On 13 June 2015 Her Majesty The Queen made Academy founder and Life President Sir Neville Marriner a Companion of Honour in the Birthday Honours List. This rarely bestowed honour is conferred on individuals for recognised services of national importance, with only 65 individuals being members of the order at any one time. Sir Neville comments:
“I am speechless. I don’t know what to say…to be awarded this honour by Her Majesty, and to see the list of former recipients whom I will be joining, is extremely humbling.”
Life President of the Academy Sir Neville Marriner began his career as a violinist, playing first in a string quartet and trio, then in the London Symphony Orchestra. It was during this period that he founded the Academy, with the aim of forming a top-class chamber ensemble from London’s finest players. Beginning as a group of friends who gathered to rehearse in Sir Neville’s front room, the Academy gave its first performance in its namesake church in 1958. On the strength of this, the Academy was invited to make a record for a new company called L’Oiseau Lyre. “And thanks to a very generous review from Denis Stevens in The Gramophone, promoters noticed us” Sir Neville says. “We were able to do a German tour, and other record companies took notice. It was a fortuitous snowball. The only credit we can claim is that we decided always to have good players and never to go on the platform under-rehearsed.” The Academy now enjoys one of the largest discographies of any chamber orchestra worldwide, and its partnership with Sir Neville is the most recorded of any orchestra and conductor.
As a player, Sir Neville had observed some of the greatest conductors at close quarters. He worked as an extra under Toscanini and Furtwängler, with Joseph Krips, George Szell, Stokowski and mentor Pierre Monteux. Sir Neville began his conducting career in 1969, after his studies in America with Maestro Monteux. At this time he founded the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, at the same time as developing and extending the size and repertoire of the Academy. In 1979 he became Music Director and Principal Conductor of both the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Südwest Deutsche Radio Orchestra in Stuttgart, positions he held until the late into the 1980s. Subsequently he has continued to work with orchestras round the globe in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Milan, Athens, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Tokyo. In 2011 Sir Neville was appointed Honorary Conductor of the newly formed I, Culture Orchestra which brings together the most talented young musicians from Eastern Europe. Whilst pursuing his own conducting career, Sir Neville has always remained a dominant influence in the Academy’s story.
Honoured three times for his services to music in this country – most recently being made a Companion of Honour in June 2015 – Sir Neville has also been awarded honours in France, Germany and Sweden. Sir Neville’s illustrious recording career is well documented, and he continues to work with the Academy and other orchestras around the globe.