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Classical 101

Remembering Conductor Neville Marriner

Neville Marriner conducts the the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Neville Marriner conducts the the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.

Neville Marriner has died at the age of 92.  He was one of the most widely-known conductors in the world, due in good part to his founding and leading the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, one of the most successful and most recorded of all chamber orchestras--perhaps the most successful.

Marriner had been playing second violin in the London Symphony Orchestra for a number of years when he founded the Academy with a group of like-minded musicians in 1959, after meeting regularly in a London church named — you guessed it — St. Martin-in-the-Fields.  

At first, they focused on the Baroque repertoire of Vivaldi, Bach, Handel and others with lively performances which were, in a way, forerunners of period instrument interpretations, but using modern instruments.  The Academy's 1970 Decca recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons with violinist Alan Loveday is still one of the finest ever made.

The Academy went beyond the Baroque to to the Classical era of Mozart and Haydn and on to Rossini and Beethoven.  Their recording of the soundtrack album for the 1984 film Amadeus is one of the best-selling classical albums of all time.  

They eventually expanded their range to include more modern works of the 20th century with fine recordings of music by English composers such as Elgar and Vaughan Williams, and music of Richard Strauss and Arnold Schoenberg.

All along the way they made many fine recordings on a number of major labels, selling what I am sure must now be millions of copies.  

The Academy is still going strong with Joshua Bell at the helm these days, but Neville Marriner remained busy up to the end.  

In an interview  for the Guardian from two years ago, Marriner showed little sign of slowing down in his conducting activities with orchestras around the world.

I have a lasting appreciation of Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields for all the fine recordings they made over many years. They've provided a lot of programming for Classical 101!  

Some classical music announcer once joked about the ubiquity of their radio presence, "and now the Academy of you-know-where, conducted by you-know-who."  I would take that as a compliment.  They have remained so long-lasting because they are so good.