Humphrey Burton

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Humphrey Burton
CBE
Born (1931-03-25) 25 March 1931 (age 83)
Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England
Nationality British
Occupation Television presenter, broadcaster and producer
Children Six
Awards

Humphrey Burton, CBE (born 25 March 1931) is a British classical music television presenter, broadcaster, TV director, producer, impresario, lecturer and biographer of musicians.

Biography[edit]

Early life and career[edit]

Born 1931 in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, he attended Long Dene, a co-educational progressive school 1943-47, and the Judd School, Tonbridge 1947-49, and did 18 months National Service in the Royal Corps of Signals before reading music and history at Fitzwilliam House, Cambridge during 1951-54. He then spent a year in France on a French Government scholarship, researching music life in the 18th century, before joining BBC Radio as a trainee studio manager in 1955. He was seconded to the Recorded Programmes Production Unit and began regular broadcasts as a presenter of Transatlantic Turntable in 1957. The following year he transferred to BBC Television, joining the production team of the new arts programme Monitor. He directed many studio programmes and documentaries, working alongside Ken Russell, John Schlesinger, David Jones and Peter Newington, rising to the post of editor, in succession to his mentor Huw Wheldon, in 1962.

He helped spearhead the BBC's preparation for the opening of BBC-2, launched in April 1964, and the following year was appointed the BBC's first Head of Music and Arts 1965-67. In 1965 he won BAFTA's top award of the year (then SFTA) for creativity in music programming; credits include The Golden Ring, Elgar (producer), Master Class and Workshop. He then worked for eight years in commercial television, being one of the founder members of London Weekend Television, where after a spell as head of Drama, Arts and Music he resigned from management and devised, edited and presented the award-winning arts series Aquarius (1970-75), the forerunner of The South Bank Show. His direction credits included The Great Gondola Race and Anatomy of a Recording.

Burton returned to the BBC as head of Music and Arts, creating such long-running strands as Young Musician of the Year and Arena, until 1981, when aged 50 he resigned from management to concentrate on direction: he stayed with the BBC until 1988 as editor of performance programmes and director of Proms and opera relays from the Royal Opera House, English National Opera, Glyndebourne, and the Scottish Opera (Bernstein's Candide).

Freelance work had begun in 1970, when he produced and directed an Emmy-winning bicentennial portrait entitled Beethoven's Birthday for CBS TV. [1] For later showings on A&E, and for VHS and DVD release, the program was retitled Bernstein on Beethoven: A Celebration in Vienna. [2] A 20-year association with conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein followed; he directed over 170 documentaries and filmed concerts, including cycles of symphonies by Mahler, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and many others, as well as Bernstein's own compositions. The films were almost all produced for the Munich company Unitel. He also worked with other great conductors, including Karajan, Solti, Kleiber, and Abbado, and with pianists including Pogorelic, Brendel and Zimerman.

He was guest director of the Hollywood Bowl in 1983 and director of Tanglewood's 70th Bernstein Birthday Bash in 1988, and served as Artistic Adviser to the Barbican 1988–91, where he was responsible for the award-winning festival of Scandinavian arts entitled Tender is the North. After Bernstein died in 1990, Burton spent three years in New York researching and writing his biography, Leonard Bernstein 1994. Other musician biographies followed: Yehudi Menuhin 2000 Yehudi Menuhin.[3] and William Walton - The Romantic Loner (OUP 2002, co-authored with Maureen Murray.) Eor the decade after his return from New York he worked in the USA and Europe as director and/or programme presenter of classical music (for Classic FM and Radio 3), opera, ballet, documentaries and music competitions. He celebrated his 70th birthday by conducting Verdi's Requiem at the Royal Albert Hall, raising £75,000 for charity. Later in 2001 he moved to Aldeburgh, where he is President of the Aldeburgh Music Club and has presented eight seasons of Matinees Musicales at the local cinema. In 2011 he mounted a Schubert weekend to mark his 80th birthday.

He has been awarded four Emmies and two British Film and Television Academy Awards, the Royal Television Society's silver medal and a Sony Gold Award. He was awarded the CBE in the Millennium Honours 2000. In 1957 he married Gretel Davis, but the couple later divorced. In 1970 he married Swedish radio and TV presenter Christina Hansegård. He has six children.

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