King's College London
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Constantin Silvestri

John Gritten

John GrittenJohn GrittenJohn Gritten (1919 – 2014) was an English journalist and author. 

His musical appreciation began when listening beside the piano to his grandmother playing Chopin. Other early stimuli included hearing boy soprano Ernest Lough practising Hear my Prayer with organist Thalben-Ball in the Temple Church; listening with students thronging the school theatre at St Paul’s to the new 78 rpm recording of what was then a phenomenon: Ravel’s Bolero; and a Beecham concert in the Queen’s Hall. 

His interest in Romania – its people, history and culture – developed during many visits and Silvestri’s conducting of Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms at the conductor’s first concert in the Royal Festival Hall in 1957 left a lasting impression. He married pianist Anda Anastasescu and in 1990, they embarked on a never-ending campaign to revive Silvestri’s memory in Britain and Romania. John became Silvestri’s biographer and his authoritative assessment of Silvestri's life and career, A Musician Before His Time. Constantin Silvestri conductor, composer, pianist​ (1998) led to several BBC3 programmes and interviews in the British and Romanian press. He also curated a memorial exhibition which was shown in 15 countries; worked on the productions of the CD set A Bournemouth Love Affair and clarinettist Ray Carpenter’s book Constantin Silvestri magician – A view from the orchestra; contributed to several Silvestri symposiums, academic publications and international projects. John Gritten was director of the London Schubert Players (LSP), trustee and honorary secretary of the LSP Trust and of the Silvestri International Foundation.

During World War Two he served for over six years in the Royal Navy and fulfilled his appointment as an Official Naval Reporter (Lieutenant RNVR) for the Admiralty Press Division 1943-1946. He was the only Official Royal Navy Reporter to beach in Normandy on D-Day (June 6 1944); and had his baptism of fire during the 1940 Norwegian Campaign – the first ‘Dunkirk’ – when two bombs hit his Tribal-class destroyer Afridi off Norway. 60 years later, he secured at Namsos (Central Norway) a memorial for the British casualties and returned each year to pay tribute, along other survivors. 

John was the Royal’s Navy’s first conscript in World War Two. His recollections of the disastrous attempt to block the Nazi occupation in Norway and the commemoration ceremony at the British War Memorial in 2010 are available to watch online in Anda Anastasescu’s YouTube channel.

His personal archive from World War Two as well as the Silvestri collection he accumulated over 20 years were donated by Anda Anastasescu to King’s College London in 2019.

 


John Gritten’s published work

[see books reviews here; for an overview of the work underlying the CD Constantin Silvestri: A Bournemouth Love Affair, see here]:

Constantin Silvestri: A Musician Before His Time : Conductor, Composer, Pianist
. London: Kitzinger 1998

Full Circle: Log of the Navy's No.1 Conscript. Dunfermline: Cualann Press, 2003

Constantin Silvestri: A Bournemouth Love Affair (booklet). Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Constantin Silvestri. Romanian Musical Adventure (RMA) 2009

Howard and Son: Rebels of a Kind. Market Harborough: Troubador, 2011​

 

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