Orchestra conductor Mantovani, known worldwide for a smooth sound and the lush use of strings, was the first artist to sell a million stereophonic records. His orchestra of cascading strings and soft melodies earned about a dozen gold records for long-playing albums, as well as for his most popular single, "Charmaine."
Born Annunzio Paolo Mantovani in Venice, Italy, in 1905, he moved to England as a child when his violin-playing father was appointed conductor at London's Covent Garden theater. While in his teens, he took up violin himself and gave his first public performance two years later.
"I thought I have accomplished my ambition when I was in my teens," he later said.
Mantovani was the musical director for a large number of musicals and other plays. After World War II, he concentrated on recording, and eventually abandoned live performance altogether.
He recorded for Decca until the mid-1950s, and then for London Records. He recorded more than 50 albums on that label, many of which were Top 40 hits. These included "Song from Moulin Rouge" and "Cara Mia," which reached No. 1 in Britain in 1953 and 1954, respectively. The latter was also Mantovani's first U.S. Top 10 hit.
In the U.S., he released more than 40 albums between 1955 and 1972, with 27 reaching the Top 40 and 11 the Top 10. His biggest success was with the album Film Encores, which made it to No. 1 in 1957.
In 1959, Mantovani starred in his own syndicated television series, "Mantovani," which was produced in England and aired in the United States. Thirty-nine episodes of this syndicated show were produced featuring Mantovani and his 46-piece orchestra playing old musical favorites. He made his last recordings in 1975.
He died March 29, 1980, in Kent, England, at age 74.
"No matter what the fads of the moment are, a beautiful melody well played will always be appreciated," he once said.