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Remembering Nona Liddell

London Sinfonietta Principal First Violin 1970–1994


Nona Liddell

It is with great sadness that we have heard of the death of Nona Liddell. Nona led the London Sinfonietta from her violin chair for many years. For all players who worked with her, she was a hugely valued colleague. The great tradition of this ensemble was and continues to be defined to a large degree by the fiercely talented musicians who are passionate about new music and commit themselves to it. Nona Liddell is foremost amongst these. 

Andrew Burke, Chief Executive of the London Sinfonietta

From everyone at the London Sinfonietta we send our thoughts to Nona's family and friends.

“I was deeply saddened to hear that Nona had died, she was a colleague and a close family friend for so many years. Nona was equally happy in all styles of music from the baroque through to the most recently composed, she was a superb soloist, an ideal chamber music player and a perfect leader. She created a wonderful atmosphere in rehearsals and always established a rapport with both conductors and composers.  I shall never forget her love of music, her joy in the music profession, her enjoyment of  touring and her infectious sense of fun. She was an inspiration to everybody connected with the Sinfonietta and I shall miss her greatly.”

John Constable, London Sinfonietta Emeritus Principal Piano

“Playing with Nona was a joy and inspiration. She produced the most beautiful, lush and vibrant sound,  and I particularly remember enjoying several performances of Schoenberg's string sextet, Verklarte Nacht which we also recorded. Apart from being a fine musician and colleague, she was also a very good friend and wonderful person. Indeed, she was godmother to my late daughter Polly.”

Joan Atherton, London Sinfonietta Principal Second Violin

“Nona Liddell was an inspiring person: a great musician, a feminist, a kind soul, a cultured and compassionate human being.  As principal first violin of the London Sinfonietta, she was able to devour formidable amounts of notes. But there was much more to her than even that. I have particularly fond memories of her as a very committed participant in the Sinfonietta projects in Wormwood Scrubs. She developed an empathy with the prisoners, loved to have a laugh and was generous with her brilliant musicianship. She had a beautiful smile and a quick wit: after an Opera Factory London Sinfonietta performance of Nigel Osborne's Hell's Angels, which featured nudity, profanity and other forms of degradation, Nona left the theatre saying 'Well, I think I'll  go home now to read some Jane Austen’.’

Gillian Moore MBE, Former London Sinfonietta Artistic Director

“Over the years, amongst her many accomplishments I have often seen Nona described as the leader/concertmaster of the London Sinfonietta. In truth she was far, far more than that. In a group initially comprising only five string players, wind, piano and percussion, she had to be a virtuoso violinist capable of playing some of the most difficult music ever written, a feat she accomplished without any discomfort, even when being asked to virtually destroy and humiliate her wonderful instrument. 

She was always open to new ideas, however experimental and outrageous, yet her profound musicianship and keen intelligence always informed her diligent preparation and execution. In working closely with her for almost twenty-five years I cannot recall a single instance when she was anything but totally committed and intensely professional. Her interaction with her colleagues was superb and the deep respect in which they held her shined through on those occasions when our forces were increased to use an expanded string complement; then her role transmogrified from solo principal violinist to traditional leader and chief go-between with conductor and players, a change she accomplished with consummate ease.

Her musical tastes were exceptionally broad, equally at home in the baroque world or when championing new works. I particularly remember performing and subsequently recording all Schoenberg’s compositions for chamber ensemble over an 8 week period in over 20 locations, a tour de force that would have made any violinist quake in their shoes; to Nona it was child’s play. As was the time when we recorded a large box set of Kurt Weill’s music for Deutsche Grammophon. Most of the works we had previously rehearsed and performed in Berlin making the subsequent recordings a fairly relaxed affair, but we also included the Violin Concerto with Nona as soloist. A little known fact is that we did not have the opportunity of doing a live performance, or even a rehearsal prior to going into the studio. The tremendously virtuosic solo part was handled by Nona as if she didn’t have a care in the world - which she did of course being the ultimate professional. The recordings won a Grand Prix du Disque and are still in the catalogue to this day some 40+ years later, a lasting tribute to this delightfully talented, tasteful and consummate musician.” 

David Atherton OBE, Co-Founder, and former Music Director & Principal Conductor of the London Sinfonietta


Published: 21 Apr 2017