Alfredo CAMPOLI (1906–1991)
39 North Street, Thame
Campoli was born in Rome into a musical family. His father taught violin at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia and his mother, Elvira Celi, had been a rising opera star. By 1912 the family had settled in England. At 13 Campoli won the London Music Festival’s gold medal for his performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and made his debut at the Wigmore Hall. As a boy prodigy he went on tour with Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Clara Butt among others.
In the late 1920s and 30s he ventured into light music, directing his famous Salon Orchestra at the Dorchester. He became a household name through broadcasts, public concerts and recordings and during the Depression this palm court music was a lifeline for him. In 1939, although at first classified as an enemy alien, he was soon cleared to remain in London. He contributed to wartime morale by giving many concerts for CEMA and ENSA and for the BBC.
After the war he re-established his reputation as a classical performer and went on major tours to Australia, New Zealand and the USA. He was very popular in Russia too, and it was in Moscow that he first played Sir Arthur Bliss’s Violin Concerto composed for him in 1955. His radio broadcasts numbered over 1000 and he left a great legacy of recordings of all the great violin concertos.
Campoli had met Joy Burbridge while she was working as a secretary for the BBC and they were married in 1942 at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Thame, her home town. She devoted her secretarial skills to his career thereafter. They chose to retire to Thame in 1986. Campoli had always been a passionate bridge player, indeed a British National Master, and was on his way to a game at Princes Risborough in 1991 when he died. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Thame.
Alfredo Campoli, one of the great violin soloists, was admired for his extraordinary beauty of tone and phrasing which was likened to bel canto singing. He performed with a series of distinguished instruments, the finest being a Stradivarius of 1700, known as the ‘Dragonetti’.
- Sources: David Tunley: The Bel Canto Violin, The Life and Times of Alfredo Campoli (Ashgate 1999); Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Jean M. Haig-Whiteley
- Picture taken at unveiling ceremony
The plaque was unveiled on 14 April 2011 at 39 North Street, Thame, by Mrs Patsy Dudley, a cousin of Joy Burbridge.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
21st Century Thame