Stephen John Pettitt (1945-2015).
Dr. Stephen John Pettitt was born on July 25th 1945 in Ipswich, Suffolk, where his father worked as a Civil Servant for The Customs and Excise Board and his mother was a local librarian. He had one sister. He wrote the world-famous first biography of Dennis Brain.
As a boy at St. Mark's Church Primary School in Bromley, Kent, Stephen was a treble chorister in the church choir and played the recorder. At the age of 11 he went to Dulwich College in London where he soon wanted to play either the oboe or the horn and as there was a shortage of horn players, he chose an old school-owned Hawkes French horn, with piston valves and an F crook. Lessons were with the school's peripatetic brass teacher, Stewart Hulse, who had once been in The Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra horn section. Stephen soon played in the school orchestra and in local amateur ones too.
Leaving school aged 18, he studied music at Newcastle University, where he was awarded a DMus and a MLitt degree, based on his thesis on the life and career of the great Dennis Brain.
Stephen was appointed Head of Music at The Kings Boys' Public School, Tyneside and was the Founder/Conductor of New Tyneside Orchestra from 1970 until his death. As a horn player, he played as a member and soloist with many amateur orchestras in the Newcastle area, using an Alexander model 103 double horn.
His world renowned book, Dennis Brain, A biography, was published by Robert Hale, London, in hardback in 1976 to great critical acclaim and has been reprinted in paperback. It is a highly successful and authoritative account of Dennis's amazing career, with many excellent photographs of the great horn player.
Stephen wrote the script for the Amati Video release in 1989, of Brain's classic 1952 film, of Beethoven's Horn Sonata, with the pianist Denis Matthews, which was narrated by the great horn virtuoso Barry Tuckwell.
As well as writing the official history of The Philharmonia Orchestra in 1985, with its many references to the various horn sections, Stephen also wrote the biography of Brain's one-time second horn player in The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the ever reliable Scotsman Ian Beers, for a Philharmonia concert programme in 1987, as well as sleeve notes for EMI CD reissues of Brain's Strauss and Hindemith Concertos and the Great Recordings of the Century reissues of his classic Mozart--The Four Horn Concertos and Horn Quintet, K407.
Away from his music, Stephen's hobbies included mountaineering and photography. A very generous man to me personally, he gave me many recordings on cassettes of Dennis Brain's stunning gifts, before some were issued on CD, and he adamantly wouldn't take any payment whatsoever.
Stephen died on March 3rd, 2015, aged 69 and leaves a wife, Margaret, and extended family, to whom we at the BHS offer our deepest sympathy.