There goes another music man

There goes another music man


norman lebrecht

December 13, 2010

Peter Andry, head of EMI Classics for many years and founder of Warner Classics, has died in a London hospice, around the corner from his much-loved Abbey Road studios. He was 83 and had been suffering from cancer.

(Cover shows Andry with Rostropovich, Richter, Karajan, Oistrakh, at the turbulent recording session of Beethoven’s triple concerto. Photo: Siegfried Lauterwasser)
After Walter Legge’s departure in 1963, Peter pulled EMI Classics together and kept it in profit for quarter of a century by a policy that he described to me, tongue in cheek, as ‘balancing God and Mammon’. God was the conductor Herbert von Karajan whom he pursued with an open chequebook until the mogul returned to his home label. Mammon was Andre Previn who, endowed with a Beatles mop-top and Hollywood wives, sold mountains of LPs to the Christmas market. 
When in 1988 the EMI board, chaired by Colin Southgate, brought in an American axeman, Jim Fifield, Peter saw the writing on the wall and took early retirement. ‘Fifield never got rid of me,’ he was prone to say, ‘he just never got back to me.’
Barely had the ink dried on Peter’s farewell cards than he set up office in Baker Street, across the road from the EMI, as head of Warner Classics, a comoany he formed by acquiring small and medium-sized labels in France, Germany, Finland and the US. 
Twice a year, he would invite me to lunch at Baker Street, cooked in-house and served by a butler. The moment the door shut, we would remove our jackets and, for a happy hour, be as indiscreet as we possibly could about the entire classical panoply, trusting that not a word would ever leave the room. Nor did it. He was more guarded, though no less helpful, when I asked for leads while researching my history of classical recording.
In his last years we saw each other at concerts and, from time to time, at some musical charity or other to which Peter would lend his name. He was – with the likes of Joan Sutherland, Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer, Peter Porter and Rolf Harris – part of a golden generation of gifted Australians who enriched British life and world culture. As a musician who arrived with a flute that he hoped to play in the London orchestras, Peter applied charm and good sense to make the most of himself. Many in the music industry owe him their careers. In a haughty business, he was unusually considerate of subordinates.
There will be a private funeral on Friday. 


  • Marie Lamb says:

    A giant in an industry that, sad to say, doesn’t have enough people like him these days. I’m very sorry to hear this news.

  • David Leonard says:

    I think you’ll find that Legge resigned, rather than was sacked, at least according to his own account.
    NL replies: I think you’ll find that Legge’s account was falsified by himself and his wife. See Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness (US title: The Life and Death of Classical Music).

  • Tony Locantro says:

    Peter Andry was born in 1927 and was 83 when he died, not ‘in his 70s’
    According to the EMI files, Walter Legge handed in his one year’s notice in June 1963 and intended to complete all his EMI projects, but stormed out at Easter 1964 after a blazing row with Klemperer at the start of the sessions for Die Zauberflöte, precipitated by Legge’s announcement that he was closing down the Philharmonia Orchestra. And Peter Andry did not just ‘lend his name to some Australian music charity or other’. It was the Australian Music Foundation, of which Peter was a co-founder, and he worked tirelessly setting up celebrity concerts and fund raising to finance scholarsips for Australian music students. And when Peter came to England in 1953 it was on a British Council scholarship to study conducting with Sir Adrian Boult, not as an itinerant flautist hoping to play in the London orchestras. Apart from that, it is a nice tribute!
    NL replies: Tony, thank you for those clarifications. That Legge was fired has been comprehensively established. He was allowed a year to clear up as a way of saving face. I am delighted that Peter was older than I thought: he wore it well.

  • David Leonard says:

    NL replies: I think you’ll find that Legge’s account was falsified by himself and his wife. See Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness (US title: The Life and Death of Classical Music).
    DL responds: From ‘Maestros, Masterpieces & Madness’, latest paperback printing, page 60, lines 7 – 8:
    “Legge regarded the back catalogue as his pension, and in June1963 resigned.”
    NL replies: Thanks. Maybe I was too terse. He was under terrific pressure to quit, tantamount to dismissal.