A Growing Concern

Marriner’s marriage had ended, leaving him with two young children, Susie and Andrew. Into his life came Elizabeth (always known as Molly) Sims, and it was she who took on the administration of the increasingly busy Academy. From its formation in 1958 as an informal ensemble of stringed instrument players plus harpsichord, the group was able to meet and play in Neville and Molly’s sitting room in Kensington, often long into the night. Once oboes, bassoons and horns came into the frame with the concerti grossi of Handel, the band had to move elsewhere. Having made their first LP recordings for the French L’Oiseau-Lyre label, Marriner and the ASMF came to the attention of Harley Usill’s Argo operation. Their first LP of Handel for Argo led to nearly one hundred Argo recordings, made between 1964 and 1983.

A black-and-white aerial shot of the Academy of St Martin’s in action, recording Handel in Kingsway Hall for Argo in 1964; Neville Marriner leading (centre right).
A session for the first recording on the Argo label – Handel in Kingsway Hall, 1964

It was not until 1969, by which time the Academy had made over 30 records, that Marriner gave up his role in the LSO. His growing band had started to go on tour and had also branched out into chamber orchestral work by Mozart, Elgar and Stravinsky; but the record sleeves continued to identify Marriner as ‘director’ rather than conductor.

A black-and-white close-up of Neville Marriner in the late 1960s, directing from the front desk of violins – a position he would not fully relinquish until the mid-1970s.
Showing Marriner’s position as director-leader for much of the first 20 years of ASMF