Conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, 84, Dies

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II (L) presents the inaugural Queen's Medal For Music to Australian musician Sir Charles Mackerras (R) at Buckingham Palace in London. (Matthew Fearn/AFP/Getty Images)

Symphony and opera conductor Sir Charles Mackerras died on Wednesday of cancer in London. He was 84 years old. Mackerras was born in Schenectady, New York and grew up and studied music in Australia.

"I always wanted to become a musician. I was hardly interested in anything else," Mackerras told The Guardian in a 1980 interview. "From about eight or nine I had a sort of mania about it."

Mackerras conducted symphonies and made recordings around the world, including in Germany, Australia, the Czech Republic, the United States, Austria and France. In Prague, he immersed himself in the work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and of Czech conductor Leoš Janáček, and then conducted Janáček's first Kataya Kabanova outside continental Europe, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Mackerras also directed the first performance at the Sydney Opera House in 1973, was the director of music at the English National Opera, and the principal conductor of the Welsh National Opera and the BBC Concert Orchestra.

WNYC's Kerry Nolan talks to Anne Midgette, Classical Music Critic for The Washington Post, about Mackerras's life and greatest achievements.

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Kerry Nolan

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Abbie Fentress Swanson

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Comments [1]

Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

—Sir Charles Mackerras died Wednesday night in London, after a battle with cancer. He was 84. Amazingly, born in Schenectady, New York, his family moving to Australia, practically all of his youth was spent there. Luckily his training there was of the highest caliber enabling him, with his zeal, to achieve major recording and performing accomplishments in the Czech repertory and in Mozart "rep", both, instrumental and opera. Mackerras conducted in the major houses worldwide. In Britain, Mackerras was associated with English National opera and the Royal Opera, and was formerly principal conductor of Welsh National Opera and the BBC Concert Orchestra. He also conducted the opening night first performance, in 1973, in home territory, the Sydney Opera House.

Jul. 16 2010 05:28 PM

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