Obituary: Anthony Baines

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The Independent Online
Anthony Baines was a writer on musical instruments and for 10 years, from 1970 to 1980, curator of the Bate Collection of Historical Wind Instruments at Oxford University.

Baines did not set out on a musical career. First a King's Scholar at Westminster School, he won a scholarship to read Chemistry at Christ Church, Oxford. It was at Westminster that he was first gripped by music. The resident King's Scholars got dressed each morning to classical overtures played on the gramophone by the senior boys. There he started learning clarinet and bassoon, and collecting musical instruments. At Oxford, afternoons were spent cycling around Oxfordshire (his motorcycle having been sold to buy a saxophone), scouring junkshops for instruments. In the evenings he indulged his love of jazz by playing clarinet and sax in a jazz band as well as playing bassoon at every opportunity.

After Oxford, Baines went to the Royal College of Music, where he was awarded an open scholarship on the bassoon and studied orchestration with Gordon Jacob. In 1935 he joined Sir Thomas Beecham's London Philharmonic as bassoon and contra bassoon player.

At the outbreak of the Second World War there were no commissions for men of his age so, using slightly unconventional means of producing the required papers, he went to Swansea where he found a place as an Ordinary Seaman in the Merchant Navy. On his return he received a commission to the Tanks Regiment and then volunteered for service in the Middle East.

In 1942 he was wounded in action, captured and eventually sent by train, via Italy, to a prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. On this journey, he escaped twice: first from the moving train and later, when he was recaptured, from a truck. The second time he was with a group of Sikhs who, incredibly, were still in possession of their knives. Baines borrowed a knife and cut his way out of the canvas truck. For six months, whilst on the run, he was disguised as an Italian shepherd and was only betrayed by the tins of Gold Flake tobacco in his pocket. It remained a source of pride to him that after this there was a price on his head.

Once in the prisoner-of-war camp he did much for morale by arranging the music he could remember for any instruments there, including such unique combinations as banjo and double bass. In time the Red Cross sent a more conventional consignment of instruments. Among many other works he arranged and conducted completely from memory was Beethoven's Eroica Symphony.

After demob in 1945 he returned to the LPO until appointed Assistant Conductor. From 1950 he was Associate Conductor of the International Ballet Company up to the disbandment of the company in 1954. It was there, in 1950, that he met the oboist Patricia Stammers (now known as an authority on hand-woven textiles and also the author of several books), who became his wife in 1960. His first publications, performing editions of early music, appeared at this time, together with articles on musical instruments for the fifth edition of Grove's Dictionary (1954).

Since the war Baines's collection of instruments had grown by leaps and bounds, and he had a growing circle of like-minded friends. Together, in 1946 they formed the Galpin Society, named (at Baines's suggestion) after the foremost British authority and collector up to that time, Canon Francis Galpin. The Galpin Society Journal, which Baines was to edit for 21 years, was the first ever dedicated to musical instruments.

In 1955 he decided to concentrate on research and writing and left the performing world to become bandmaster at Uppingham School,followed by a spell at Dean Close, Cheltenham. His first full book, Woodwind Instruments and Their History, was published in 1957. This was followed by a monograph, Bagpipes, on the Pitt Rivers Museum's collection, in 1960, European and American Musical Instruments in 1967 and the official catalogue of non- keyboard instruments in the collection of the Victorian and Albert Museum in 1968.

Baines was appointed first Lecturer/Curator of the Bate Collection of Historical Wind Instruments in 1970, where he stayed until his retirement in 1980. His book Brass Instruments was published in 1976 followed by numerous articles for the New Grove's Dictionary.

From the time he was in the Army he had used his collection of instruments to illustrate his lectures; about the time of his marriage he had sold most of his collection to Philip Bate. Now he had them to hand once more and enjoyed the use of them both in lectures and, the Bate Collection being a playing collection, he founded the Bate Band, which gave concerts of Haydn and Mozart on the collection's instruments. These were among the earliest performances of music of this period on original instruments. Those who attended his lectures will not forget them, not only because of the content of his teaching and the depth of his learning, but also because of his own inimitable lecturing style and his endearing battles with modern technology.

Baines was elected a Supernumerary Fellow of University College, Oxford, in 1975 and, on retirement in 1980, an Ordinary Fellow of the British Academy for services to music.

Whatever Baines did he did with enthusiasm and thoroughness. Recuperating after an accident he noticed the "weeds" in the garden; this grew into a passionate hobby and he produced beautiful botanical notebooks recording the wild flowers he saw. During the last four years of his life he found another interest; drawing and pastel painting. He was equally enthusiastic in his support of his wife's work and interests; and it is his line drawings which illustrate her book Spinning Wheels, Spinners and Spinning (1977). Visitors to their Oxford home will remember the flax and woad grown in the garden which Baines helped to prepare for spinning and dyeing.

On retirement Tony Baines continued to write, The Oxford Companion to Musical Instruments (1992) being his last book. In 1985 he was awarded the Curt Sachs Award of the American Musical Instrument Society's Curt Sachs Award; and in 1994 he was given an honorary Doctorate of Music at Edinburgh University. He remained characteristically unassuming. On hearing of the dedication of the Baines Music Garden at the Pitt Rivers Museum as an 80th birthday present (in part a thank-you for his authorship of the museum's best-seller, Bagpipes, which has been constantly in print since publication), he was thrilled. "But why should they do that for me?"

Anthony Cuthbert Baines, musician, conductor, scholar of musical instruments: born London 6 October 1912; member, London Philharmonic Orchestra 1935- 39, 1946-49; Associate Conductor, International Ballet Co 1950-54; member, music staff, Uppingham School 1954-65; Editor, Galpin Society Journal 1956-63, 1970-84; member, music staff, Dean Close School 1965-70; Lecturer and Curator, Bate Collection of Historical Wind Instruments, Oxford University 1970-80; Fellow, University College, Oxford 1974-80; FBA 1980; married 1960 Patricia Stammers; died Farnham, Surrey 2 February 1997.