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.