|Born||12 August 1942|
|Origin||Birmingham, England, United Kingdom|
|Died||15 May 1976
Chesham Bois, England
|Occupations||Musical director and musicologist|
|Instruments||shawm, crumhorn, flute|
|Associated acts||The Early Music Consort of London|
Biography and career
Munrow was born in Birmingham and both his parents taught at the University of Birmingham. His mother Hilda Norman Munrow was a dance teacher, and father Albert Davis "Dave" Munrow was a lecturer and physical education instructor who wrote a book on the subject. David Munrow attended King Edward's School until 1960. He excelled academically.
In 1960 he went to Peru, teaching English under the British Council student teacher scheme. He returned with Bolivian flutes and other obscure instruments. Whilst reading English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he noticed a crumhorn on a friend's wall, which prompted him to commence an independent study of early musical instruments. From his starting position as a pianist, singer and bassoonist he taught himself many old instruments. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as a bassoonist but soon played instruments of Shakespeare's time. Although he displayed talent on a wide variety of instruments, he had a particular lasting influence as a recorder player. His English style of discreet, controlled expression contrasts to the greater tonal flexibility of the Continental style espoused by the Dutch recorder player Frans Brüggen and others.
By 1967 he was a lecturer in early music in the University of Leicester and married to Gillian Reid. With Christopher Hogwood he formed the Early Music Consort, each of whose core members was an expert in their particular instruments. Sometimes other professional musicians were employed when necessary, such as Nigel North and Robert Spencer, both highly regarded lutenists. From 1968, he toured the world, unearthing obscure instruments in every country he visited. He commissioned reconstructions of instruments related to the cornett and rackett from, amongst others, Otto Steinkopf. Two television programmes made him a household name: The Six Wives of Henry VIII (1970) and Elizabeth R (1971).
Munrow's two contributions to film music were for British directors: Ken Russell's The Devils (1971) and Zardoz (1974), written and directed by John Boorman. The latter included arrangements of Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 for early music instruments.
During his relatively short life, Munrow released over fifty records, some of which are now available on CD. In addition to his recordings with the Early Music Consort, he recorded with Michael Morrow's Musica Reservata, Alfred Deller and the King's Singers. Munrow recorded Bach and Monteverdi many times, but his widest influence was in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. His three-record set with the Early Music Consort The Art of the Netherlands, issued in 1976 (EMI SLS5049), was particularly influential in popularising the genre.
On BBC Radio 3 he presented Pied Piper, a multi-ethnic, centuries-spanning spread of music from Monteverdi to the Electric Light Orchestra rock group. Munrow also had dealings notably with The Young Tradition and Shirley and Dolly Collins.
Apart from his regular radio slot and other programmes, he appeared on television, most notably on BBC 2 in a series entitled Ancestral Voices in a London studio, and on ITV Early Musical Instruments, filmed on location at Ordsall Hall in Salford. He also wrote one book entitled Instruments of the Middle Ages, and the Renaissance. Originally, this accompanied a record set of the same name.
Munrow committed suicide by hanging in 1976 while in a state of depression; the recent deaths of his father and father-in-law, to whom he dedicated his last book, are thought to have contributed to his decision to take his own life. He had, however, attempted suicide by drug overdose the previous year.
Munrow perhaps did more than anyone else in the second half of the 20th century to popularise early music in Great Britain, despite a career lasting barely ten years. This was underscored when the Voyager space probe committee selected one of his recordings to be carried on it as part of the Voyager Golden Record.
Munrow left behind him not only his recordings but a large collection of musical instruments. The Munrow Archive at the Royal Academy of Music holds a collection of his letters, papers, TV scripts, scores, musical compositions and books. The collection is accessible to the public. The online catalogue of the British Library Sound Archive reveals his many recording entries, and those of many other noted personages.
Information about the life and work of David Munrow can be found in obituaries about him in 1976 (particularly the OUP journal Early Music), and in the following sources: a detailed piece in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Christopher Hogwood; The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians; The Art of David Munrow, a record set with a biography by Arthur Johnson, the producer of Pied Piper and on the old vinyl sleeve of the Renaissance Suite.
- Recordings with Musica Reservata
- French Court Music of the Thirteenth Century (1967)
- Music from the 100 Years War (1968)
- Music from the Decameron (1969)
- 16th Century Italian Dance Music (1970)
- Music from the Court of Burgundy (1971)
- Recordings with The Early Music Consort, directed by David Munrow
- Ecco la primavera - Florentine Music of the 14th Cent (1969)
- Music of the Crusades (1971)
- The Triumphs of Maximilian I (1970)
- Music for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain (1972)
- The Art of Courtly Love (1973)
- Praetorius - Dances and Motets (1973)
- Music of Guillaume Dufay: Missa "Se La Face Ay Pale" (1974)
- Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1976)
- Monteverdi's Contemporaries (1976)
- Music of the Gothic Era (1976)
- Greensleeves to a Ground (1976)
- Festival of Early Music - Music from 14th Century Florence, Music of the Crusades & The Triumphs of Maximilian (1976)
- Henry Purcell: Birthday Odes for Queen Mary (1976)
- The Art of the Netherlands (1976)
- Two Renaissance Dance Bands / Monteverdi's Contemporaries (1996; recordings from 1971 and 1975)
- The Young Tradition and Early Music Consort
- Galleries (1968)
- The Round Table & David Munrow
- Spinning Wheel (1969)
- "Saturday Gigue/Scarborough Fair" (single) (1969)
- Shirley and Dolly Collins & the Early Music Consort of London
- Anthems in Eden (1969)
- Royal Shakespeare Wind Band, directed by Guy Wolfenden
- Music From Shakespeare's Time (1969)
- David Munrow, Gillian Reid, Christopher Hogwood
- David Munrow, Oliver Brookes, Robert Spencer, Christopher Hogwood
- The amorous flute (1973)
- David Munrow solo or in various combinations
- Telemann: Suite for Recorder and Orchestra, Concerti for Recorder and Orchestra by Sammartini and Handel
- The Art of the Recorder (1975)
- The Art of David Munrow (1971 - 1976)
- Music for radio, television and cinema
- The Six Wives of Henry VIII (BBC TV) (1970)
- Elizabeth R (BBC TV) (1970)
- The Devils (directed by Ken Russell) (1971)
- Zardoz (directed by John Boorman) (1973)
- Henry VIII and His Six Wives directed by Waris Hussein (1972)
- Tolkien's The Hobbit (BBC radio) (1973)
- La Course en tête Documentary on Belgium Cyclist Eddie Merckx. Soundtrack released as Renaissance Suite (1974)
Awards and recognitions
Similar early music performers with an interest in renaissance and medieval music.
- David Munrow: Pied Piper. "Biography". Accessed on 31 October 2011 at: http://www.davidmunrow.org/biography.htm.
- "Henry VIII And His Six Wives: David Munrow Conducting The Early Music Consort Of London". Retrieved 1 June 2009.
- Website dedicated to David Munrow, with biography
- The Art of the Netherlands
- The Early Music Legend