Obituary: Antonia Booth

Antonia Margaret Booth, violinist: born London 27 March 1909; died Wantage 8 November 1993.

THE VIOLINIST Antonia Booth was one of the last surviving musicians who played with the Busch Chamber Orchestra, the leading small orchestra in Europe in the 1930s. And the help she gave latterly to music schools - with money for new musical instruments and scholarships, most notably for pupils at the Purcell School, in London - gave more than adequate thanks to the profession for the extraordinary quality of the teachers and colleagues that she worked with in the pre-war years.

Booth's first musical guides were her parents, her father George Booth, a shipping and leather magnate and son of the philanthropist Charles Booth, and her mother, Margaret, an accomplished amateur violinist and chamber player, who had gone to Leipzig to study at the age of 19. 'Toni' and her two sisters and three brothers all learnt the piano and one other instrument.

Toni Booth's first teachers were the violinist Marjorie Hayward and the composer Frank Bridge, who played the viola in a quartet with Hayward and from whom she received her grounding in music and musicianship. She also studied with the Hungarian virtuoso Jelly d'Aranyi. She then followed in her mother's footsteps to Leipzig to study at the Conservatoire there in 1928. Her teacher she found unexciting, but playing under the baton of Wilhelm Furtwangler, then Kapellmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, was an inspiration.

Booth's friendship with Furtwangler was one of the most important things in her life. While studying with Georg Kulenkampff at the Hochschule fur Musik in Berlin in 1931, she might spend a weekend with Furtwangler playing Beethoven sonatas. She kept in touch with him until his death in 1954, and remained loyal to his memory despite the criticism that he received for staying in Nazi Germany in the Thirties while Booth's other great mentor, Adolf Busch, and his relations had to live abroad to escape persecution.

Adolf Busch founded the Busch Quartet and Busch Trio - with his son-in-law the pianist Rudolf Serkin and his younger brother the cellist Hermann Busch - in Berlin before moving to Basle in 1927. The quartet established its renown once the Busch brothers had been joined by Gosta Andreasson as second violinist, and Karl Doktor on the viola. Booth went to Basle to study with Andreasson for two years, and was drafted into the first violins when Adolf Busch founded the Busch Chamber Orchestra, with the quartet at its heart. At first the orchestra played only Bach's Brandenburg concertos, touring to London, Florence and Naples. Their recordings of the Brandenburgs were acclaimed and recently re- broadcast on Radio 3.

As they extended their repertoire, to Bach suites and Mozart concertos, the orchestra were joined by the oboist Evelyn Rothwell, the horn- player Aubrey Brain (father of Dennis Brain), and by Serkin and Mieczyslaw Horszowski to play the piano solo parts.

Adolf Busch's brother Fritz was appointed music director of the Glyndebourne opera festival in 1934. When he came to present Don Giovanni he wished the stage band in the final scene to be real musicians rather than actors miming to the orchestra: Booth and her sister Polly, a cellist, were duly drafted in to lead the band.

The Busch Chamber Orchestra broke up with the coming of war, when Booth played with Ensa and was first violin with the Reid Orchestra in Edinburgh. After the war, she played for about three years with a quartet led by Andre Mangeot with Maxwell Ward on viola and Joan Dickson on cello, did some teaching, and conducted educational concerts for the local authority in Barking, Essex. But the Thirties were her glory days as a player. She did not regard herself as a great technician, but she was a remarkably intuitive musician and many of her colleagues considered her their finest critic. She lived in London until recently when she moved to Oxfordshire to be near her surviving brother, John.

Toni Booth had been lively and striking in appearance in her youth, and remained a gamine figure to the end, her eyes closing as a pencil- thin smile spread right across her face. She always said exactly what she thought. And always with a laugh: 'Ha ha, darling.'

She was shy and invincibly unworldly. In her Basle days she regularly dined with Montagu Norman, Governor of the Bank of England (her father was a director of the Bank), and not yet a married man, when he came to Switzerland for meetings of the International Bank of Settlements. A journalist from the Financial Times got to hear of this and tracked Booth down to ask whether she had inside intelligence on the Bank Rate. She had no idea what the Bank Rate was, and this side of life was always a mystery to her.

She lived for music, and in later days, her first question to a stranger at dinner was often: 'Which is your favourite Brandenburg Concerto?' If there was no satisfactory answer forthcoming, the conversation usually ended there.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine