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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

17 - Discovering My Métier


I KNOW IT's no guarantee of happiness or even of well-being, but the fact is I earned more money and was better off in the 1980s (my fifties) than in any other decade in my life. I had a regular basic BBC salary for my various jobs as director, producer and strand editor; my work as host of Omnibus was paid on a separate contract. On top of that came my Unitel fees for directing Leonard Bernstein's music films, to which I was soon adding freelance gigs with Bavarian Television in Munich, with Sony in Hamburg, with Eric and Katya Abraham's Portobello Films – all this for productions I directed in Budapest with Georg Solti and in Berlin with Murray Perahia – and, most lucrative of the lot, because the concert is transmitted to dozens of countries, with Austrian Television for the New Year's Day concert from the Golden Hall, which I first directed in 1988, when Herbert von Karajan was conducting.

My personal life survived a very sticky patch during this exceptionally busy period. In March 1981 my daughter Clemency was born. I am very proud of her work as a broadcaster, writer and musician, and though I see her rarely, I count her as a good friend. In amicable consultation with her I have decided not to write at length about the affair with her mother which brought her into the world. It was a long and intense friendship and my marriage survived only thanks to my wife's tolerance and fortitude.

A new start began when the Burton family left Richmond Hill and moved back across the river to a solid ten-roomed Edwardian flat in Oakwood Court, just a few yards west of Holland Park. Its hall corridor was exactly 22 yards in length and was occasionally used by my son Matthew as an indoor cricket ‘net’; at St Paul's School he developed into an excellent all-rounder, going on to play every summer with The Gaieties, Harold Pinter's touring club team. The flat's walls were so thick we could make music at any time without disturbing the neighbours – even if it were Gwyneth Jones giving us a post-prandial Liebestod or Barbara Bonney bringing in the new year with Strauss's Morgen.