Roger Nichols (musical scholar)

Roger David Edward Nichols (born 6 April 1939) is an English music scholar, critic, translator and author. After an early career as a university lecturer he became a full-time freelance writer in 1980. He is particularly known for his works on French music, including books about Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and the Parisian musical scene of the years after the First World War. Among his translations is the English version of the standard biography of Gabriel Fauré by Jean-Michel Nectoux. Nichols was decorated by the French authorities in 2006 for his contribution to French musical studies.

Life and careerEdit

Nichols was born in the English city of Ely, Cambridgeshire, the son of Edward Nichols and his wife Dorothy, née West, who were respectively a lawyer and an accountant.[1] He was educated at Worcester College, Oxford, where he studied under Edmund Rubbra.[2] He studied piano in Paris with Magda Tagliaferro.[3] After graduating he became a schoolmaster at St Michael's College, Tenbury (1966–73),[2] after which he was a lecturer for the Open University (1975–76) and the University of Birmingham (1978–80).[1] He married Sarah Edwards, a teacher; there were two sons and a daughter of the marriage.[1]

Nichols's first book, published by the Oxford University Press (OUP) was a study of Claude Debussy (1972), an 86-page work, part of the OUP's "Oxford Studies of Composers" series.[1][3] Later books include studies of Messiaen (1974) and Ravel (1977), and as editor or translator or both, collections of letters and reminiscences by and about Debussy (1987), Ravel (1987), Berlioz (1995), Satie (1995) and Mendelssohn (1997). Among his most substantial translations is the English version of Jean-Michel Nectoux's Gabriel Fauré: les voix du clair-obscur (1990), published in English by the Cambridge University Press as Gabriel Fauré: A Musical Life (1991). In 2002 Nichols produced The Harlequin Years: Music in Paris 1917–1929.[2][3] The Musical Times said of it, "The Harlequin Years is a marvellous book, and it deserves to be read by the widest possible audience. ... A classic."[4]

For the 1980 Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Nichols contributed the articles on Debussy and Poulenc.[1] He has contributed regularly to The Musical Times and the BBC Music Magazine.[3]

Among his broadcast on BBC Radio 3 were a five-part series on the life and art of Emmanuel Chabrier, with Clive Swift speaking the composer's words.[5]

In 2006 the French government appointed Nichols as a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour for his forty years of service to French music.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Nichols, Roger", Gale Contemporary Authors online, retrieved 14 July 2016 (subscription required)
  2. ^ a b c "Nichols, Roger", International Who's Who of Authors and Writers 2004, retrieved 14 July 2016
  3. ^ a b c d e "Biography", Roger Nichols, retrieved 14 July 2016
  4. ^ Simeone, Nigel. "French Without Fears", The Musical Times, Spring 2003, p. 60 (subscription required)
  5. ^ Souvenirs of Chabrier, BBC Radio 3 Genome Radio Times 1923-2009, retrieved 2 October 2018