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STEPHEN BRYANT-Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra-The Official Blog!







Some old photos……….


Looking at some old photo albums recently I came across some pictures I haven’t seen in years…….


Playing football......

Not sure about the shorts!


I used to enjoy playing football – here I am showing off on tour with the BBC football team in 1998! – I stopped, worried that one day it would all end in tears!


Just look at the technique.....

Just look at the technique…..












I also loved playing snooker and pool – this is a quarter sized table I treated myself to many years ago… looked great in the shop…… however, when it was delivered we quickly realised there was only one angle where we could use a decent sized cue because the room was too small. So I bought a cue that was slightly longer than a cocktail stick. We kept the table for quite a few years – I’ve no idea where it is now!


pondering life on the Thames in '95

Pondering life on the Thames in ’95


When I left college my first  job was co-leader of The London Philharmonic. Every summer the orchestra ‘moved’ down to Glyndebourne in East Sussex. This was before the opera house was remodelled and the orchestra pit was hot, cramped and when the drains played up….quite pungent! During this particular rehearsal the conductor asked me to conduct the orchestra while he listened to the balance. The beginning and end of my conducting career!


Conducting(!) the LPO at Glyndebourne in '88

Conducting(!) the LPO at Glyndebourne in ’88














 Recently we moved to a house with a garden that needs lots of work. Here I am dismantling a fruit cage and taking the opportunity to perfect my zombie impression!


Caution dangerous animal!

Caution dangerous animal!



Strad blog from 2015 …..




The modern phenomenon of violin as commodity


At home....

Stephen Bryant, Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, talks about the difficulties facing string players when it comes to finding an affordable instrument in advance of a talk at The Amati Exhibition on Monday 24 March at 4pm.



It’s not just house prices in London, which are soaring out of control, it’s also stringed instruments.   Barely a day passes without a new record set for the sale of a Stradivarius or Guarneri. Recently a Guarneri was sold for an estimated £9.6 million, making it the most expensive violin in the world!  Unlike brass or wind players, how can a violinist on a modest salary starting out in the profession ever dream of affording a decent violin at these inflated prices?


This was the question I asked myself back in the 90s and forms the kernel of a talk on “Is there a moral obligation to make string instruments available to all?” – at the Amati Exhibition on Monday 24 March at 4pm at the Lansdowne Club in advance of Amati’s next online auction.  I will be joined by fellow violinist Jennifer Pike, Bernard Jenkin MP, London Music Masters Founder and LPO chairman Victoria Sharp, as well as industry experts Florian Leonhard and Simon Morris – chaired by Nigel Brown, founder of the Stradivari Trust which enabled Jennifer and myself find violins.


An 11% annual increase in the value of a “super” violin makes it a very appealing option for a company or a billionaire as a secure investment opportunity, while interest rates on bank savings remain ridiculously low.   As astute financiers have caught on, the price of a historic stringed instrument has rocketed over the last decade, making it even more impossible for violinists and cellists to enter the market.  More and more of these priceless instruments now lie in the hands of investors rather than musicians.  Finding the right instrument has never been more of a challenge and not surprisingly, banks are not jumping in to offer six figure loans to freelancers with irregular incomes.


As a student I discovered what happens to these violins bought as an investment when I was invited by a wealthy collector to try his instruments. In the basement of a Mayfair mansion, I entered a walk-in security vault and was greeted by an exceptionally valuable array of instruments, including a Strad, Guarneri and Amati.  The instruments were amazing to play. The Strad seemed to vibrate on its own and the Guarneri just “screamed” when I played on the E string, it was so powerful.  After playing them for 15 minutes, the violins were returned to the safe for the next rare outing.  At least with an expensive painting, you can hang it on a wall in your house to admire it and share it with your friends but a violin left “mute” and unheard in a safe…?


Before I became leader of the BBCSO in 1992, my violin, a Sanctus Seraphim was on loan from my previous orchestra.  The day I resigned, I had to give back the violin! Thankfully I had the good fortune to meet Nigel Brown, who helped me to purchase a 1831 Pressenda.  Nigel set up a long-term trust for me backed by a syndicate of investors who were not motivated solely by financial considerations but wanted to help a musician – me!  Over a period of 15 years, this enabled me to buy back the instrument off the trust, as and when I could. There was no way that I could have afforded to do this with a loan from the bank – the payments would have been so punitive with the rate of interest.


This Pressenda – only the 3rd instrument I tried at the dealers, has a distinct personality of its own – when I put bow to string, it seems like the violin is talking and there are all sorts of possibilities to make it say more things as well. I know I am one of the lucky few.  I see a lot of young musicians who have decided to stick with a standard instrument, rather than invest in a new one because they can’t afford it. As a teacher, it is frustrating to observe.


At the other end of a spectrum, a school child starting to learn a stringed instruments will need parents with resources – not only is there the cost of the weekly lessons, but a basic violin costs around £200.  Thankfully there are music charities like London Music Masters who are stepping into the gap in government provision to enable every child in three inner-city primary schools in London to learn an instrument – loaning the violins and providing two hours of tuition a week.  They launched an inspired campaign ‘Lost & Sound’ to collect unused instruments and recycle them in their schools.   The Music Fund does the same for children in conflict zones and in some of the deprived corners of the globe.  Amati has teamed up with both LMM and the Music Fund to encourage donations of unsold lots from Amati’s auctions to go to these children.





Music and the Arts are crucial to our society because they have the power to uplift and enrich lives, so it is important that young people have the opportunity to express themselves creatively.  Giving a child an instrument is a vital first step.  But it’s just as important that the “super violins” stay in the hands of musicians, and not become a commodity to be seen and not heard.

The Amati Exhibition takes place at the Lansdowne Club in Mayfair, London, on Sunday 23 March (9am-6pm) and Monday 24 March (9am-6pm), followed by the online auction on Tuesday 25 March.  Stephen Bryant will be taking part in the panel discussion on 24 March at 4pm.  For more information, please visit and