Richard Adeney

Richard Gilford Adeney (25 January 1920 – 16 December 2010) was a British flautist who played principal flute with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the English Chamber Orchestra, was a soloist and a founding member of the Melos Ensemble.

Richard Adeney
Richard Gilford Adeney

January 25, 1920 (January 25, 1920)
DiedDecember 16, 2010 (aged Expression error: Unrecognized word "december".Expression error: Unrecognized word "december".)
EducationRoyal College of Music
OccupationClassical flautist


Richard Adeney was born the son of the painter Bernard Adeney (1878–1966).[1][2][3] He was determined early in life, to "become the best flute player in the world", as he stated in his autobiography.[4] He was educated at Dartington Hall School and subsequently studied at the Royal College of Music, where one of his contemporaries and close friends was Malcolm Arnold,[1] who composed in 1940 a Grand Fantasia for flute, trumpet and piano for him and a pianist, premiered in February 1941.[5] In his student days in the late 1930s Adeney worked with Vaughan Williams and Sir Malcolm Sargent.[6] In the Second World War he was unconditionally exempted from military service as a conscientious objector.

He joined the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1941, initially as second flute, and played with them until 1950 and again from 1961 to 1970,[1] under such conductors as Henry Wood and Wilhelm Furtwängler.[7] He was one of the founding members of the Melos Ensemble,[8] principal flautist of the English Chamber Orchestra (ECO) until the 1970s when he was succeeded by William Bennett,[9][10] and also regularly performed as a soloist. Malcolm Arnold composed a Divertimento for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet for him and other particular friends. Richard Adeney, Sidney Sutcliffe and Stephen Waters gave the work its first performance in 1952.[11] In 1954 Malcolm Arnold wrote a Concerto for Flute and Strings for his friend,[12] who recorded it in 1979, together with the concerto for flute and orchestra (1972).[13][14]

Richard Adeney was closely associated with Benjamin Britten, and performed in many performances and recordings of the composer's works, notably in 1962 with the Melos Ensemble in the premiere and recording of the War Requiem that Britten conducted himself. He participated in the premiere and first recording of Britten's Curlew River in 1964.[15] He recalled: "Curlew River had more rehearsal time than any other new work that I have ever played". In 1967 he participated in a concert in the Royal Albert Hall including Britten's The Burning Fiery Furnace.[16]

Richard Adeney performed in notable recordings, such as Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, which was recorded under Britten's baton, or in his St Matthew Passion conducted by David Willcocks.[17] He premiered the Elegy for flute, harp and string orchestra by John Veale in 1951.[18] With the Melos Ensemble he recorded chamber music for both woodwinds and strings, such as Ravel's Introduction and Allegro along with Osian Ellis (harp), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), Emanuel Hurwitz and Ivor McMahon (violin), Cecil Aronowitz (viola) and Terence Weil (cello).[19] both 1961 and 1967.[20][21]

Adeney performed regularly at the Aldeburgh Festival. After having played under conductors as Sergiu Celibidache, Bruno Walter, Sir Thomas Beecham and Claudio Abbado, he ended his professional career in 1990.[1][7]

Adeney died on 16 December 2010 in Paddington.[22]

A concert to celebrate his life was held on 6 May 2011[23] including performances by his colleague William Bennett.

Career outside music

Richard Adeney has also been a teacher. In 1948 he was teaching courses of the first Bath Assembly (later called Bath International Music Festival).[24] He contributed to the biography of Malcolm Arnold[25] and is the author of flute, his autobiography. A sample provided by the publisher refers to working with Koussevitzky on the Symphony No. 4 by Brahms, musing on the state of mind of the player in the performance.[4] Richard Adeney has also been a photographer whose photos appear on record covers and illustrate his autobiography[6] and other books.[26] One of his pictures showing Britten and the harpist Ellis appears in the Britten-Pears Foundation pages.[27] For twenty-five years he was a volunteer with The Samaritans.[7]


  • fluteAn autobiography, Brimstone Press, ISBN 978-1-906385-20-0
  • Entries for Richard Adeney in allmusic
  • Entries for Richard Adeney in WorldCat

Selected recordings and broadcasts


  1. Biography Brimstone Press
  2. List of artists
  3. Bernard Adeney Tate Archive
  4. Autobiography
  5. Grand Fantasia
  6. review of flute Ralph Blumenau, quote: pretty well every great musician is there. The book is illustrated with many superb photographs of these artists, many of them taken by Adeney himself.
  7. review of flute Garry Humphreys, September 2009
  8. Melos Ensemble
  9. English Chamber Orchestra Archived 9 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine news of 21 July 2009, flute
  10. Interview William Bennett Archived 10 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine Rodney Newton, quote: Geoffrey Gilbert and Richard Adeney were the players I was fascinated by. Richard, because he had colours that nobody else made on the flute.
  11. Malcolm Arnold Archived 26 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine about this album
  12. Flute Concerto in Malcolm Arnold biography quote: Arnold long held that music was "a social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is", and his concertos were nearly always written for specific soloists who also happened to be his personal friends. ... Concerto for Flute and Strings (for Richard Adeney, 1954)
  13. Recording of Malcolm Arnold flute concertos review: Rob Barnett, November 2006, quote: "They were both written for Richard Adeney; one in 1954; the other at his insistence in 1972. By the way Adeney was also the dedicatee of the Flute Sonatina. ... You can hear Adeney in both concertos on EMI Classics 0946 3 70563 2 5 only recently (2006) reissued. ... There’s little between Adeney and Jones though in the Second Concerto I thought Adeney was a shade more soulful.
  14. Interview Malcolm Arnold quote: "but of course Richard Adeney was a wonderful exponent of both my flute concertos"
  15. Curlew River Britten-Pears Foundation
  16. The Burning Fiery Furnace
  17. St. Matthew Passion in English, sound tracks
  18. Obituary John Veale
  19. Melos Ensemble – Music among Friends Archived 10 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine EMI
  20. Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) William Hedley, 2009
  21. French Chamber Music. Members of the Melos Ensemble Gramophone 1983
  22. "Richard ADENEY Obituary". Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  23. "Concert to celebrate Richard's life".
  24. Obituary Dame Ruth King
  25. review biography of Malcolm Arnold
  26. Previn, André: Orchestra Interviews by Michael Foss. 223 pages with many photographs by Richard Adeney. Macdonald and Janes, London, 1979
  27. Photo Adeney
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