Saturday 12 October 2013

The Virtuosi of England conducted by Arthur Davison on Classics for Pleasure


In the mid-seventies, as a mid-teen, I discovered Classical Music, and of course wanted to buy as many vinyl LPs as possible, so I could study and enjoy my favourite pieces.

My staple diet was the Classics for Pleasure series, since these were both the cheapest LPs, and also (almost all) very good performances.

My way-in was probably via the performances of Bach's Brandenberg Concerti by a scratch orchestra (that is, an orchestra assembled for the occasion) called The Virtuosi of England, conducted by Arthur Davison, from a new edition by Richard Townend, and the recording produced by John Boyden.

I ended-up buying quite a lot of these Davison/ Townend/ Boyden/ Virtuosi of England recordings of  Bach, Albinoni, Vivaldi, Mozart, Purcell and what-not. I almost always liked them a lot; but they are somewhat mysterious, unappreciated and undocumented.

I infer that the Virtuosi of England (who were often listed by name) were composed of some of the best London orchestra musicians of that era - principals from the various 'sections' of the Philharmonia, BBC Symphony, LSO etc., freelancers of the stature of David Munrow (recorder) and other Professors from the Royal Academy of Music - presumably moonlighting for extra pocket-money; and led, usually, by Kenneth Sillito (who led the Gabrieli String Quartet, and the very best chamber orchestra I have ever known: The Academy of St Martin in the Fields).

The Virtuosi of England... Long-gone, unrecognized, but not forgotten by me - on the contrary remembered with gratitude; and their clean, fresh, firm vinyl performances still being enjoyed (despite forty years worth of accumulated scratches)!



dearieme said...

Do you remember the "Golden Guinea" series? And the "Saga" label?

My wife is very fond of a bargain set of the Beethoven Symphonies by Herby von Carryon and his Berlin Rhythm Kings.

Bruce Charlton said...

@d - A bit early for me - but I inherited from my father a Golden Guinea 'Best of [Chris] Barber and [Acker] Bilk' of which I am very fond. My first exposure to jazz.

Nicholas Fulford said...

In my teenage years, I was a young audiophile who came to the classics by way of Tchaichovsky's 6th symphony with its sombre opening. I will always have a warm spot for this piece, (and yes I know I am an unrepentant romantic.) I also loved Holst's "The Planets" recorded by Previn with the LSO, Telarc's recording of Stravinsky's "Firebird" and a lovely CBC recording of "L'apres midi d'un faune" by Debussy.

I did not discover by beloved Mahler until 25 years later, (ah Mahler!)

In my second year in university I saved on my food money to get student season tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for 6 concerts, including Beethoven's 7th, which I adore. The second movement slew me.

Life without classical music and literature would not be worth living. Take those away, and I shall happily step off the stage.

Adam G. said...

Very moving. Memory and gratitude are honorable. It does you credit.