Basil Cameron


Born: August 18, 1884 Died: June 26, 1975
Adept at conducting both serious works and lighter music, Basil Cameron was well-grounded in violin technique before he took up the baton. Although he was first identified as the leader of a credible municipal orchestra at an English resort, he soon attracted the attention of several celebrated musicians and writers who discovered in him a musician of distinct ability. Later, he served as music director with two prominent American orchestras before returning to his native country. Cameron studied with British organist, composer, and pedagogue Tertius Noble and, for a more extended period of time (1902 to 1906) with legendary violinists Joseph Joachim and Leopold Auer at Berlin's Hochschule für Musik. Upon completion of his training in Berlin, Cameron returned to England and was engaged as a violinist by the London Symphony Orchestra. In 1912, he was appointed music director at the seaside resort of Torquay. Believing the British audiences were more impressed by musicians with German surnames, he became known as "Hindenburg." A Wagner festival mounted in 1913 attracted attention for both its ambition and excellence. An invitation to repeat the festival in London put him in contact with Percy Grainger and Sir Thomas Beecham and, in 1914, Cameron produced and led a Richard Strauss festival in Torquay. The outbreak of WWI necessitated the abandonment of his German pseudonym; the conductor joined the British Army and was subsequently shipped off to France. Wounded while leading his company in battle, he found his musical ambitions on hold until the war's end. Following the Armistice, Cameron led an orchestra in another seaside resort, Brighton. There, he championed new works by English composers in addition to varying his programs with lighter fare. Following Brighton, Cameron took up similar posts in Harrogate and Hastings, producing in the latter town a spring festival. Londoners were attracted and Cameron's fame grew steadily, assisted by supportive comments from Grainger and George Bernard Shaw. Shaw, who had become acquainted with the conductor's work in Torquay, composed an article about Cameron that made him famous in all parts of England. Grainger, meanwhile, wrote of Cameron's "peculiar quality of excitement and exhilaration," expressing appreciation for his "normalness of his tempi and the beautiful tonal balance he keeps so scrupulously." Between 1928 and 1933, Cameron guest conducted several London orchestras, notably the BBC Symphony Orchestra. During this same period, the conductor established himself with American audiences. A 1930 guest appearance with the San Francisco Symphony led to an invitation to become its music director, a position held jointly with Russian-born Issay Dobroven. In 1932, he resigned that post to become permanent conductor of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, remaining there until 1938. Returning to England in 1938, Cameron began an extended period of guest conducting with many of his native country's orchestras, both in London and in other principal cities, also becoming an assistant to Henry Wood for the Promenade Concert series. Cameron even appeared in 1950 at a Royal Albert Hall Promenade Concert directing soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in a performance of a rare Franz Liszt arrangement of Schubert's Der Hirt auf em Felsen. His reputation for reliable musicianship and vital interpretive gifts also brought him engagements with many of Europe's leading symphonies. Among Cameron's numerous collaborations, his live performances and recordings with pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch are particularly distinguished. In 1957, the conductor was made a Commander of the British Empire.

There are 4 Basil Cameron recordings available.

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