Richard Burnett, concert pianist who co-founded a museum of historic keyboard instruments – obituary
Richard Leslie Burnett was born at another mansion in Godstone, Surrey on June 23, 1932. Known to family and friends as Dick, he was the youngest of five children of Colonel Sir Leslie Burnett, Bt, a member of the David Burnett surveying firm. and Son, and his wife Joan (née Humphery).
From Eton he studied at the Royal College of Music, served for two years in the Royal Leicestershire Regiment and studied economics and modern languages at King’s College, Cambridge. In the early 1960s he gave recitals at London’s Wigmore Hall, including one in October 1962 in which he vexed critics by playing Bach on a modern grand piano.
Burnett’s introduction to early music came soon after when, after breaking both his arms falling down a flight of stairs, he began teaching at a language school in Munich. There he met some pioneers of the early music movement and on his return began not only to play in the style of previous years, but also to acquire the relevant instruments.
Then came the move to Finchcocks, where he also had a fine collection of music-themed art, with many works dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. During this time, Finchcocks Press published some elegant volumes on the history of instruments such as Company of Pianos (2004).
In November 2016, the Burnetts sold Finchcocks, which under its new owners remains a center for music creation. They also sold most of their instruments, although they kept 14, ranging from a 1700 spinet to an 1866 Erard grand piano. In their new home in Tunbridge Wells they continued to hold concerts and support music students.
Burnett, who at one time flirted with Buddhism, was appointed MBE in 2008. He is survived by Katrina (née Hendrey), whom he married in 1969; they had no children.
Richard Burnett, born June 23, 1932, died July 8, 2022