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Landon Ronald (1873 - 1938)

The illegitimate son of the successful song writer Henry Russell by Hannah de Lara, Landon Ronald studied at the Royal College of Music with, amongst others, Stanford and Parry, and made his debut as a conductor when only seventeen at the Lyric Theatre in London. After working as a répétiteur with Augustus Harris’s Italian Opera at Covent Garden, and touring America as pianist to Dame Nellie Melba, he made his first appearance as a conductor at Covent Garden with Gounod’s Faust in 1896, and also conducted opera at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Between 1898 and 1902 he conducted musical comedy in London’s West End and concerts in Blackpool during the summer months, activities which are indicative of the limited opportunities available to conductors in England at this time. However, a completely new direction in Ronald’s career opened up in 1901 when he was approached by Fred Gaisberg of The Gramophone Company to be the company’s musical adviser. Gaisberg realised that with his excellent contacts, Ronald could give the new company the musical and social reputations that it believed it needed in order to grow. Ronald was instrumental in securing for the company the first recordings of two of the most famous sopranos of the day, Adelina Patti and Dame Nellie Melba, as well as of many other musicians. ‘Never have I known such courtesy combined with such persuasion. They simply would not leave me alone…’ Melba later recalled.



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