year with Belgian musicologist Charles Van den Borren, returning to England in 1946 as research assistant to Henry Moule, a music lecturer at Cambridge University.

Musical career

In 1947 he was appointed assistant lecturer in music in the University of Cambridge, subsequently lecturer (1952) and professor (1962). During this time, Dart was the most effective British supporter of the modern early music revival, in part through his influence on those who ultimately formed such groups as the Early Music Consort of London. In 1964 he was appointed King Edward Professor of Music in the University of London (King's College).

As a continuo player, Dart made numerous appearances on the harpsichord and made many harpsichord, clavichord and organ recordings, especially for the L'Oiseau-Lyre label; he was also a conductor. He served as editor of the Galpin Society Journal from 1947 to 1954 and secretary of Musica Britannica from 1950 to 1965. His book, The Interpretation of Music (London, 1954), was highly influential and is still widely read; he also wrote numerous seminal articles on aspects of musical sources, performance and interpretation.

Thurston Dart (far right) in 1961. From left: Robert Casadesus, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Bernard Haitink, ms. Schil, Jack Boyce and Thurston Dart Uitreiking Edisons in Grand Gala Du Disque . De winnaars van de Edisons Casadus, Bestanddeelnr 912-9844.jpg
Thurston Dart (far right) in 1961. From left: Robert Casadesus, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Bernard Haitink, ms. Schil, Jack Boyce and Thurston Dart

During the 1950s he participated in annual concerts featuring four harpsichordists, the three others being George Malcolm, Denis Vaughan and Eileen Joyce. In 1957 this group also recorded Bach's Concerto for Four Harpsichords, an arrangement after Vivaldi, with the Pro Arte Orchestra under Boris Ord. They also recorded Malcolm's Variations on a Theme of Mozart. [1]

Dart's distinguished students included the composer Michael Nyman, harpsichordist Davitt Moroney, conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner and conductor/musicologist Christopher Hogwood. He made one of the first historically informed recordings of the Brandenburg Concertos with the Philomusica of London. He later worked with Neville Marriner on a recording of both the Brandenburg Concerti and the four Orchestral suites though Dart died from stomach cancer on 6 March 1971 before this was complete.


  1. "Eileen Joyce (1908–1991) – Timeline" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 January 2016.

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