Lawrence studied at the Royal Academy of Music (of which he was a Fellow) and at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, and privately with Ernest Ansermet and Erich Kleiber. From the age of sixteen he worked as a cellist in the London Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestras but after the war became a conductor co-founding with Arnold Goldsbrough, the Goldsbrough Orchestra, which in 1960 became the English Chamber Orchestra. He was Assistant Conductor of the BBC Northern Orchestra, and for five years Assistant at the Hallé in Manchester at Sir John Barbirolli’s request, and from 1968 to 1973 Music Director of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Canada. He made guest appearances with every major orchestra in Britain, toured extensively all over Europe particularly in Germany and Austria, and conducted opera in London (Sadlers Wells) and Vienna (Volksoper), and (the big Stravinsky and Ravel) ballets at the Royal Opera House.
He made guest appearances with every major orchestra in Britain, toured extensively all over Europe particularly in Germany and Austria, and conducted opera in London (Sadlers Wells) and Vienna (Volksoper), and (the big Stravinsky and Ravel) ballets at the Royal Opera House.
He was a popular and charismatic teacher and was for five years Professor of Conducting at the Guildhall School of Music. Between 1977 and 1985 he was one of the regular conductors of the Royal Academy of Music’s Chamber Orchestra and over the same period conducted the Norfolk and Glasgow Youth Orchestras. In the early 1950s he was responsible for the inception of the Morley College Symphony Orchestra in London, which offered much-needed repertoire experience to young musicians; that orchestra was also closely involved in the Hoffnung Music Festivals. In 1959 Bernstein invited him to conduct the acclaimed London première of West Side Story.
In the 1980s Lawrence Leonard returned to the Morley Symphony Orchestra, took over the Morley Wind Group, which had been set up by Peter Racine Fricker, the Morley Chamber Orchestra and the Conducting Class.
He was also a fluent and accomplished composer. His original works include Mezoon, a symphonic poem for the Sultan of Oman, Group Questions for Orchestra, and Sardana for wind band. His arrangements include a version for piano and orchestra of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, of Saint-Saens’s Carnival of the Animals for full symphony orchestra and of Guillaume de Machaut’s Grande Messe de Notre Dame for chorus and orchestra. He also wrote several plays, and a music-theatre piece with David Sutton-Anderson What the Waiter Saw, which was performed in 1986. He wrote a children’s novel that originated in bed-time stories he made up for his own son and daughter by his first wife, Josephine Duffey: The Horn of Mortal Danger (Walker Books). In his later years, he published 1812 And All That – ‘ A Concise History of Music from 30,000 BC to the Millennium’.
he entered fully and enthusiastically into the life of the community, speaking French without much regard for grammar, but with fearless and enviable fluency
He was a big man, capable of great warmth, and a generous host – not least in the twelfth-century ‘Tour des Anglais’, part of a bastide near Bergerac, which he bought from Arnold Goldsbrough, who had acquired it for a song in 1939. There he entered fully and enthusiastically into the life of the community, speaking French without much regard for grammar, but with fearless and enviable fluency.
He is survived by his son Simon and daughter Jenifer; by his second wife, the pianist Katharina Wolpe, and his third, the art historian Rose Walker.