One of the joys of #MondayMemories is that we never know what nugget from the past is going to pop up in the present. 

A recent junk shop find of a 1979 LP of Bournemouth Sinfonietta performing William Boyce’s Eight Symphonies recorded in the Wessex Hall, as the Concert Hall was known until 2002, shed light on the fascinating career of the chamber orchestra’s then leader, Ronald Thomas. 

Born in Western Australia, in the outback town of Kulin, he was given his first violin at the age of four and encouraged to play by his father, a trained musician who played violin at silent film screenings, and pianist mother. By the time he was 20 Ronald had moved to the UK and was considered one of the best players in the world – at 21 he won the coveted Carl Flesch Medal awarded annually to the winner of an international violin competition in memory of the Hungarian virtuoso. 

Ronald played on sessions for The Beatles’ White Album and for Paul McCartney’s solo albums as well as appearing on numerous big budget Hollywood film soundtracks including Amadeus, Star Wars, Batman, Out of Africa and The French Lieutenant’s Woman. He performed with or lead the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the BBC Symphony orchestra (under Malcolm Sargent), the English Chamber Orchestra, the Academy of St Martin-In-The-Fields and Bournemouth Sinfonietta, the BSO’s chamber offshoot, of which he was leader from 1978 and Musical Director from 1980-85. 

But for all his stellar work in the popular mainstream he has said his favourite recordings were those he made with the Bournemouth Orchestras and his interpretation of the Boyce Symphonies on the 1979 recording – on which the Sinfonietta played modern instruments – was considered ‘strikingly brisk and spirited such as to rival those by authentic practice ensembles in terms of those qualities’ by the eminent critic Curtis Rogers.

Roald now lives in Perth. Bournemouth Sinfonietta was disbanded in 1999.

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Published 31 May 2021