The Greek-born English harpsichordist, founder and director of the English Bach Festival, Madeleine (Lina) Lalandi, was born in Athens, daughter of Nikolas Kaloyeropoulos, former director of the Byzantine museum and subsequently Greek minister of education, and his wife, Toula. She studied the piano at the Athens conservatoire, graduating with honours. After World War II, both Lina and her mother received certificates of appreciation from Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander for "faithfully and loyally" serving the allied cause. By Lina's own account, she successfully led allied servicemen across Athens to safety, occasionally hiding them in her own bed. This must have been a memorable moment for those servicemen, as Lina was a famous beauty and became for a while a Chanel model. After the war, Lina came to London to study, and was an early and gifted exponent of the harpsichord, as well as an eager advocate for the clavichord. In England, she also studied in singing privately, and later she made her home in this country.
Lina Lalandi made her solo debut at the Royal Festival Hall in 1954. She had an international career as harpsichordist, appearing in London, Paris, Geneva and Athens; also on Radio and TV. During a successful solo career played with Ernest Ansermet and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. As an harpsichordist she had a penchant for J.S. Bach and François Couperin in the days before there was much demand for them.
Lina Lalandiís interest in the music of J.S. Bach and prominent French keyboard composers led her to found the English Bach Festival with her late husband, Ralph Emery in 1962, establishing it as an annual series presented in Oxford and London. She was the director, chief administrator and responsible for research and all programme planning. After the creation of the English Bach Festival, she found herself putting on approximately 40 concerts for each Festival, and consequently she gradually stopped playing. From the beginning, Linaís natural flair and her pursuasive powers lured many prominent musicians into her orbit and for years the President of the English Bach Festival Trust was none other than Igor Stravinsky succeeded by Leonard Bernstein. Her success is also due in no small measure to those who advised and helped her, with Sir Jack Westrup and Paul Steinitz among those she regularly consulted on musical matters, and husband Ralph Emery and long-serving secretary John Bertaut on behalf of the Trust.
The English Bach Festivalís Ďgolden decadesĎ were perhaps the 1960ís and 1970ís. Here Wolfgang Gönnenwein, Helmuth Rilling, Karl Richter and other German Bach specialists of the day featured and these were rare opportunities to experience live performances given by them as opposed to those captured on the raft of German Bach recordings available at the time. With the full emergence of period instruments on the scene in the 1970ís, Lina Lalandi did not let the grass grow eitherÖ.she invited Gustav Leonhardt and his Musica Antiqua Amsterdam and Nikolaus Harnoncourtís Concentus Musicus Wien to the English Bach Festival to packed audiences on Londonís South Bank. Paul Steinitz, London Bach Society Chorus and Steinitz Bach Players were annual participants too, with invitations one particular year to present cantatas in Oxford on the Wednesday, then back there on the Saturday for a St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), repeated the next day in the Royal Albert Hall!
From the late 1970ís and into the 1980ís, Lina Lalandiís attention turned more and more to Baroque opera and dance, the perfect vehicles to indulge her extravagant tastes that must have given the treasurers nightmares. She formed her own ensembles for the purpose, with the fruits of her researches into baroque costume, gestures and dance forms bringing us the beautiful Divertissements in Londonís Banqueting House or rarely-staged Rameau Operas at the Royal Opera House. These productions were then often taken to Paris, Madrid or Athens.
During the 1990ís, Lina Lalandi started playing again, and had some of her early recordings digitally remastered. Three CDís have now been produced, including a new CD of J.S. Bach's French Overture (BWV 831), as a tribute to the life's work of her late husband, Ralph Emery. All profits from CD sales go to the English Bach Festival Trust, a registered charity, working to promote the careers of young artists, performers and composers in the pursuit of excellence.
Lina Lalandi was decorated by HM the Queen in 1975 as Officer of the British Empire, in 1979 was awarded in the Salon des Nobles, Château de Versailles, the French decoration of Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, by Greece, the Gold Cross of the Phoenix and the Great Prize of Music by the Union Greek Theatre and Music Critics and Athens Municipality.
Lina Lalandi died in June 2012. She was in her early nineties and one of the most colourful figures on the Festival scene during her lifetime. Her vision and flair, backed up by sheer nerve, made her a formidable character to deal with, yet her achievements were considerable and far outweigh the feelings of consummate exasperation if working for and with her. Mystique was also something she cultivated. A womanís age was her own business! Stories of her numerous exploits in the Festivalís cause often took precedence over the actual facts of the matter, punctuated at many a rehearsal coffee-break by gales of laughter especially during the Festival period (April/May).