Tributes to international concert pianist from Barking who played for Queen
David Bird, Redbridge Music Society
- Credit: David Bird
The membership secretary/treasurer of the Redbridge Music Society, David Bird, pays tribute to internationally-renowned concert pianist Manuel Villet, who lived in Barking for many years and has died aged 90.
International concert pianist Manuel Villet lived in Barking for many years, his technique and musicality remaining undiminished even in later life.
He continued to give piano recitals well into his 80s, serving Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Redbridge through many performances.
Born and raised in South Africa from humble origins, his early musical talents were recognised and encouraged at primary school.
His concert debut was made at the age of nine, followed by radio broadcasts at 11 and numerous recitals from 16 onwards.
At the age of 15, he performed on organ for then-Princess Elizabeth when she visited South Africa.
Manuel studied piano under the renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger in Paris and gave highly acclaimed concert performances at many prestigious venues in the UK, France and South Africa under leading conductors of the day.
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He was accompanist to the famous violin virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin, giving highly successful recitals in Johannesburg and Vienna. He has been widely recognised as one of the greatest pianists that South Africa has produced.
At his London debut at Wigmore Hall, he received rave reviews from music critics and thrilled the capacity audience, who gave him a prolonged ovation and insisted on many encores.
Manuel was a long-time vice-president of Redbridge Music Society: a kind and gentle man who was much loved and respected by all who knew him and played music with him.
He died a few days after his 90th birthday following a short period in hospital.
His funeral took place at St Margaret’s Church in Barking on May 7. It culminated in the release of 10 white doves "that soared like his musical spirit" at Rippleside Cemetery.
Manuel is survived by his brothers Ruxton, Glen and Richard.
In a tribute, his great-nephew, Simon Gurm-Villet, said: "Predictable, cheerful, accepting and hospitable, one thing for certain there was always a warm and welcoming gentleman – dressed in a tan-coloured tweed suit and a bright tie – ready to give you a joyful greeting when you waited on his doorstep."