Sad news: London mourns a progressive leader

The violinist Nona Liddell died two days ago. She was 89

As founder and leader of the London Sinfonietta from 1970 to 1994, Nona was a champion of living composers, the more obtuse and unplayable the better. She was a pillar of musical life on the South Bank, a frequent soloist and a strong character, hidden behind an extremely private persona.

Before joining the Sinfonietta, she was leader of the English String Quartet for 16 years. She also taught at the Royal Academy of Music.

Her husband, the Philharmonia violinist Ivor McMahon, died in 1972. They are survived by a daughter.

photo: Graham Salter/LebrechtMusic&Arts


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  • Very sad news. She was my teacher at the RAM and gave me the confidence and inspiration to go out into the profession and tackle anything I’ve come up against.

  • ==her husband, the Philharmonia violinist Ivor McMahon,

    Ivor was more than a Philharmonia fiddler. He was a major member of Melos Ensemble and with them played in the chamber orchestra for the world premiere of War Requiem.

    • One of my singing teachers and still a dear friend, Heather Harper now at 87, did the soprano solo for that Requiem, and my present teacher with others were brought in to stiffen the chorus in that performance. The recording came out some years ago.

      Ivor McMahon was also a very prominent name all those years ago. We’re all getting old, that’s the problem, not just them.

  • A wonderful violinist, consummate musician and inspirational teacher. Nona’s career spanned an incredible time. From hearing Kreisler and Ginette Neveu in concert to working with Britten and Lutoslawski, her stories were amazing. A dear friend who will be much missed.

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