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.