The family moved to London in 1909. Though his father wanted him to study drafting, he nonetheless began teaching his son piano, harmony, and counterpoint until, at age 14, Monty began study of the violin, the instrument he had known all along was for him.
At age 17 he began earning a living as a musician by joining an orchestra and playing all over England. When two music authorities of the day, Thibaud and Ysaye, encouraged him to pursue a concert career, he applied himself toward achieving that goal. In 1930 he gave a recital at Aeolian Hall; one year later, he performed Saint-Saens’ difficult “Violin Concerto in B Minor” at London’s Queen’s Hall to a cheering audience and glowing reviews.
But because of the hard time caused by the Depression, a decision had to be made, and Mantovani chose not to continue with his concert career. He instead formed the Tipica Orchestra, which became one of the most fashionable in London. He was making a name for himself, a name that he used to his advantage for his next project, the Mantovani Quintet.
Finally, with the formation of his own large orchestra, Mantovani achieved a goal that had been at the top of his list for some 20 years. By this time he had played in touring orchestras, he had led hotel orchestras and dance bands; he had performed recitals in great halls. But an orchestra with 28 strings as its centerpiece was just what his career and his psyche needed. He could compose, arrange, transcribe, and conduct for the orchestra, molding the sounds he heard into interpretations of the music he wanted to present to his audiences. This formula produced the unmistakable “Mantovani sound”.
The “tumbling” effect is purely musical, and is achieved in the strings by delaying the resolution of notes in a chord. It was born when Mantovani was looking for an identifiable sound he could use as a signature for his new orchestra. The result was “Charmaine”, a song which Mantovani immediately made his signature melody. In September of 1955, the Maestro received in London a gold record from Decca/London commemorating the one million copies of “Charmaine” sold — a figure which, in those days, was practically unheard of.
Mantovani became an international star. He toured the United States, Canada, Germany, and Japan, often breaking attendance records. He came to be in constant demand for concerts, for tours, for radio and television shows, for recordings. He followed the success of “Charmaine” with such hits as “Greensleeves”, “Moulin Rouge”, “Exodus”, “Moon River”, and his own composition, “Cara Mia”. He was the first artist to sell one million stereophonic LPs, and during his lifetime he sold an amazing total of 35 million recordings. His popularity afforded him offers ranging from the ridiculous (700 marriage proposals in one year!) to the impossible to ignore (he said yes when the BBC offered him a TV series of his own). He toured North America for 15 consecutive years, performing from 35 to 40 concerts per tour.
When he died in March of 1980, CBS reporter Jim Jensen noted, “He will be missed. He made millions of people happy.” Mantovani would surely be happy himself to know that the flame of his genius has not been extinguished.