Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Phillip Jones

Magazine article Musical Times

In Memoriam: Phillip Jones

Article excerpt

Phillip Jones was a remarkable musician whose vision and skill transformed the image of brass music and its performance in the second half of the twentieth century. He was also a gifted and dedicated administrator, who served as departmental head at both the Royal Northern College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music, and later as Principal of Trinity College of Music and Chairman of the Musicians Benevolent Fund.

Jones was born in Bath into a family of brass players, and by the age of nine was playing the bugle as a sea cadet. He progressed rapidly on the instrument: aged eleven, he was promoted to trumpet and cornet in the Battersea Grammar School Brass Band, and a year later, on a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, began studying with the doyen of orchestral trumpeters of the period, Ernest Hall. Hall at first doubted his student's suitability for the instrument, suggesting instead that he take up the trombone. Undaunted, Jones proved his teacher wrong by learning to play with a large mouthpiece, exceptional for the time, and went on to acquire under Hall's guidance a large, warm and rounded tone that his teacher compared to `the big, round plaque that hangs over my mantelpiece'. Aged twenty Jones took up his first professional post, as fourth trumpet in the Covent Garden orchestra, graduating to first trumpet soon after. For several years he played in the pit alongside his uncle, Roy Copestake, who had abandoned Henry Hall's dance band to play in classical music. Philip, in turn, abandoned the opera house to become, in swift succession, principal trumpet with all the major London orchestras: Beecham's Royal Philharmonic (1956-60), the Philharmonia (1960-64), the London Philharmonic (1964-65), the New Philharmonia (1965-67), and the BBC Symphony Orchestra (1960-71).

On leaving the BBCSO, Jones devoted himself exclusively to the activities of the brass ensemble that bore his name, and, inevitably it is for his role in the fortunes of this group that he will chiefly be honoured and remembered. The ensemble revolutionised perceptions of brass instruments, creating for them an important corpus of chamber music, while also playing a significant role in the early music movement of the 1960s and 70s. The inspiration to bring two trumpets, horn and trombone together had occurred to him as early as 1947, when, still a student, he had heard the broadcast of a recital by the Amsterdam Koper Quartet from the Concertgebouw Orchestra led by Marinus Komst, the orchestra's principal. Jones subsequently visited Holland to study with him, but it was not until 1951 that the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, with a brand new Theme and variations composed by John Gardner, made its debut. Their break came with a BBC broadcast in April 1952 that included the premiere of a scherzo commissioned from Gordon Jacob. Simultaneously however, with the assistance of the Baines brothers Francis, Anthony and Christopher, who introduced him to the works of sixteenth-century masters such as Gabrieli, Jones began to explore the Baroque and Renaissance repertoire. In 1956, the group joined the Kalmar orchestra at the Wigmore Hall for a performance of Matthew Locke's Music for his majesty's sackbuts and cornets. The ensemble also collaborated with the `early music' choirs of Paul Steinitz, John Eliot Gardiner and Roger Norrington, performing Gabrieli, Schutz and Monteverdi. …

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