It was my hope that readers with longish memories might be able to add details to the articles in this series. Eventually, if sufficient material is accumulated, the articles may need to be revised in the light of the new information. For the moment I’ll limit myself to periodical updates. Many thanks to those who have written and an open invitation to others to offer their memories or other information.
Richard Pennycuick, from Australia, has provided the following:
“As the article mentions, Dean Dixon was the conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the mid-60s. I remember a short film called Concerto for Orchestra, made in 1965. It used the Bartok work as the music for the film which showed various members of the orchestra playing, rehearsing, and engaged in various leisure activities. For a reason I forget, Dixon had one arm in a sling which naturally limited the range of his conducting movements. The film was made by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit. I can find no mention of its being released on DVD, but the Australian National Film and Sound Archive holds 16mm copies: http://tinyurl.com/krbbjh3
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Peter Joelson has provided information which at least partly fills in the picture of what Rignold did after leaving Birmingham:
“When I was a student in Cape Town in the late 1960s and very early 1970s, we were thoroughly delighted when Hugo Rignold arrived on the scene to revitalise the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, taking over for half of the year for several years.
I knew a few players in the orchestra and they spoke very highly of his rehearsal methods, and the results shone. His first concert included Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, and among works performed for the first time was Mahler's Ninth.
I met him the once, a charming man accompanied by his daughter. I got the impression his health wasn't good, not least from the slow gait. After leaving South Africa at the end of 1973 I lost touch with the orchestra's progress, but was sad to read of his death in 1976; he did seem rather older than his years.
Following this up, I found an interesting extract from a book by James Gollin: Pianist: A Biography of Eugene Istomin
“The conductor of the concerts, Hugo Rignold, became a great friend. Rignold was in Cape Town for a year as the symphony’s guest conductor. With him was his family, including his very pretty young daughter, Jennifer. Rignold, Eugene said, was a first-rate conductor who had been a victim of British snobbism. A violinist, Rignold had spent the 1930s as a player and arranger in British dance bands, including his own. Like Eugene Ormandy ... Rignold had had a great trouble living down his pop past and gaining acceptance as a “serious” musician. He had gone to Egypt during the year for a year as conductor of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra. This engagement had burnished his reputation, and after the war, Rignold had won stints at Covent Garden, Liverpool and The Hague. At length, he had settled down for nine years as music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, but was never offered a London orchestra. Eugene liked Rignold the musician and admired the Rignold lifestyle. “He was an excellent
conductor. And like all these conductors, he drove an Aston Martin [sports car]. And he loved ‘gahrls’. ‘Gahrls, gahrls, gahrls’. But he had no intention of letting Jennifer run loose.”
I also found an internet discussion where Rignold is described as “a bit of an expert on good wine”. He is also remembered for some odd phrases during rehearsals such as “dig it out”, which were joked about by the players. The specific reference to his not being offered a London orchestra is interesting. It implies he felt he should have been. Was this something that rankled, something he was liable to bring up over a glass of wine?
I’ve tried to trace a Rignold appointment at The Hague, but without success. Can any Dutch reader help? I’m also puzzled by the idea that “all these conductors” drove Aston Martins. I’ve tried to imagine Sir Adrian Boult gadding about town in one, but the prospect was too mind-boggling.
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