Sir Neville At 90

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20140506

Sue MacGregor talks to the conductor Sir Neville Marriner as he celebrates his 90th birthday.

In 1958 Sir Neville founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields with a group of friends. It was formed as a conductorless chamber ensemble of top class musicians and in the early years they gathered to rehearse in the front room of Sir Neville's Kensington flat.

Sue MacGregor meets Sir Neville and Lady Marriner in that same room. They look back over his extraordinary career, from his days as an LSO violinist and his early work for the BBC, and chart his development as a celebrated conductor and the growth of the Academy into an orchestra of international renown: together they have recorded more than 500 discs, making them one of the most productive partnerships ever.

There are contributions from musicians who have been members of the Academy for many years, including Tristan Fry and Kenneth Sillito; pianist Murray Perahia, who is the Academy's Principal Guest Conductor; and violinist Joshua Bell, who became Music Director in 2011. Record producer Andrew Keener gives some insights into working with one of the most recorded conductors in history, and Dame Janet Baker describes one of her distinguished recordings with Sir Neville, made under very difficult circumstances.

The music includes some of his best-loved recordings, like Vivaldi's Four Seasons and the award-winning soundtrack for Amadeus, as well as rare finds from the BBC archive: a broadcast by his first chamber group, formed during student days, and a "stereophonic test transmission" which may well be the Academy's earliest surviving recording. And we eavesdrop on rehearsals for Sir Neville's Birthday Concert, given at the Royal Festival Hall.

Producer: Susan Kenyon

A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 4.