Peter Andry: Classical record producer and executive who worked with most of the stars of his time

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The Independent Online

Peter Andry, the classical record executive and producer, spent more than 50 years making records for Decca, EMI and Warner Classics. Among the performers with whom he collaborated were conductors such as Bernstein, Klemperer and Von Karajan and performers like Callas, Carreras and Domingo.

He was born in Hamburg in 1927, the son of a lawyer and an opera singer. The family left Germany around 1936 for Australia. They took the name Andry, it is said, from a telephone book. Andry attended Melbourne Grammar School and studied music at the Melbourne Conservatorium, studying the flute with the celebrated flautist Leslie Barklamb. He became a freelance, playing in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under such prestigious conductors as Klemperer, Kubelik and Goossens, and for some months with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He joined the ABC as a music producer, but soon resigned to go to England.

He came to London in March 1953 on a British Council Bursary to study conducting and composition; he went to Sir Adrian Boult for conducting and William Lloyd Webber for composition, remembering in his autobiography how during lessons, "Lloyd Webber junior [i.e. Andrew] was making music with kitchen implements on the floor."

Although also finding work on the London freelance music scene, which he found "teeming with new opportunities", and across the country, he joined a ballet company for a UK tour. He wrote how "a friend, James Walker, an excellent Australian musician ... allowed me to conduct matinees in the provinces." Walker joined the Decca Record Company and suggested that Andry also apply. He thus joined Decca in February 1954 as assistant to Victor Olof, then Decca's principal Classical Recording Producer. His first assignment was recording Walton's Façade with Peter Pears and Edith Sitwell reciting her poems. "I had a terrible time," he recalled, "because Dame Edith proved unable to keep in time with her own words."

Decca also soon took him to Vienna and Geneva to work on various projects, including opera recordings, during some of the label's most prestigious years. There, his fluent German enabled him to become closely acquainted with a wide circle of leading artists including Karl Böhm, Josef Krips, Erich Kleiber and Ernest Ansermet. A natural linguist, he quickly acquired fluency in French, Spanish and Italian, essential skills in an international classical record company. Although uncelebrated at the time, three years before John Culshaw started his famous pioneering recording of Wagner's Ring Cycle, Andry had already recorded, in stereo, the 1955 Ring from Bayreuth under Joseph Keilberth, which remained unissued and uncelebrated until 2006 when it was released by Testament to wide acclaim.

In 1956 Andry accompanied Victor Olof in a move to EMI, where he worked for over 30 years. He succeeded David Bicknell as Manager of the International Artistes Department and then as head, and ultimately president, of the International Classical Division he was responsible for EMI's worldwide classical marketing as well as making new records.

At EMI he was one of the major world figures of the classical recording industry during the great days of the major companies, and he worked with all the leading artists of the day, including such conductors as Bernstein, Giulini, Haitink, Jansons, Karajan, Kempe, Klemperer, Muti, Previn, Rattle and Tennstedt. It is invidious to mention singers and soloists for fear of omitting an illustrious name, but they included Barenboim, Caballé, Callas, Carreras, Domingo, du Pré, de los Angeles, Nigel Kennedy, Michelangeli, Pavarotti, Perlman, Pollini, Rostropovich, Schwarz-kopf and Kiri Te Kanawa. His memoir Inside the Recording Studio, written with his colleagues Robin Stringer and Tony Locantro, is notably subtitled "working with Callas, Rostropovich, Domingo and the Classical Elite". Commentators have highlighted that, working at the highest level, one of his major achievements for EMI was to persuade Herbert von Karajan to return to the label after a 10-year interregnum. During this time, for some eight years, he was a judge for the Karajan International Conducting Competition.

On his retirement in 1989 he was head-hunted by Ramon Lopez to create Warner Classics, the newly formed classical label, attracting many leading artists and finally retiring in 1996. After over 40 years in the record industry, he had been responsible for many of the most iconic classical recordings ever made, during the peak of the industry's existence.

In 1965, after his first marriage had failed, he married Christine Sunderland, enjoying a 45-year union. I met him from time to time at the reviewers' parties given by Gramophone magazine, where I can attest to his charm and approachability.

He set great store by his charity work, notably for the Music Therapy Charity, of which he was Chairman for many years. He was also a Trustee andlong-standing chairman of the Australian Music Foundation in London from its earliest days until 2008. He also served on various musical councils and bodies including the Royal Philharmonic Society and the Royal Society of Arts, as well as the Royal College of Music's fund-raising committee for their extension, for which he was subsequently awarded an Honorary FRCM. He received an honorary Doctorate from the City University in 1990, a Medal of the Order of Australia in 1997 and an OBE in 2004.

His is now another world as far as recording companies are concerned, and independent companies now dominate the classical market, with a much changed repertoire and a new generation of artists. But for 40 and more years, from his commanding position in the three leading record companies of his day, Peter Andry's achievement was a remarkable one.

Peter Edward Andry, classical record executive and producer: born Hamburg 10 March 1927; OAM 1997, OBE, 2004; married 1956 Rosemary Macklin (marriage dissolved; two sons), 1965 Christine Sunderland (one daughter); died London 7 December 2010.