Highgate conductor remembered in new Waterlow Park memorial benches book

Conductor Guido Ajmone-Marsan. Picture: THE FRIENDS OF WATERLOW PARK

Conductor Guido Ajmone-Marsan. Picture: THE FRIENDS OF WATERLOW PARK - Credit: Archant

Here we share excerpts from a second story in our series on Waterlow Park’s memorial benches taken from new book: ‘In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park’ edited by Towyn Mason.

The front cover of In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park edited by Towyn Mason. Picture: RI

The front cover of In Living Memory: The Benches of Waterlow Park edited by Towyn Mason. Picture: RICHARD SHIPMAN - Credit: Archant

The inscription on his memorial bench carries the epitaph ‘Vissi d’arte’, ‘I lived for my art’.

And as his life story reveals Guido Ajmone-Marsan did exactly that.

Born in Turin in 1947, Mr Ajmone-Marsan was a renowned conductor who worked with the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), the Royal Philharmonic and Halle orchestras.

It seems Mr Ajmone-Marsan was destined to lead an orchestra from an early age, figuring out aged three how to tune a radio, turning the dial to classical.

Renowned Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini was a family friend who an eight-year-old Mr Ajmone-Marsan once pestered by following him around everywhere on a visit to the podium star.

Mr Ajmone-Marsan studied under the famous teacher Franco Ferrara in Rome after graduating with distinction in conducting and clarinet at the Eastman School of Music in the USA.

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It was in 1973 he burst onto the classical music scene winning the Rupert Foundation competition with the LSO which led to a Festival Hall debut and a year assisting Andre Previn. To take up the post he moved from the US to Primrose Hill then Muswell Hill before settling in Highgate.

His skill with a baton later led to work with the orchestras of Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, to name only a few.

In 1976 he conducted his first opera, The Queen of Spades by Tchaikovsky, at the Spoleto Festival with his Covent Garden debut coming in 1983 with Donizetti’s Don Pasquale.

His passion for Puccini was held in high regard by reviewers with one critic calling him ‘a Puccian to his fingertips’ after a 2004 production of Tosca.

The father of three conducted for the last time in Nuremberg in 2013. At his funeral in 2014 his son Cosimo, a teacher at Highgate School, is reported in the book as saying there was ‘an incredibly emotional being inside of him – one that remained more or less inaccessible to him away from the podium, and one which may explain why music was as precious to him as it was’.

On the words from Tosca on his bench, Helle says: “Guido conducted it with great success so many times. And certainly he lived for his art.”

‘In Living Memory The Benches of Waterlow Park’ (copyright Friends of Waterlow Park 2017) is available at waterlowpark.org.uk and Highgate Bookshop and is priced at £9.99.

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