Bafta-winning filmmaker Christopher Nupen dies aged 88

Pioneering music documentary-maker Christopher Nupen has died aged 88, it has been confirmed.

Nupen, who hailed from South Africa, created more than 75 documentaries on classical music, musicians and composers, sharing the power of music in an authentic and intimate way with a golden generation of artists.

The Bafta-winning filmmaker’s wife Caroline announced his death on Sunday and said he had battled a long illness.

‘It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to tell you that my beloved Christopher passed away in the early hours of this morning,’ Caroline told PA.

Nupen was born in Johannesburg and first pursued a broadcasting career at BBC Radio in the UK.

He then moved over to TV where he became the first to film musicians at close quarters on stage and backstage in their natural environment.

His first film for the BBC, Double Concerto, followed Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim and the English Chamber Orchestra.

The project earned international praise and became the flagship for a series of portrait films by Nupen,

The intimate and exuberant film was made possible by Nupen’s closeness to the musicians, their energetic commitment to the project and the invention in 1960s of the first silent 16mm film cameras, had a profound and enduring influence and won international praise.

It became the flagship for a series of closely observed portrait films by Nupen, which have come to be regarded as classics.

He continued to break ground in his career and co-founded the UK’s first independent TV production company, Allegro Films, in 1968 becoming the pioneer of a new genre of music film, blending fly-on-the-wall documentary with performance.

Allegro received the longest-showing ever on British TV, running for 16 consecutive Saturday evenings on Channel 4 from September until Christmas in 1988.

At the time, Channel 4’s then chief-executive Lord Michael Grade said: ‘This is a personal note to record the pleasure and the sense of pride this channel feels about your Allegro retrospective season. It is a triumph!’

Some of Nupen’s other credits include Nupen’s 1969 film The Trout and Zubin Mehta in a performance of Schubert’s Trout Quintet, which is widely regarded as a benchmark of classical music broadcasting.

In October 2021, Nupen’s creation of Allegro Films was charted in a BBC feature-length autobiographical documentary titled Listening Through The Lens.

It was directed by Nupen’s stepson Matthew Percival and featured narration by Stephen Fry, as well as appearances from Sir David Attenborough, David Elstein, Lord Grade and Melvyn Bragg discussing the unique chapter in the history of music on television.

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