Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The Not-so-ancient Marriner

Norman Lebrecht on Sir Neville Marriner, on the occasion of Marriner's eightieth birthday:

"Ask him for his greatest thrill, and it might be seeing his daughter married in the church of St-Martin-in-the-Fields, or playing in the back desk of the Philharmonia with Toscanini on the rostrum. Neville Marriner is a rare specimen in the musical jungle, a maestro without enemies. He took hold of a tradition, improved it beyond previous recognition and preserved it in transmissible form for all eternity."

Marriner is a very self-effacing conductor: he is responsible for a number of my very favorite recordings -- this Vaughan Williams disc of his is one of favorite recordings ever, in any musical genre -- but I don't know much about him at all. Reading Lebrecht's tribute, it seems this is at least partly by Marriner's own design.

Mainstream audiences will most likely have encountered Marriner's work via the film Amadeus, for which Marriner recorded all of the music with his orchestra, the Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields. I used to read articles that lamented the passing of the age when a single conductor was indelibly associated with a single orchestra -- Stokowski with Philadelphia, say, or Koussevitzky with Boston -- but it still does happen. Marriner and the ASMTF is a prime example.

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