The classical bestseller created in an alcoholic haze

The most accomplished violinist ever to emerge from New Zealand, Alan Loveday – who has died at 88 – shot to the front of a competitive field in 1950s London as a star student of Max Rostal.

A prizewinner in a Prague competition, he played lots of chamber music and was on call for the leading orchestras without ever forming a settled relationship until his pal Neville Marriner formed the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Installed as leader (concertmaster) he had his own way of doing things.

Neville and other players talked to me about the epic day at Abbey Road when they recorded Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, still relatively unfamiliar on record. The morning session was a washout, not a usable phrase recorded on tape. At lunch, the players dispersed for refreshment, some to local pubs.

Alan was a bit of a drinker in those days. He returned to the studio visibly the worse for wear. Neville was beginning to wonder who he would get to play Vivaldi’s tricky solos when Alan, tucking his fiddle under his chin, blazed through the work in a single take.

The 1969 white-heat recording sold half a million copies and launched the Academy as a global brand. You can read the full story in my book, The Life and Death of Classical Music.

alan loveday

Rest well, Alan.

They don’t make them like that any more.

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  • Marriner may have been exaggerating, because Discogs shows three days of sessions (Sept. 8 to 10, 1969) and at St John’s Smith Square, fwiw.

  • I’ve heard that several of Jean-Claude Malgoire’s recordings were made when he and much of the orchestra had had a few.

    And wasn’t everything that Mussorgsky wrote created in an alcoholic haze?

  • Sounds reminiscent of the old “Lone Ranger” radio story.

    The cast did their East Coast broadcast then went to the bar across the street. Came back for the West Coast broadcast and it ran like gangbusters… until the last line of the show.

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