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Barbirolli, Sir John [formerly Giovanni Battista] (1899–1970), conductor and cellist, was born Giovanni Battista at 12 Southampton Row, London, on 2 December 1899, the elder son and second of the three children of an émigré Italian violinist, Lorenzo Barbirolli (1864–1928), and his Parisian wife, ...

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Beecham, Sir Thomas, second baronet (1879–1961), conductor, was born on 29 April 1879 in Westfield Street, St Helens, Lancashire, the elder son and second child of Sir Joseph Beecham, first baronet (1848–1916), manufacturing chemist, and his wife, Josephine Burnett, née Dickins (1850–1934). The family's prosperity began with ...

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Benedict, Sir Julius (1804–1885), conductor and composer, was born at Stuttgart, Germany, on 27 November 1804 (in some nineteenth-century reference works the date was given incorrectly as 24 December 1804), the son of a rich German Jewish banker. At the Stuttgart Gymnasium he received a thorough general education and showed exceptional ability in all his studies. His musical talents were fostered by ...

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Berlioz, (Louis) Hector (1803–1869), composer and conductor, was born on 11 December 1803 in La Côte St André, in the département of Isère, France, the first of four children of Dr Louis-Joseph Berlioz and his wife, Marie-Antoinette-Joséphine, commonly known as Joséphine, the daughter of ...

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Blech, Harry [formerly Hirsch] (1909–1999), conductor and violinist, was born in the East End of London in June 1909, the son of Henri Blech, provisions merchant and commercial traveller, and his wife, Sophie Stock. Shortly after he was born his father went to ...

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Boult, Sir Adrian Cedric (1889–1983), conductor, was born on 8 April 1889 at 4 Abbots Hayes, Liverpool Road, Chester, the only son and second child of Cedric Randal Boult (1853–1950), an oil merchant, and his wife, Katherine Florence Barman (d. 1927). He showed exceptional early musical promise. He entered ...

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Costa, Sir Michael Andrew Angus [formerly Michele Andrea Agniello] (1808–1884), conductor and composer, was born in Naples on 4 February 1808, the son of Pasquale Costa. He studied with his father, his maternal grandfather Giacomo Tritto, and Giovanni Furno, then at the ...

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Davis, Sir Colin Rex (1927–2013), conductor, was born at 45 High Street, Weybridge, Surrey, on 25 September 1927, the youngest of three sons of Reginald George Davis (d. 1944), then a clerk for an oil company, later a bank clerk, and his wife, ...

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Downes, Sir Edward Thomas [Ted] (1924–2009), conductor, was born at 23 John Street, Aston, Birmingham, on 17 June 1924, the third and youngest child of Alfred Downes, shipping clerk, and his wife, Amy Ethel, née Hayward. Ted (as he was always known to family, friends, and colleagues) attended a modest local school where his gifts soon became apparent. From the age of five he studied violin and piano, and sang with his father in the local church choir; but an atmosphere of religious intolerance combined with parental horror at the idea that their son might become a professional musician ('...

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Dvořák, Antonín Leopold (1841–1904), composer and conductor, was born on 8 September 1841 in Nelahozeves, to the north of Prague, the eldest of nine children of František Dvořák (1814–1894), musician, butcher, and innkeeper, and his wife, Anna Zdeňková (1820–1882). Recognition of his early musical talent led to his being sent at the age of twelve to ...

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Elgar, Sir Edward William, baronet (1857–1934), composer and conductor, was born on 2 June 1857 at The Firs, Broadheath, Worcestershire, the fourth of the seven children of William Henry Elgar (1821–1906), an organist and tradesman, and his wife, Ann (1821/2–1902), the daughter of ...

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Gibson, Sir Alexander Drummond (1926–1995), conductor, was born in Motherwell maternity home, Lanarkshire, on 11 February 1926, the son of James McClure Gibson, a butcher, and his wife, Williamina Williams. Educated at Dalziel High School, he was taken at the age of twelve to his first opera, ...

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Goodall, Sir Reginald (1901–1990), conductor, was born in Lincoln on 13 July 1901, the elder son of Albert Edward Goodall, solicitor's clerk, and his wife, Adelaide Jones. There was also a half-sister from Albert Goodall's previous marriage. Reginald went to Lincoln Cathedral choir school...

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Goossens, Sir Eugene Aynsley (1893–1962), composer and conductor, was born in Rochester Square, Camden Town, London, on 26 May 1893, the son of Eugène Goossens (1867–1958), a violinist, and his wife, Annie Cook (1860–1946), an opera singer. The family came originally from Bruges...

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Groves, Sir Charles Barnard (1915–1992), conductor, was born on 10 March 1915 at 52 Park Hall Road, London, the only child of Frederick Groves and his wife, Annie, née Whitehead. His father, who had been invalided out of the trenches during the First World War, died when ...

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Hallé, Sir Charles [formerly Carl Halle] (1819–1895), conductor and pianist, was born on 11 April 1819 in Hagen, Westphalia. He was the son of a church organist and concert director, Friedrich Halle, and his wife, Caroline Branschedt. He had his first piano lessons at the age of three and soon showed extraordinary talent, giving a public performance when he was four of a sonatina composed by his father. When he was eleven he deputized for his father and conducted all the operas (at least ten) during the annual visit of a touring company. They included ...

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Handley, Vernon George [Tod] (1930–2008), conductor, was born on 11 November 1930 at 26 Vista Avenue, Enfield, Middlesex, the second son of Vernon Douglas Handley (1900–1982), a machinist in a paper mill, and his wife, Claudia Lilian, née George (1891–1989). He once described his family as 'very, very working-class' (...

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Hartley, Wallace Henry (1878–1912), musician and bandleader on the RMS Titanic, was born on 2 June 1878 at 136 Greenfield Hill, Colne, Lancashire, the second of the six children (four surviving) of Albion Hartley (1850–1934), mill manager, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Foulds (1851–1927)...

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Harty, Sir (Herbert) Hamilton (1879–1941), conductor and composer, was born on 4 December 1879 in Main Street, Hillsborough, co. Down, Ireland, the fourth of ten children of William Michael Harty (1852–1918), organist of Hillsborough church, and his wife, Annie Elizabeth, daughter of Joseph Hamilton Richards...

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Heath, Sir Edward Richard George [Ted] (1916–2005), prime minister, was born at 1 Holmwood Villas, Albion Road, Broadstairs, Kent, on 9 July 1916, the elder son of William George Heath (1888–1976), carpenter and builder, and his wife, Edith Annie, née Pantony (d...