Tuesday 15 December 2015

"The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, directed by Neville Marriner" - a hallmark of immaculate musicality

My American readers who like classical music may perhaps be insufficiently aware of the work of Neville Marriner - who directed (from the Orchestral Leader's Desk) or conducted the London based chamber orchestra The Academy of St Martin in the Fields through their heyday of the nineteen sixties and seventies - and produced hundreds of unsurpassed performances of the repertoire from Baroque to Classical.

Marriner (although knighted) somehow never achieved the cachet of the British conductors of full orchestras - yet his interpretations were always among the very best on vinyl. The playing of his band was beauteous, flawless, flexible, and exceptionally well phrased: they set the standard at a time when there were many exceptionally good chamber orchestras in Britain, Germany and Italy.

Most impressively these perfomances stand the test of time - they can be listed-to over and again without fatigue and with continued admiration.

This golden age of great chamber orchestras was (for me at least) brought to an end by the emergence of early instrument ensembles and 'historically correct' performances - which provided a novelty soundscape, some extreme tempos and weird style - but which were often just Not Very Musical.

(Egregious examples of this are Trevor Pinnock and Roger Norrington and their bands - conductors who, I am afraid, Simply Cannot Phrase - and their performances have a horribly chopped-up, static-block quality which I find intolerable.)

Anyway, if you like Correlli, Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart and their contemporaries - you cannot-go-wrong-with, you cannot-do-better-than, a perfomance labelled 'The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Directed by Neville Marriner'.

As a taster, here is a snippet of Vivaldi with the solo part taken by Carmel Caine - who often became the leader when Marriner was conducting from the podium - She had a delicious, haunting tone and an inspired way of phrasing baroque music.


Anonymous said...

Neville Marriner was very well-known and highly thought of in America. His recordings received much air-play and his live performances here, as far as I know, sold well.

Bruce Charlton said...

@360 - I'm very pleased to hear it!

Scott in PA said...

I always loved his Messiah. He performs the first London version. Here the soprano aria Rejoice Greatly is sung in the original 12/8 time instead of common time, in which the vocal runs are heard in triplets instead of semiquavers. Thus the aria is conceived as a gigue, or wedding dance. As the text celebrates the joining of the King (bridegroom) with the daughter of Zion (Jerusalem), such an allusion would not be beyond Handel’s ken. This version is rarely heard today.