Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras is shown May 14, 2009 after receiving a Brit Award. The symphony and opera conductor has died of cancer at age 84. (Zak Hussein/Associated Press)
Charles Mackerras, an Australian conductor who spent much of his career in Britain, has died after a battle with cancer. He was 84.
Mackerras died Wednesday night in London, according to the management firm Askonas Holt.
Mackerras was a leader in bringing the operas of Leos Janacek to Western audiences and had an interest in the authentic music movement, which led him to research the way Handel and Mozart might have performed their own works.
Fluent in Czech, he prepared new editions of Janacek’s operas and at one point was principal guest conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mackerras’s last appearance was at the Royal Opera House in London, where he conducted Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen.
He was scheduled to conduct two concerts of the British Proms this summer. Proms organizers plan to dedicate a concert to him.
He is also fondly remembered in Australia, where he conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1982 to 1985 and conducted the opening concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1973.
“The connection between Sir Charles and the Sydney Symphony has run deep for over 60 years,” the orchestra’s managing director Rory Jeffes stated in a statement.
“He was a man of great musical scholarship, talent and energy. We are all deeply saddened to have lost such an eminent conductor and a special part of the Sydney Symphony family.”
Born in the U.S. to Australian parents, Mackerras began his career as an oboeist in Sydney, where he grew up.
In 1947, Mackerras won a British Council scholarship to study conducting with Vaclav Talich in Prague, an experience that cemented his interest in Janacek. He went on to conduct with Sadler’s Wells Opera — later English National Opera — and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1972, leading Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orfeo et Euridice.
His conducting career took him to France, Germany, Austria and France.
He conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Opera and was conductor laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with whom he had a 50-year association.
Handel recording featured 24 oboes
He conducted the first British performance of Janacek’s Kata Kabanova and world premieres of Lennox Berkeley’s Ruth and Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at the English National Opera.
Mackerras used his understanding of historic performance practices in a 1966 performance of The Marriage of Figaro in London 1966, adding ornamentation suitable to Mozart’s time.
He is also considered a groundbreaker for his 1959 recording of Handel’s Water Music, which used 24 oboes.
“We got every wind player in London to come for one session, in the middle of the night, and have a go at it,” Mackerras recalled.
“It was all edited and issued very quickly, in just a few days, and I must state I was a bit frightened that it would sound horrible, but of course just the opposite occurred. It sounded marvellous.”
He was music director of Welsh National Opera (1987-92), principal guest conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (1992-95) and music director of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York (1998-2001).
Mackerras was knighted in 1979 and made a Companion of Honour in 2003. He is survived by his wife, Judith, and their two daughters.
With files from The Associated Press, Australian Broadcasting Corp.
- Ont. ticket resale bill closer to becoming law
- Undocumented Picasso trove appears in France
- Ebert plans to produce new motion picture review show
- Prince cancels Saskatoon concert
- It's official — Ashton Kutcher to join 'Men'
- Ukulele legend Bill Tapia dies at 103
- Nicola Finetti does what he does ideal for Spring
- Win a ticket to 'The Stylist Says' workshop
- 'Fresh Prince' star lashes out at Will Smith
- Newsweek: End is near for ‘Lost’
Submited at Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 10:00 pm on Music by samantha
Comment RSS 2.0 - leave a comment - trackback