Friday, July 16, 2010

A tribute to Sir Charles Mackerras

Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras has died of cancer at the age of 84.

Sir Charles Mackerras was a brilliant conductor, his passion for music was the driving force in his life.
"I always wanted to become a musician. I was hardly interested in anything else. From about eight or nine I had a sort of mania about it," Sir Charles told the Guardian in an interview to mark his 80th birthday in 2005.

He championed the work of Czech composer Janacek bringing his operas to the masses. In 1951 he conducted the first London performance of Janacek's Katya Kabanova after the original conductor became ill. He went on to become the music director at Sadler's Wells Theatre.

In 1951 he also arranged Gilbert and Sullivan's music just after it was out of copyright. His Sullivan ballet arrangement Pineapple Poll continues to be popular. 1951 was the year Charles Mackerras became a recognised figure in the music world.

Sir Charkes Mackerras conducted the opening concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1973.

In 1979 he was knighted for his contribution to music and the following year became the first conductor outside of the UK to conduct the Last Night of the Proms. 

Sir Charles Mackerras was an international figure; he had a full schedule traveling all over the world as a guest conductor.

Roy McEwan, managing director of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, said: "Sir Charles was one of the most distinguished conductors of his generation. He had an almost unparalleled mastery of music across a huge range of styles and periods from Handel through Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak and Janacek and beyond".

Gillian Karaviotis worked with Sir Charles Mackerras at Sadler's Wells Theatre: "Sir Charles Mackerras was arguably the greatest Australian musician to ever live. He lived and breathed music and apart from his family and sailing, nothing else interested him. His legacy will be his extensive research into Mozart's manuscripts which began with his pioneering performance with ornamentation of The Marriage of Figaro at Sadler's Wells Theatre in 1965. He was also responsible for bringing the music of Janacek, particularly his operas to England in the 50's and his interpretations of Janacek's operas are considered unsurpassed. His life was packed full to the brim with worldwide travel conducting operas and concerts from Sydney, America and Europe at every great opera house and concert hall. He was richly honoured for his enormous and unselfish services to music. Sir Charles opened our minds to the wonders of classical music in the thousands of recordings he left us."

On a personal note Sophia Whitfield, the publisher at NFP spent her youth running around the corridors of Sadler's Wells Theatre. Both her parents worked at the theatre and knew Sir Charles Mackerras and his family. Charles and his wife Judy had supported our Music Box series which introduces young children to classical music.

We send our love and thoughts to Sir Charles Mackerras's wife Judy and their daughter Catherine.xx

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