Extraordinary Livia Gollancz, 96, remembers playing through the Second World War

Extraordinary Livia Gollancz, 96, remembers playing through the Second World War


norman lebrecht

August 02, 2017

Daughter of an eponymous publisher and later his hugely successful successor, Livia recalls the years when she played third horn in the London Symphony Orchestra and principal in the Halle.

Her memory is pinpoint.




photo: Anne-Katrin Purkiss


  • Halldor says:

    Presumably she’s the player of that glorious solo in Barbirolli’s great 1943 recording of Bax’s Third – a wonderful moment. Lovely to know that she’s still with us.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this interview. I was somewhat dismayed that Barbirolli sacked her simply because she expressed slight reservations about his overly-romantic style when conducting music of the Classical period. I suppose in those days, conductors had absolute power. Anyway, the world lost an excellent horn player, but gained a wonderful publisher.

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    If the video does not work for you (it did not for me), here is a YouTube link.


    There are English subtitles on the YouTube version.

  • Lyn duToit says:

    Thank you Michael, for sending me this interview – so amazing and interesting.

  • John Wallace says:

    Barbirolli also appointed Maisie Ringham to Principal trombone – very enlightened for the times – and she is still with us too.

    • Peter Phillips says:

      Did he also appoint Enid Roper, another horn player whom I recall seeing in the Hallé in the 1960s or late 50s?

  • Ralph Spurrier says:

    I worked for Livia in the 70’s and 80’s at her publishing company and count my time there as one of the happiest of my life. It was a solid “family” publishing company of the old school and I was sad to see it subsumed into the Orion group. However the Gollancz imprint lives on in the science fiction list – and, I’m delighted to say, Livia is still with us. I was astonished to hear that she was the solo horn player on the Bax 3rd – a recording I have had on my shelves for years.

  • Ralph Spurrier says:

    And I should add that she was probably the horn player in the Moeran Symphony recorded in in November/December 1942 under Leslie Heward (the first ever recording of the symphony). I asked her (December 2017) if she remembered the occasion and Moeran attending the rehearsals but she couldn’t recall it. She did remember her parents were friends with Harriet Cohen and Gerald Finzi – the latter having bridge parties at VG’s house near Newbury.

  • Nicholas Simons ( nephew ) says:

    I regret to report the death of Livia Gollancz on 29 March 2018.

  • Martin says:

    Waht a wonderful film of a very remarkable lady. During a brief clip of J.B. conducting there is a female tympanist. Would this be Joyce Aldous, who in her dotage spent time as a percussionist with the Bournemouth Symphony? Anyone know?

  • Tony Catterick says:

    As the Historian and Archivist for The British Horn society I interviewed Livia for over an hour, about her whole life and particularly her distinguished career as a fine horn player. She was very warm hearted, modest, a great raconteur and had a fantastic memory of what horn playing standards were like in those far off days. She particularly recalled the strong smell of alchohol on players breath which she did not like. She produced a very pure, clean and open tone on her Boosey and Hawkes Imperial rotary valve double horn, having been taught by the renowned teacher at The Royal College of Music in London, Frank Probyn, the 4th Horn of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. She was a charming ‘victim’ too with me, in a public interview I did with her in Manchester as my guest for a BHS Festival weekend, during which she was happy, even at a great age, to share her horn memories with a very receptive audience.
    I treasure the privilege of meeting her and she was a great contributor to horn history.
    Paul Barritt, a good friend, has done a fine job in getting her to talk with such clarity and recall. Thank you Paul and thank you Livia. You were a true history maker as the very first female Principal horn in a UK orchestra. Do buy the Halle CD and here her sensitive skill at its very best.