The music maestro who conducted the greatest orchestras dies at 91

Opera music
Classical violinist John Ludlow

Mr Ludlow, who died aged 91, was the founding conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain in 1948. He was originally from Birmingham and moved to Shropshire in 2004 with his wife Marilyn when he retired.

He was a professor at the Royal College of Music for 27 years and many of his students have held leading positions in the music profession.

“The tributes that have come down to us are wonderful to read. He was much appreciated,” said his daughter, Erica Malcolmson.

An anecdote dates from his time as co-leader of the Royal Opera House Orchestra in Covent Garden, where the legendary ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn danced at Swan Lake.

Erica said: “One day the leader was away and he had to play the lead solo. When Dame Margot came out she asked who had played the solo. She was told it was John Ludlow. ‘I want that ‘he plays every time,’ she said.

He would often teach his students at the Royal College of Music all morning, starting at 8 a.m., then head to places like the South Bank or venues across the country for rehearsals and gigs with orchestras. which he led.

Incidentally, the conductor is the most important person after the conductor, with whom he will liaise, and will generally be the most gifted violinist, generally play the violin solos and ensure the standards of musical excellence. from the whole.

Lifelong friend Paul Gray said, “John has always been a consummate professional, but in two guises – the passionate musician and the man of principle. Such a winning combination.”

Born in Edgbaston in 1931, Mr. Ludlow comes from a musical family, his father David Ludlow being the leader and then conductor of the Birmingham Philharmonic Orchestra, and his mother Dorothy being a talented violist.

Young John was educated at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, then studied at the Royal College of Music, first with Henry Holst and then with Manoug Parikian.

After doing his national service in the army, he joined the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which was then still conducted by the legendary conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. He was then appointed conductor of what was Sadler’s Wells Opera Orchestra in 1957.

In the early 1960s, he joined the BBC Symphony Orchestra, at the 2nd section, then became co-leader of the Royal Opera House Orchestra. He left Covent Garden to enter the independent world in the late 1960s.

He played for Yehudi Menuhin’s Bath Festival Orchestra and also became co-leader of the London Mozart Players.

John Ludlow, right, with Yehudi Menuhin.

In 1970 he returned to the Royal College of Music as a professor, and from 1971, in what was hailed as a magical partnership, he shared the leadership of the Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra with renowned violinist Hugh Bean.

Many other orchestras and ensembles have seen Mr. Ludlow lead forward, including the London Concert Orchestra and the English National Orchestra.

Mr Ludlow has continued to support the National Youth Orchestra throughout his life, not only as a donor but also by helping Roberto Ruisi, who became its youngest conductor in 2012 at the age of 15. , lending him his Stradivarius violin for the orchestral finale. three concerts of the 2014 season.

The gesture made national headlines. Mr Ludlow had been struck by similarities in his youth and that of his young successor, both coming from Edgbaston and attending King Edward’s School, and Roberto going to study at the Royal College of Music where he had taught, and he also saw a lot of his own style and musicality in Roberto’s playing.

Mr Ludlow had bought the rare instrument, valued at £1million and dating from around 1685, in 1965. It has since been sold.

Erica said her father stopped playing the violin about 15 years ago, if not more.

“Since the day he quit he has refused to play another note. I think you get to the point where, like in any sport or art, you can’t play as well as you used to and you want stop before you get off, and because you don’t enjoy it anymore.”

John Ludlow later in life

Mr. Ludlow is survived by his wife Marilyn, his daughters Erica and Anna from his first marriage to violinist Katie, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

He died at his home near Shrewsbury on September 29 and the funeral was held at Shrewsbury Crematorium on Wednesday October 12.