Over a six-decade career the conductor recorded many hundreds of works new and old with his Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Andrew Clements picks his ten favourites, from Telemann to Tippett, and Mozart to Mendelssohn
Few musicians of his generation recorded more prolifically than Neville Marriner. He made his first discs as an orchestral player in the 1950s, first with the Philharmonia and then as principal second violin of the London Symphony Orchestra, under conductors such as Herbert von Karajan and Pierre Monteux. But it was after he founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 1959, initially with the musicologist and harpsichordist Thurston Dart, that Marriner’s recording career really took off. Here’s a brief chronological sample of some of the best of them – my personal choice, and by no means definitive!
Neville Marriner: The Early Recordings (1961-63)
Giles Fraser (Loose canon, 30 September) rightly criticises the lack of logic of rightwing Christians such as Donald Trump, who take biblical teachings on homosexuality literally while treating the Bible’s critique of wealth as a metaphor. How so unlike leftwing Christians, who love to quote the Bible’s view of wealth, while treating its repressive take on sex and sexuality as not to be obeyed literally. The consistently rational approach is, of course, not to take anything in the Bible seriously.Albert BealeLondon
• I am old enough to remember the uprising of the Hungarian people against the communist state in 1956, when Soviet tanks rolled into the streets of Budapest to suppress the people. For those able to escape to the west, a warm welcome awaited them. Memories, it seems, are short (Report, 3 October).Chris McDonnellLittle Haywood, Staffordshire
The singer and artist selects music from the tranquil end of the spectrum – from Erik Satie to Thomas Tallis via Virginia Astley and Aphex Twin
Brian Eno gave it a name and mapped much of the territory, an early recognition that the need was already in the air – a search for some new equivalent to classical music, but one more abstract and spacious, as well as intimate and modern, capable of providing a tranquil space in an increasingly crowded, pressurised world.
Jazz had fallen into its own set of cliches and conventions, classical constantly retrod old ground. Pop and dance music both tended to grab you by the lapels. There was a need for something that addressed that other part of the spectrum – tranquillity.
Grand theatre, LeedsMichael Barker-Caven skilfully presents this dark double-bill as dual reflections on a single theme, as the outstanding Anne Sophie Duprels leads a strong cast
Opera North mastered the art of the aperitif in 2004 with Eight Little Greats, an operatic taster season in which you could mix and match one-act masterpieces of less than an hour’s duration. David Pountney’s production of Il Tabarro by Puccini was one of the highlights – or low-lights, considering how gloomy it was – and is well worth a second look. But the real draw is the company’s first production of Puccini’s only all-female opera.
It could be argued that Opera North have missed a trick in not putting together all three of the dramatic panels Puccini conceived as a single entity in 1918 (the company does have a Gianni Schicchi in stock, which entered the repertoire last year). Perhaps a complete Trittico is still to come. But Michael Barker-Caven’s production succeeds in emphasising how these two short operas provide dual reflections on a single theme: the pain of a lost child kept alive in the memory of a loveless stevedore and a penitent nun.
The composer – one of the founders of minimalism – has been at the forefront of contemporary music for over 50 years. On the day he turns 80, here are 10 works mapping his remarkable creative career
Steve Reich celebrates his 80th birthday today. Together with Terry Riley and Philip Glass, he was one of the founders of minimalism in the 1960s, and he has been at the forefront of American music ever since. The succession of utterly distinctive works Reich has composed in the last half century includes some of the most remarkable music of our time, their influence continues to cross continents and almost all musical boundaries. Here are 10 highlights, mapping a remarkable creative career.
Schumann, Schubert, flamenco and Freddie … the pianist and artistic director of Oxford’s Lieder festival reveals his musical loves
What was the last piece of music you bought?
The score of Schumann’s Der Rose Pilgerfahrt (“The Pilgrimage of the Rose”). It’s a wonderful, fairy-tale piece that’s barely known, with a chorus of elves, a handsome huntsman and a gravedigger in the cast. It’s often thought of as a sort of secular cantata with orchestra, but the piano version actually came first – Schumann conceived it for piano and only orchestrated it after friends encouraged him. I’m playing the original version at the Oxford Lieder Festival later this month.
Prolific conductor who founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields
On the strength of what he had achieved by his early 30s, Sir Neville Marriner, who has died aged 92, would have been remembered as a decent orchestral and chamber music violinist. But at 34 he made a brilliant career move that led to his becoming one of the world’s best-known conductors. His chamber orchestra, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, not only inaugurated a fashion for long-winded ensemble titles, but shot straight to the top of its class, beating the Germans and Italians at their own game. To achieve this feat in Britain, a land not noted for its string playing, was extraordinary.
Recordings were vital to the success of the Academy of St Martin’s, which initially played only baroque music. When Marriner was invited by four colleagues to form the crack string band in 1958, he led it from the first desk as Adolf Busch had done in the 1930s and 40s with his Chamber Players, and Felix Ayo was doing with I Musici. The original 12 musicians wanted the chance to make music democratically, as they suffered enough in their “day jobs” from the tyrannies of conductors.
Founder of Academy of St Martin in the Fields was still conducting into his 90s and his Amadeus soundtrack sold 6.5m copies
Sir Neville Marriner, one of the world’s greatest conductors, has died.
The founder of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, who conducted many of the world’s leading orchestras, died in his sleep on Sunday, aged 92, the academy said.
Soloists, Bach Choir, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Hill(Naxos)
Bravo to David Hill, the Bach Choir and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra for bringing three neglected large-scale works by Charles Villiers Stanford to wider attention in this excellent recording. The operatic Stabat Mater is Wagnerian in ambition, and with two purely orchestral movements feels something like a choral symphony. The impressive Song to the Soul, unpublished until Stanford authority Jeremy Dibble produced a performing score two years ago, makes a fine companion to the composer’s first major choral work, The Resurrection, though as a former conductor of the Bach Choir, Stanford might have been disappointed in some occasional intonation slips. Clean-toned soprano Elizabeth Cragg stands out among the soloists.
These two tremendous piano trios, of symphonic proportions, are deceptive. The movements begin innocently enough, but then develop searing power and passion. The period instruments here, led by a crystal-clear copy of an 1827 Graf piano with a pinging staccato, thin out the music and lend it a brittle, sharp attack. The funeral march of the E flat Trio Op 100 is especially striking, and there is a heart-stopping moment in the finale where Schubert brings back the funeral music, then twists the ending into the major key. In the B flat Trio Op 99 the cello is sometimes undernourished, but the rest is freshly, originally eloquent. In the eerie single-movement Notturno, Schubert pierces the heart.
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