Sir David Tang, LBS President

Sir David Tang KBE (2 August 1954 - 29 August 2017)

It is with deepest sadness that we announce the death of the President of the London Bach Society Sir David Tang KBE on the 29 August 2017.   In writing this tribute it is difficult to know exactly where to start, such is the eclecticism of David’s life, his circle and the projects in which he was involved.

Businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, socialite, bon vivant: these are all epithets that are usually applied when describing this energetic, imaginative, networker supreme with a gift for friendship like no other person I know. There will be many across the globe today and in Hong Kong in particular who will not only be deeply shocked at his passing, but for whom his loss will create a very large gap indeed in their lives. Warm tributes will rightly abound.  So how did he become, President of the London Bach Society and Friend then?

It was 1998 and LBS was about to enter a new century, complete with fledgling festival, new Journal, website, IT, a warm friendship established with the Leipzig Bach heritage. In short our mission was to build on Paul’s legacy, stay true to our artistic purpose, yet fashion our creativity to chime with a new era and in an atmosphere all around us of reform, even out and out change. No organisation can allow itself to live in a time warp, yet the measure of the reforming zeal espoused by our political masters could seem bewildering to some and see off others completely. That was not going to happen to LBS; nor was this a fair reflection of the ‘living memorial’ referred to often in the wake of Paul’s passing and going forward.    By chance Lord Weinstock, a longstanding LBS supporter, introduced me to a Mr David Tang OBE. I was told Mr Tang was “carving a unique niche in British Society” and as he came recommended by someone who knew exactly what we were about, in short, the letter was written and within 48 hours David had warmly accepted our invitation to be President.  Knighted in 2008, Sir David has remained so until his death on 29 August 2017.

David’s appointment was timely, just over a year before the new century began and one which coincided with the Bach 250th. So we had time to forward plan.  This 250th anniversary of the composer’s death in 1750 provided the perfect and entirely appropriate excuse to celebrate a life, to push the boat out, light up London society and, inspired entirely by David’s unique flair and imagination, put the LBS stamp on things.  This was exciting, illuminating, another string to our bow.  So in January 2000, we found ourselves in the State Apartments at St James’ Palace and David’s specially devised “Bach and China” recital and dinner given before HRH The Prince of Wales and a Who’s Who of guests from HE The Chinese Ambassador to (Sir) David Frost and (Sir) Michael Caine via (Dame) Joan Collins, Sir Mark and Lady Weinberg, Lord and Lady Weinstock, Mr Silas Chou, a host of diplomats and friends, LBS Chairman and Vice Chairman, violinist Vanessa Mae, harpsichordist Melvyn Tan and the guest narrator for the evening, actor Jeremy Irons.  The whole occasion, how it was devised and set up, the audience it attracted and the profile raising injected typifies the kind of public relations work every organisation now has to undertake in this 21st century to enable our voices to be heard and above all, to continue to influence, inspire and reach out to audiences today.  This was the first such event and a typical example of the new and exhilarating dimension David brought to the London Bach Society as our President that has also enabled us to develop our own artistic activities since.

Not long after St James’ Palace we found ourselves in the restaurant at the Royal Opera House providing some Bach for guests at a lunch for former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher. Steinitz Bach Players performed the Concerto for two violins in D minor BWV 1043 (the famous double concerto), the slow movement of which was David’s favourite JSB.  In 2008 he promoted an event that continued to extend the range and scope of our activities and at the same time put some funds in the bank. We joined forces with a group of actors in staging Anthony Minghella’s play “Cigarettes and Chocolates” which (broadly speaking)  is about a girl who gives up talking for Lent and immerses herself in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. Steinitz Bach Players and four young soloists performed the carefully selected movements from the Passion out of sight from the Gallery at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, an effect that aroused a mystified response from the audience – glorious sounds coming from above.   Promoting our artistic activities a stage further, David supported an early Bach Club concert, this time given by pianist James Rhodes at London’s Foundling Museum. The audience, mainly 18-30s, acquired their tickets via twitter and all were taken up in one evening! Last year, as part of the LBS 70th the Bach Club concert was held at David’s latest creation,  China Exchange in Gerrard Street.  The converted BT building is now a bustling Chinese Cultural Centre in the heart of London’s China Town and was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duchess of Cornwall in February 2015. It will be a lasting and ‘living memorial’.

The finest tribute I can pay to our late President is by describing some of the activities in which he engaged. He was a doer, will be remembered for his preference for the finest of everything and all done, to coin Kenny Everett, in the best possible taste. David possessed the best contact book in town and anyone who was seemingly ‘off-limits’ or ‘out of reach’ posed an irresistible challenge viz. his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin earlier this year.  He rarely, if ever, took ‘no’ for an answer.

Quite simply, David’s unique and generous life serves to show us all what possessing the gift of friendship can achieve, both in this day and age, and long into the future.  Lady Lucy Tang and the family are closely in our thoughts today. Margaret Steinitz



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