When Sir Malcom Sargent left the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in 1948 his place as principal conductor was taken by Hugo Rignold who had spent the 1920’s and 30’s establishing himself as one of Britain’s finest jazz violinists and forming his own dance band, the London Casino Orchestra. As André Previn would find in later years there are die-hard ‘classicists’ who deride what they consider inferior forms of music and Rignold’s early days at Liverpool were not easy. He had to ride out the storm of a clique whom he described as a “bigoted and musically-snobbish few” who resented his musical background.
Intent upon improving the standard of the orchestra he announced in his early days that he would not be renewing the contracts of over 20 of the olde players. This resulted in considerable strife with the musicians union and members of the Philharmonic Society. In 1950 the Society’s Committee decided in secret to replace Rignold with the Spanish-born Enrique Jorda. However, one member leaked the decision to the press and started a campaign to retain Rignold, resulting in the Arts Council and Liverpool City Council threatening to withdraw support. The decision was reversed and all settled down. Unfortunately nobody had told Enrique Jorda who turned up in Liverpool to finalise negotiations for his appointment.
It was during Rignold’s tenure with the Phil that they made the headlines with another great controversy in 1953. On this occasion the issue of debate was not a musical one, but the decision of the Philharmonic Society to apply for a licence to sell alcoholic drinks in concert intervals. The Liverpool Temperance Cabinet was quite outraged.
Notwithstanding the early difficulties Rignold’s stewardship of the Phil saw a steady improvement in its reputation and popularity. His own esteem in the music world was enhanced and after he left Liverpool in 1954 he went on to considerable success as musical director of the Royal Ballet (1957-1960) and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1960-67).
He was born Hugo Henry Rignold on 15th May 1905 at Kingston-upon-Thames. His father, Hugo Charles was a conductor and his mother, Agnes Mann, was an opera singer. The family emigrated to Canada in 1911, the young Hugo returning to the UK in 1921 to study at the Royal Academy of Music.
Odd facts about him were that after leaving the Academy he worked for a time as a blacksmith and he also had a passion for motor racing and some thought he would not be out of place on a Grand Prix circuit. At one time in the 1930’s he was a member of Fred Hartley’s Sextet and played with their regular singer, Webster Booth, who would later marry Liverpool-bron Anne Ziegler
During his stay in Liverpool he lived in apartments at 'Lowood'. Lyndhurst Road L18 and 25 Sefton Park Road L8.
He married three times and had two daughters. He died on 30th
Rignold had an apartment here.
Rignold occupied a ground floor flat.
There is an account of Rignold's time at the Phil in The Original Liverpool Sound: The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Story [Liverpool University Press 2009]. The Wikipedia entry is fairly basic but there is an interesting assessment of his career on the music-web international site.
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