Peter Mountain

Peter Mountain, violinist.
Peter Mountain, violinist.
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A long and varied career as a musician saw Peter Mountain, leader of Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra from 1955 to 1966 – the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after 1957 – work with some of the greatest names in 20th century music.

As a member of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Mr Mountain, who has died age 89, played under Toscanini, Furtwängler, Klemperer and von Karajan.

He was born in Shipley into a musical family, and at five was being encouraged to play the piano by his mother. Two years later his father, a mill worker, began teaching him the violin.

He also learned the clarinet, but made no mention of that in 1943 when he joined the Royal Marines’ band as cymbalist.

He was 16 when he won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, arriving in London on the first day of the Blitz.

He studied with Frederick Grinke, played for Henry Wood, founder of the Promenade Concerts, and received guidance from the inspirational violin teacher Sascha Lasserson.

With the Marines he crossed to France soon after D-Day and was among the first to enter liberated Paris.

Playing the violin again, he led a Forces’ orchestra tour of the Far East, during which he performed the Tchaikovsky Concerto for the King of Siam in Bangkok.

From 1947 to 1955, he was first a member of the Boyd Neel String Orchestra – precursor of the many chamber ensembles of today – and then of the original Philharmonia Orchestra founded by Walter Legge.

He was touring with the Philharmonia in Vienna in 1954 when his Rogerius violin was stolen.

Two Austrian newspapers suggested he had not brought the instrument into the country at all and that the disappearance was a fabrication; he successfully sued them both for libel.

Establishing himself as a soloist and chamber music player, Mr Mountain broadcast concerto performances regularly and also began a lifetime duo-partnership with his wife, the pianist Angela Dale, the couple having met as students at the RAM.

Mr Mountain also led several chamber ensembles and later in Liverpool, his own string quartet.

In 1955, he was appointed leader of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and played the Max Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor with them on the occasion that the orchestra was granted Royal status.

He worked first with John Pritchard then with Charles Groves, and guest conductors included Pierre Monteux, Rudolf Kempe, Adrian Boult, Malcolm Sargent and many others.

In 1966 he returned to London and became principal 2nd violin and sometimes leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, playing at Glyndebourne Opera and doing European tours. He also led the life of a busy London freelance, playing regularly for concerts and recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra.

In 1968, he was appointed concertmaster of the BBC Training Orchestra in Bristol. Leading musicians were engaged as visiting coaches, and the strings had regular sessions with Sidney Griller and the Amadeus Quartet. Later the orchestra was reduced in size and renamed the Academy of the BBC.

In 1975, when it was evident that the Bristol project was to be abandoned, Mr Mountain accepted an invitation to become head of strings at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow, and there followed a happy period of 15 years until his retirement in 1990.

During this time he and his wife commissioned many works by Scottish composers, and he served as chairman of the Scottish Society of Composers. He was also chief string coach for the newly-formed National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, and led the orchestra for the John Currie Singers, and was guest leader for the Scottish BBC, the Northern Sinfonia and others.

Following his retirement, he and Angela Dale settled in West Yorkshire. They carried on an active musical life, and he became head of strings for Bradford Education, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bradford University.

Following the death of his wife in 2004, he gave up playing and teaching, and devoted his time to writing and arranging music. He was also a man who enjoyed gadgets and wrote two volumes of memoirs, Scraping a Living (2007) and Further Scrapings (2009).

He is survived by their three children, Paul, a violinist, teacher and conductor, Alison, an artist and teacher, and Jeanette, a cellist, soloist and continuo specialist.