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David Munrow: Wikis


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David Munrow (12 August 1942 – 15 May 1976) was a musician and early music historian.


Biography and career

Munrow was born in Birmingham and was the son of Albert Munrow, a Birmingham University lecturer and physical education instructor who wrote a book on the subject, and was so highly respected that a sports centre was named after him. David Munrow himself attended King Edward's School, Birmingham, until 1960. He excelled academically.

In 1960 David Munrow went to Peru, teaching English under the British Council Overseas Voluntary Scheme. He returned with Bolivian flutes and other obscure instruments. Studying English at Pembroke College, Cambridge, he noticed a crumhorn on a friend's wall and threw himself into independent study that climaxed in his book Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1976). 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 being in marked contrast to the greater tonal flexibility displayed by the 'continental' style espoused by the Dutch recorder player Frans Brüggen and others.

By 1967 he was a lecturer at the University of Leicester and married to Gillian Reid. He teamed up with Christopher Hogwood to form the Early Music Consort, each of whose core members was an expert in his or her own right. Sometimes other professional musicians were employed when necessary, such as Nigel North and the late Robert Spencer, both highly regarded lutenists. Beginning in 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. In 1970 two television programmes made him a household name - The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R.

Munrow's two contributions to film music were, fittingly, for visionary 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.

He was a man of manic energy. In his relatively short life he released over 50 albums, some of which are now available on CD. As well as his recordings with the Early Music Consort, he recorded with Michael Morrow's Musica Reservata, Alfred Deller and the King's Singers. He recorded Bach and Monteverdi many times but his widest influence was in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. His 3-record set with the Early Music Consort The Art of the Netherlands issued in 1976 (EMI SLS5049), was particularly influential in popularising the genre [1].

On BBC Radio 3 he presented Pied Piper, a multi-ethnic, centuries-spanning spread of music from Monteverdi to ELO. Munrow also had dealings notably with The Young Tradition and Shirley and Dolly Collins.

Apart from his regular radio slot and other programmes he also appeared on television, most notably a series entitled Ancestral Voices (BBC2) in a London studio, and Early Musical Instruments (ITV) filmed on location at Ordsall Hall, Salford. By such means, he introduced many people to a whole new world of audio experience. Sadly, these specific programmes were transmitted posthumously.

His personal interests were travel, sailing, jazz and antiques. He was also a linguist. In addition he wrote some articles on music, especially for his own recordings.

Munrow committed suicide in 1976;[1] the deaths of his father and father-in-law, to whom he dedicated his last book, are thought to have contributed to his death by hanging.


Arguably, David Munrow did more than anyone else in the second half of the last century to popularise early music in Great Britain, despite a career lasting barely ten years. Indeed, this is underlined by the fact that the committee which chose the music for the Voyager Golden Record selected one of his recordings to be sent on the Voyager space probes on an interstellar journey.

David 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 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.

Selected discography

  • 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 (1970)
    • 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)
    • 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)
  • 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
    • Pleasures of the court - Festival dance music by Susato & Morley (1971)
  • 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

Awards and recognitions

Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance:

See also

Similar early music performers with an interest in renaissance and medieval music.


  1. ^ "Henry VIII And His Six Wives: David Munrow Conducting The Early Music Consort Of London". Retrieved 1 June 2009.  

External links



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