Antonia Butler's parents were music lovers, though amateurs. Her father played violin and her mother was an accomplished pianist. The musical d'Aranyi sisters (Hungarians who were great nieces of violinist Joseph Joachim) would visit their home to play chamber music and rehearse concerto performances with Antonia's mother accompanying at the keyboard.
Antonia came to the cello relatively late, at the age of ten. The d'Aranyi family'sRead more influence got her an audition with the great teacher Julius Klengel of the Leipzig Conservatory, where she stayed for four years. She then went to the École Normal in Paris to study with Alexanian, who taught her for three years. She considered the years of study with Alexanian to be the most important.
Butler started playing professionally in the 1930s and started getting concert dates as a result from a successful Wigmore Hall debut. Nevertheless, she had doubts about the solidity of her bowing technique and went for some touch up lessons with Juliette Alvin, a great French cellist known for her seemingly effortless bow arm. Alvin taught her bowing on open strings using the Kreutzer violin studies while Butler was able to continue her concert career.
Thus, when she was asked at short notice to replace Thelma Reiss in Haydn's Concerto in D major at the important Proms Concerts in London, she was well-prepared and always gave Juliette Alvin the credit.
She was engaged to play the same concerto in the 1939 Three Choirs Festival, but it was canceled when war broke out. One memorable occasion, she was playing Brahms' Double Concerto in August 1949 with violinist Arthur Catterall at a Proms in Queens Hall. The air-raid siren sounded halfway through the concert, which meant the audience could not go into the streets, so the musicians continued to entertain them throughout the night by playing such things as a two-cello arrangement of a Handel violin sonata and an impromptu performance of Schumann's piano quintet. The all-clear was not sounded until early in the morning.
When Dame Myra Hess organized the lunchtime concert series at the National Gallery (from which all the pictures had been removed for the duration of the war), Butler became an enthusiastic regular. These free concerts were immensely popular morale-builders and were attended by people who had never heard classical music before.
In 1941, she married pianist Norman Greenwood and frequently toured with him. She was known for her interpretation of British music. In the 1960s, she started teaching regularly at the Royal College of Music, the Birmingham School of Music, and the Menuhin School, slowing withdrawing from concert life. She became known as one of the finest cello teachers in Great Britain. Read less
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