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Civil was engaged by Thomas Beecham to play second horn to Dennis Brain in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and when Brain left for the Philharmonia, Civil took over leadership of the section. In 1955, Civil joined the Philharmonia himself, becoming principal horn player when Brain died in a car crash in 1957.
In the 1960s, Civil became the first non-German to be approached by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra to become a member. Civil stuck with the Philharmonia however, who were reshaping themselves into the New Philharmonia. In 1966 he became principal hornist of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, remaining there until his retirement in 1988.
As a soloist, Civil recorded the horn concertos of Mozart, and his recording of Benjamin Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with Robert Tear is also quite well known. He also played chamber music in the Alan Civil Horn Trio.
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