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John Lanchbery



English conductor and composer John Lanchbery (1923–2003) was Music Director of The Royal Ballet 1960–72. During his tenure he arranged numerous scores for the Company, including Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée (1960), The Dream (1964), Monotones (1966), A Month in the Country (1976) and Tales of Beatrix Potter (1971), Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling (1978), Rudolf Nureyev’s production of Don Quixote (1966) and Natalia Makarova’s production of La Bayadère (1980). He resigned in 1972 but continued to conduct regularly for the Company until 2001.

Lanchbery was born in London. He began violin lessons aged eight and started composing around the same time, later studying at the Royal Academy of Music under Henry Wood. He was Music Director of the Metropolitan Ballet 1948–9 and of Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet (later Birmingham Royal Ballet) 1951–8. He made his first music arrangement in 1948, for John Taras’s Designs with Strings. Other early work includes composing original music for Celia Franca’s The Eve of Saint Agnes (1950), one of the first ballets commissioned for BBC TV. He joined The Royal Ballet in 1959, and was appointed Music Director the following year. After leaving The Royal Ballet he was Music Director of the Australian Ballet 1972–8 and of American Ballet Theatre 1978–80.

In 1961 Lanchbery became the first non-Russian conductor to receive the Bolshoi medal. Other honours include the Royal Academy of Dance’s Queen Elizabeth II Award and the Carina Ari Medal of Sweden. He was awarded an OBE in 1990.

News and features

Dance highlight: the Clog Dance from La Fille mal gardée

20 September 2016
Dance highlight: the Clog Dance from <em>La Fille mal gardée</em>

Much more than a charming set-piece with some snazzy shoes, Ashton’s delightful Lancastrian clog dance draws on traditions that are both English and international.

First Night Revisited: The Royal Ballet's Two Pigeons on 14 February 1961

14 July 2015
First Night Revisited: The Royal Ballet's <em>Two Pigeons</em> on 14 February 1961

A look back at the premiere of Ashton's charming ballet which starred Lynn Seymour, Christopher Gable and two live pigeons with 'excellent manners'.

Unmistakably English: Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée

20 April 2015
Unmistakably English: Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée

The choreographer’s glorious romantic comedy evokes his beloved Suffolk and is one of his finest and most characteristic works.