Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Sir Charles Groves

When Gustav Mahler was only just becoming fashionable in England, Charles Groves conducted the first Proms performance of the Eighth,  the "Symphony of a Thousand". It was an extraordinary experience which I have touched on before. If "wall of sound" had not already been coined for Phil Spector's productions, it would rightly have been applied to that performance, in the perfect setting for it. Quite apart from the musical skills required, marshalling the forces - choral, orchestral and soloists - took exceptional ability. Yet what I remember of the end of that evening was not a triumphalist personal celebration, but a perspiring, emotional, Groves modestly bowing to an ecstatic audience, to the players - and to the score. It was that modesty - he described himself as a musical GP - which colleagues after his death attributed to his not achieving higher world-wide recognition than he did.

Today is Groves' centenary and Sarah Walker is celebrating him as her artist of the week on Radio 3's Essential Classics.

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