Saturday, October 15, 2011

Little Orchestra of London: Haydn's Symphony No. 104

The Little Orchestra of London performs the twelfth of the so-called London Symphonies, No. 104 in D major by Franz Joseph Haydn, Leslie Jones conducting. Haydn [1732-1809] composed this piece in London in 1795, and it made its premiere at the King’s Theatre, in London, on May 4, 1795. The concert was a Haydn affair, consisting entirely of Haydn's own compositions, which Haydn conducted to the audience's great appreciation and enjoyment.


I discovered this orchestra quite by accident, a happy fortuitous discovery. Since I knew nothing about them or its conductor, I felt that I was obligated to conduct some research on them. In a review in The Brussels Journal, Thomas F. Bertonneau writes:
In the 1960s, conductor Leslie Jones formed The Little Orchestra of London, with which he recorded the “Paris” and “London” symphonies. Jones was an early advocate of period performance practice (although that designation did not yet exist) and, because he was not fanatical about it, one of the best. His performances revived the use of harpsichord continuo in the symphonies, used with reticence and discretion. Jones manages to outdo Scherchen in delivering these scores with a maximum of verve, almost as though he thought of himself as competing with the popular music of the day.
If any reader knows more about Leslie Jones and The Little Orchestra of London, I would be pleased to hear about it.


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  2. Haydn and George Washington were both born in 1732. Neither one was an anti-Semite, a remarkable fact at that time in history. In the case of Washington, he was part of a revolution that led to freedom of religion, a radical innovation. As for Haydn, he was unique in his time and place.

  3. Prof Jochnowitz:

    It's fascinating that both were born in 1732. Your comment might show that a few good men are born into every generation, who take little notice of the thinking of the surrounding culture—and as such are true innovators.

    1. You have perhaps learned more now about Leslie Jones,during the year since your post (?). In case not I will copy below part of an extensive article in Gramophone, November 1965. Leslie Jones came from my part of the world, Stoke on Trent. I bought some of his Haydn recording LP's many years ago - found them in a rummage box and splendid they are!
      One of the most interesting phenomena of the record scene during the past year has been the impact of Leslie Jones, whose Pye records of early and middle period Haydn symphonies have been among the industry's best sellers. The first release by his Little Orchestra of London of the Horn Signal, No. 31, had an astonishing success in the United States and has remained in big demand on both sides of the Atlantic. Few conductors have had such an extraordinary career as Leslie Jones. One of his grandfathers worked in the Welsh pits while the other was a bailiff on 3,000 acres in Norfolk. His father was born in a single-room house at Hanley in the kind of poverty one associates with Mayhew's London. Today at 60 Leslie Jones lives in one of England's stately homes with 20 acres of parkland in an atmosphere of John Adam and Capability Brown. What happened? There was absolutely no music in the family. His parents were ardent Salvationists and the boy learnt his first music with the local band playing a saxhorn when he was six and quickly learning to deputise for absent members on instruments he could hardly lift. He won a scholarship to the local High School when he was 11, became an organist and learnt the trombone. By this time he was being asked home by local string players as a pianist to join in domestic music-making and began to explore the classical repertory. "Musically the Army could no longer hold me. Local choirs were singing Orlando Gibbons and I knew where I wanted to go." In fact he went to two places— to a solicitor as office boy and to the home of Professor Theophilus Hemings, the most eminent teacher in the Potteries. The wages paid for the tuition. Academically Mr. Jones subsequently became LTCL, ARCO and ARCM. Soon it was to be the organ console in church, conducting local concerts and brass band contests. Meanwhile his legal employer had offered him articles and within three years he had qualified as a solicitor and set up his own practice.
      That practice was to provide the bread and butter for the next 30 years. Music and the law became inextricably mixed and this is best exemplified by the story of Sir Malcolm Sargent, up to rehearse a concert, demanding impatiently: "Where's Jones?". As so often, the answer was "in court", and it was not long before Sir Malcolm was tugging at the Jones coat-tails and the learned judge was persuaded to adjourn the case—"we are already sitting rather late, I think". Before the war, Mr. Jones had formed the Newcastle-under-Lyme String Orchestra, which had a big influence on the musical life of North Staffordshire. After the war he founded the Stoke-on-Trent Symphony Orchestra and also conducted innumerable local operatic performances.

    2. Thank you for providing important information on Mr. Leslie Jones.


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