Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Sir Neville Marriner, RIP

I heard this morning that the great conductor Neville Marriner had died at 92, and immediately pictured myself in the middle of James Gibbs's St. Martin in the Fields, his lovely church in Trafalgar Square. We were just there last week, listening to an excellent chamber music concert.

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
This is the scene of Marriner's greatest accomplishments: building a world-class chamber orchestra in the Academy of SMF, creating a recording juggernaut (more than 500 discs), and expanding its repertoire from baroque and classical to a very broad range of standard orchestral works. This new re-issue by Capriccio (out October 14, 2016) of Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Symphony, originally released in 1990, is a good example of the outstanding playing Marriner coaxed from his players. Even the 1812 Overture gets the same full, serious, in-depth performance as the composer's more serious music. This is a very fine recording indeed, and a great tribute to the conductor on this sad morning.

It's no coincidence, I think, that Sir Neville's greatest triumphs came in this church. His best qualities, and those of his orchestra, are 18th century, Enlightenment ones. His music is social, both rational and sentimental (in the best sense), and most importantly, very beautiful.

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