Violinist and leader of Scottish orchestras;
Born: October 3, 1923; Died: January 11, 2013.
Peter Mountain, who has died aged 89, was one of the busiest British violinists of his day, not only as a fine soloist and recitalist but as a gifted teacher and the much sought-after leader of a multiplicity of orchestras, several of them in Scotland.
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From 1975 until his retirement in 1990 he was the very active and popular head of strings at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, an appointment that suited him to perfection and out of which the rest of his work here rapidly spread. He was also the chairman of the Scottish Society of Composers, from whose members he commissioned many works, and became chief string coach for the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland after its formation in 1979.
Born in Shipley, West Yorkshire, he was a pupil of the Canadian violinist Frederick Grinke and a product of the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he enrolled on the third day of the Battle of Britain (and was sent home because of a nearby unexploded bomb) and where his contemporaries included Colin Sauer, first violinist of the Dartington String Quartet, and Felix Kok, leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Before coming to Scotland, Mountain was equally active in England, playing first with the Royal Marines Band (visiting Singapore and on one occasion acting as a session musician on the film of Moby Dick) before joining the Boyd Neel String Orchestra, famed precursor of Britain's many modern chamber ensembles. By 1955 he was leader of the Liverpool Philharmonic, with which he played the Max Bruch G minor Violin Concerto, and by 1966 was principal second violin of the London Philharmonic, appearing frequently at Glyndebourne. But it was the leadership of the BBC Training Orchestra, founded in 1968 for post-graduate orchestral players, that lay closest to his heart.
When this Bristol-based institution foundered seven years later he was temporarily shattered by its collapse. But it was then that the RSAMD invited him to Glasgow and his career sprang back to life. A new world of orchestral playing suddenly opened to him, not only academically but as leader of the orchestra of the John Currie Singers, who were developing a repertoire of new Scottish music, and in Aberdeenshire with the Haddo House Choral Society, whose ambitions under the great June Gordon's conductorship embraced opera as well as choral works. In these nordic surroundings he performed in Elgar's Dream of Gerontius with Dame Janet Baker as the Angel, and Britten's Peter Grimes with Patricia McMahon as Ellen Orford.
In all these pursuits – and as guest leader of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as well as in his numerous recitals with his pianist wife Angela Dale, at one time a fellow student – Peter Mountain flourished. Busy as he was, chamber music mattered to him almost more than anything else and in Scotland, with its various music clubs, he found a constant demand for the finesse and beauty of his playing in an environment that appealed to him just as keenly – if not more so – as London, Liverpool, and elsewhere.
A violin sonata dating from 1989 by the Scottish composer John Purser attracted his attention as much as something more sensational by someone more internationally renowned, and when he retired to his native Yorkshire in 1990 he continued in the same manner, playing music which delighted him, becoming head of strings for Bradford Education, and being awarded an honorary doctorate by Bradford University.
After his wife's death in 2004, he concentrated on writing and arranging music, and producing two volumes of memoirs, entitled Scraping a Living and Further Scrapings. A distinguished former colleague at the RSAMD said of him this week: "Now, there was a great and generous man who really made a difference."
Peter Mountain is survived by his son Paul, a violinist and conductor, and two daughters, Alison, an artist and teacher, and Jeanette, a cellist and continuo specialist.