Biography

Peter Mountain Photograph

Peter Mountain had a long and varied career as a musician in Britain. Born on 3 October 1923 in Shipley, West Yorkshire, into a musical family, he obtained a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London aged 16, and began his studies in September 1940, exactly at the beginning of the World War Two German Blitz of the city. Student days were accompanied by first hand experience of the trials and tribulations of wartime London. Subsequently he served in the Royal Marines Band, which landed shortly after D Day in France, and were the first British troops to arrive in Paris. In 1945-46 he led a large Services symphony orchestra on a tour of South-East Asia Command, attached to Earl Mountbatten, visiting Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Singapore, Siam (Thailand), Burma and India.

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. Conductors included Toscanini, Furtwangler, Karajan, Klemperer and many others, with the top class soloists of the time. The recordings and European tours of this orchestra helped establish Britain’s post-war prestige as a great musical centre, and the many recordings still available from this time demonstrate that it was indeed a supreme ensemble by any standard.

Mountain was also establishing himself as a soloist and chamber music player. He broadcast concerto performances regularly and also began a lifetime duo-partnership with his wife – pianist Angela Dale. The couple had met as students at the RAM and they were active in recitals throughout the country and gave many BBC broadcasts. He also led several chamber ensembles and later in Liverpool had 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 when the orchestra was granted Royal status (Max Bruch was Music Director in Liverpool from 1881-1883). 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 free-lance, and played regularly for concerts and recordings with the English Chamber Orchestra.

In 1968 he was appointed Concertmaster of the BBC Training Orchestra, newly set up in Bristol as a post graduate establishment for the further education of young orchestral professional players just leaving music college. Meredith Davies was the principal conductor, followed by Norman Del Mar. Mountain’s duties were to lead the orchestra, supervise coaching and chamber music activities and to conduct some performances. Leading London 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 it was evident that the Bristol project was to be shamefully abandoned by the BBC, so Mountain accepted an invitation to become Head of Strings at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music in Glasgow, the beginning of a happy period of 15 years up to his retirement in 1990. During this time he expanded his solo and chamber music activities. He and Angela commissioned many works by Scottish composers and he served as chairman of the Scottish Society of Composers. Complementing his work with the RSAMD students, he was chief string coach for the newly formed National Youth Orchestra of Scotland. He led the orchestra for the John Currie Singers and was guest leader for the Scottish BBC, the Northern Sinfonia and others.

He was obliged to retire in 1990, so he and Angela moved back to his roots in West Yorkshire. The couple carried on a very active musical life, and Mountain became Head of Strings for Bradford Education. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Bradford University for his work in music education. In 2004 Angela sadly died, after which he gave up playing and teaching and devoted his time to writing and arranging music.

The couple had three children: Paul, who has had a career as violinist, teacher and conductor; Alison, who studied at the Slade and is an artist and teacher; and Jeanette who is a well known cellist, soloist and continuo specialist.