THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Music blog

08 August 2012

Derek Collier Collection

Collier b+w photo

DEREK COLLIER COLLECTION ON SOUNDS

Last year a collection of recordings by British violinist Derek Collier (1927-2008) was donated to the British Library by his daughter.  Collier’s career spanned the second half of the twentieth century, and this career is documented in broadcasts he gave for the BBC which he preserved.  Recordings from the first two decades have now been uploaded to the BL Sounds website from lacquer discs, many in a poor state of deterioration.  Classical music | British Library - Sounds

Collier began to play the violin at the age of six. He then became a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London and later studied intensively with Alfredo Campoli (1906-1991). Collier was the leader of many of the great British orchestras including the Bournemouth Symphony, London Symphony, the Royal Philharmonic and Philharmonia.

Collier’s first surviving broadcast dates from 1949 when he was twenty-two and although the collection of recordings spans his entire career, only those without copyright restrictions have been posted on BL Sounds. 

In addition to the standard violin repertoire Collier performed works by lesser known composers and gave first performances in Britain of many works including concertos by Dag Wirren, Rodrigo and Boris Blacher.  He performed twice at the Proms - a Bach Concerto with Malcolm Arnold conducting in 1966 and the Violin Concerto by Arthur Benjamin in 1961 [link here when uploaded].  During the 1950s he performed Bredon Hill a Rhapsody for violin and orchestra written by English composer Julius Harrison in 1941.  There are two versions available to hear and this one from 1956 with the BBC Midland Orchestra includes the original BBC announcement.  Bredon Hill

Campoli toured the USSR twice in 1956 and he may have been the influence behind Collier performing violin concertos by Khachaturian, Kabalevsky and Rakov during the 1950s.  The rarely heard Estonia composer Nikolai Lopatnikov (1903-1976) emigrated to America.  Collier performs his Toccata from the Suite Op. 17.  Toccata

The earliest broadcasts are short recitals of well known pieces or extracts from concertos with piano accompaniment and these can be searched by broadcast date or composer.  Collier often performed with either Wilfred Parry or Josephine Lee at the piano.

Collier also appeared on the BBC’s more popular light entertainment radio programmes including Variety Playhouse, and for this programme in 1962 performed Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen where he is introduced by actor Dennis Price, most famous for his role in the British film Kind Hearts and CoronetsZieguenerweisen

Collier also played many arrangements for violin and piano of works originally for piano solo – preludes by Shostakovich, one of six piano pieces by Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) plus many of the famous arrangements by Jascha Heifetz.  In addition to favourite violin ‘encore’ pieces such as William Kroll’s Banjo and Fiddle, which can be compared in two performances from 1952 and 1960, Collier also played original works by another great violinist of the past, Fritz Kreisler. 

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