Muir Mathieson was the single most influential figure in British film music of the twentieth century. He conducted the scores of virtually every major movie made in England from the mid-'30s until 1960 and, equally important, elevated the quality of film music for the industry. A graduate of the Royal College of Music, he joined Alexander Korda's London Films at age 20 as an assistant, and at 22 was appointed music director. Mathieson engaged the best musicians and some of the top young composers in England, including his RCM classmate Arthur Benjamin, who scored The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934). Although Mathieson occasionally composed music, it was as a conductor and music director that he was most influential -- he had the confidence of producers and composers and could reconcile their needs. When Korda proposed that Arthur Bliss, the leading light of 1930s British music, score the science fiction epic Things to Come(1936), it was Mathieson who made the project work, yielding a score that still receives new recordings seven decades later. From 1935 on, every Korda movie had a prominent soundtrack done under Mathieson's direction and utilizing such composers as Miklós Rózsa and Richard Addinsell. Rival producers felt obliged to emulate his work; as Korda's studio shut down for lack of credit at the start of World War II, Mathieson was free to work with them, and British studios were soon employing Ralph Vaughan Williams, William Walton, and William Alwyn, among others. It was Mathieson who convinced the 68-year-old Vaughan Williams to write film music for the first time. During the war, Mathieson was music advisor to the British military and conducted in theater and on radio. After the war, he was in demand throughout the industry, including the musically ambitious project The Instruments of the Orchestra, the 1946 film built around Benjamin Britten's work of that name. He also renewed his collaboration with Bliss, whom he engaged to arrange and expand the score of The Beggar's Opera for the 1953 Olivier film. His name also became familiar on soundtrack albums in connection with everything from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo to Disney's In Search of the Castaways; it's a reflection of the respect he enjoyed that, when a musicians' union strike prevented composer Bernard Herrmann from conducting the recording of his Vertigo score, the producers went to Mathieson.
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