Obituary: Peter Andry

Martin Cullingford15th Dec 2010
Peter Andry (Photo: Peter Vernon / Warner Music Group)Peter Andry made a unique contribution to decades of recordings (Photo: Peter Vernon / Warner Music Group)

Peter Andry, who died on December 7, 2010, was a figure unique in the history of the classical record business. A musician-turned-producer-turned-company executive, his breadth of achievement in contributing to the classical catalogues of Decca, EMI and Warner Music is unrivalled and he worked with almost every major classical artist from the 1950s onwards.

After studying music at the University of Melbourne, Peter began his professional career as a flautist in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, playing under such conductors as Klemperer, Goossens, Barbirolli and Kubelik. He then started conducting ballet, and came to England in 1953 on a British Council Scholarship to study conducting under Sir Adrian Boult. In February 1954 he joined the recording staff of Decca, where he worked as assistant to Victor Olof. The next few years were spent mainly in Vienna, where he was involved in producing some of Decca’s famous Mozart opera recordings under Karl Böhm, Josef Krips and Erich Kleiber, and in Geneva where he recorded the Swiss Romande Orchestra under Ernest Ansermet. It was at this time that he produced for Decca the first ever stereo recording of Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth in 1955 conducted by Joseph Keilberth, issued by Testament in 2006 to great acclaim.

In 1956 he and Victor Olof were engaged by EMI to revitalise the HMV recording programme under David Bicknell after the termination of EMI’s long standing reciprocal licensing agreement with RCA Victor resulted in the loss of many of HMV’s best selling classical performers. The first artists Andry recorded for EMI included Ernest von Dohnanyi playing his own piano works and Yehudi Menuhin playing the Bach Violin Sonatas and Partitas. Among the other major artists he took on were Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Malcolm Sargent and the Amadeus Quartet. Andry later became commercial manager of EMI’s International Artists' Department and eventually succeeded David Bicknell as its manager in 1969. He renamed the operation the International Classical Division and, for the first time, brought to the division the responsibility for merchandising and marketing the company’s classical recordings as well as making them.

Among Peter’s many achievements, one of the most significant was persuading Herbert von Karajan to return to EMI after an absence of ten years, and one of Karajan’s first projects was the blockbuster recording of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto in Berlin with Oistrakh, Rostropovich and Richter. After Walter Legge left EMI in 1964, Andry took over Legge’s principal artists including Klemperer, Giulini and Callas, and it was one of the major disappointments of his entire professional career when Callas withdrew at the last minute from the long-awaited recording of La traviata painstakingly set up in Rome in September 1968 with Pavarotti as Alfredo and Giulini as conductor.  But the list of superstars who recorded for EMI in Andry’s day is dazzling, and as well as those already mentioned, includes: Barenboim, Caballé, Carreras, Domingo, du Pré, de los Angeles, Gedda, Jansons, Kennedy, Kempe, Michelangeli, Muti, Mutter, Pavarotti, Perlman, Pollini, Previn, Rattle, Sills, Te Kanawa, Tennstedt and Schwarzkopf.

Andry retired from EMI in 1989, and was immediately invited by Ramon Lopez to join the Warner Music Group where he filled the newly-created post of President, Warner Classics with great distinction. He built up a roster of outstanding artists like Daniel Barenboim, José Carreras and Maxim Vengerov, as well as overseeing the activities of the other group classical companies including Erato and Teldec. He finally retired in 1996 after more than 40 years in the classical record business. He was also proud of his work with the Music Therapy Charity, of which he was chairman for many years, and the Australian Music Foundation, of which he was one of the founders, and he worked tirelessly at arranging celebrity concerts and raising funds to grant scholarships to Australian music students.

One of Peter’s characteristics was his personal charm, which was allied to a friendly and generous nature. Working closely with him at EMI for some 25 years, I observed his dealings with artists and their managements, and saw just how hard he sometimes had to work to keep everybody happy and bring in the classical recording programme on budget year after year. He never lost his enthusiasm for the business, nor for the joy of music making. I recently shared many happy hours with him reliving the ups and downs of dealing with artists and making recordings when Robin Stringer and I collaborated with him on his book called Inside the Recording Studio published in 2008 by Scarecrow. Peter Andry was an outstanding man, liked and respected by all his colleagues and the artists he dealt with.

Tony Locantro

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