The great British conductor Sir Neville Marriner has died at the age of 92.
The founder of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Marriner is one of the most prolific recording artists in the history of classical music.
Because of that ubiquity, he is perhaps a little underrated. Though few will ever say it, Marriner and the Academy made a huge contribution to the Baroque revival, probably as significant in the early years as that of the period practice pioneers.
He will of course be long remembered as one of the musicians responsible for the popularization of Mozart. He presided over the “Amadeus” soundtrack album, one of classical music’s all-time bestsellers.
A student of Pierre Monteux, he was a relatively understated presence on the podium. The results were never less than handsome and distinguished, but were also often inspired and even fiery.
I saw him in live performance several times, always with great satisfaction.
He continued to conduct until quite recently. I heard him conduct at Disney Concert Hall last year.
I met him, briefly, just once. I saw him sitting in the audience at another concert at Disney Hall and approached him to tell him I had enjoyed his concert at Segerstrom Concert Hall a night or two before. He was a most friendly fellow, without airs, who seemed to actually delight that someone had recognized him.
The Academy’s obituary says he died peacefully on the night of Oct. 2.
Apparently, he was still conducting at the age of 92, just two days before his death ( http://slippedisc.com/2016/10/sir-neville-marriners-last-concert/ ) — quite amazing!
I met Marriner briefly a couple of times for hellos, but once attended a half hour’s discussion about projects contemplated between Marriner’s then Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and USC’s then School of Performing Arts. The conversation was hosted by Dean Grant Beglarian, my boss, in our then offices in the basement of the School of Social Work. The year was 1974. We talked about plans for the centennial of composer Arnold Schoenberg which we were planning and in fact carried off in September of that year, and possible collaborative activities with LACO. Marriner impressed me as crisp in style, polite and with a good sense of humor. No discernible ego on display and in the best manner of a pragmatic Englishman. I don’t remember if Marriner actually included any Schoenberg in his programming of that era; the record would confirm whether so or not.
Unfortunately, i can’t think about him without remembering what he said sometime in 1980s, i believe while still the principal conductor of Minnesota Orchestra. If i am not mistaken, he stated at the time something to the effect that playing skills of orchestral musicians start deteriorating at 55 years old and therefore good orchestras should not be employing anyone past that age. This is of course a bunch of discriminatory nonsense, because some instrumentalists begin losing their skills already in their 40s while others still play brilliantly well into their 70s, so it is all strictly individual.
Thank you for quoting my favorite movie-closing line.