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MAESTRO’S MUSINGS – Jeremy Siepmann talks to the British conductor Andrew Penny

September 23, 2010

Andrew Penny

Instrumentalists start early, or so the legend has it. Conductors often take their time. Andrew Penny, for instance, was well into his teens when his love of music finally crystalised into artistic ambition. Before one decisive encounter he wasn’t even headed into music. Since that, he’s never looked back. ‘In my later years at school I was actually looking to the law as a profession. But then a music teacher arrived at the school who’d been at the Royal Manchester College of Music in the 1920s. A man called William Arter. He’d had quite a career as a professional pianist, up until his service with the Eighth Army in North Africa, where he was the sole survivor of a gun crew which got blown up. His hearing in one ear was severely damaged and completely gone in the other, and he’d subsequently turned to teaching. He’d had conducting lessons from Hamilton Harty and accompanied the then Principal of the RMCM, Adolf Brodsky. It was Arter who suggested I audition at the Royal Manchester, which later became the Royal Northern. I played the clarinet and had done some conducting at school, and with the Youth Orchestra, but I was never anything like a prodigy. My father, a geologist, was a good amateur flute player, but we had no professional connections. So it was quite late—only, really, when I was actually at College—that music took centre-stage in my life.’

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