From Bow to Baton

“I never considered my violin playing good enough to sustain an interesting musical career.”

Towards the end of the 1960s, as Marriner was (it seemed) making the transition from the leader’s chair to the conductor’s podium, he began to attract attention in the latter role from overseas – especially from Los Angeles, where plans were afoot to add to the musical distinction of that city by founding a chamber orchestra on the lines of the Academy. So it was that for a decade, 1969-79, Neville and Molly spent three months a year in California, where the newly-fledged maestro soon cultivated a first-rate band. As later in Minneapolis, Marriner didn’t make many recordings with his American orchestras; but a disc like the one made with the LA Chamber Orchestra for – guess who? – Argo in 1974 bears eloquent witness to his transfer of the highest standards to his new position.

A thoughtful-looking Neville Marriner, including trademark white polo-neck top, occupying three-quarters of the back of an Argo LP sleeve for ‘The World of the Academy’ circa 1967. The director’s personal image was becoming significant in the marketing of ASMF.
Marriner’s image grows in importance; large photo on the back of The World of the Academy, 1967

Once established in the USA, Marriner began to be invited to conduct – including the ‘big five’ – in not just baroque/early classical music but also the 19th century romantics. In fact, he found it easier to be accepted as a full-blown symphonic conductor over there precisely because there was less awareness of his origins as (largely) a chamber musician on the violin.

A colour photo of Neville Marriner in his prime, posed against a street doorway in Berlin, in full evening clothes and white silk scarf – the very image of a successful conductor.
The fully-fledged symphonic conductor, photographed in Berlin