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Andrew Keener (b.23/3/54) began as an independent classical recording producer in the early eighties, having studied at Barry Boys’ Comprehensive School, in South Wales and the Faculty of Music at The University of Edinburgh (B.Mus, 1975).
After a short spell as a school music teacher (he ran screaming from the profession, thus avoiding much damage to himself and his charges), he worked at EMG Handmade Gramophones in London’s Soho Square, where he supplemented his wages by concert reviewing for The Guardian, Musical Times and Strad, and writing record reviews and interviews for Gramophone and Hi-Fi News & Record Review. He mourns the passing of EMG, which was something of "a gentleman’s record shop" ("can you send these records through the diplomatic bag?" was among the most frequent customer requests) as well as an education in matters of the recording catalogue, proof-reading (EMG’s own house magazine) and dealing with people.
It was also while working here that he became known to the great and the good of the recording industry, among them Ted Perry (about to form Hyperion Records), Quita Chavez (then of Phonogram), Robert Layton, John Lade (of BBC Record Review) and Simon Foster who, as manager of Classics for Pleasure, shared Keener’s obsession with vinyl. Thanks to these and others, Keener was let loose on sessions which, as a former observer of such occasions, he felt would be easy. Wrong. His first sessions were for a trusting Ted Perry and, in terms of diplomacy, timing and authority, they left much to be desired. "Never mind", said Perry as he led a tearful Keener away from the session, "we’ll make lots more records together".
This faith led to others engaging Keener. His first orchestral recordings were for Classics For Pleasure and Hyperion, followed by work for RCA, ASV, Hyperion and EMI.
One of the joys of being an independent producer is that artists with whom that producer ‘clicks’ will generally keep the relationship intact, as labels and contracts come and go. As a producer, Keener is more musical enabler than technowizard – he is lucky to work in collaboration with first-rate recording engineers. Relating to musicians, to the way they interact with each other, is a source of unending fascination for him.
As a mere fiftieth-rate cellist and pianist, Keener relishes the vicarious contact with fine players. The fascination with the ‘animal’ that is recording, its paradoxical disciplines and freedoms, has not faded over the 900-odd recordings he has so far produced. Reading, walking, the gym (the most unsporty of people, he is nevertheless an endorphin addict) and his partner of over twenty years alleviate his neuroses.