Thursday, July 15, 2010

Charles Mackerras (1925-2010)

Charles Mackerras, the conductor esteemed for his mastery of orchestral and operatic repertory from the baroque to the modern, has died at the age of 84.

Born in Schenectady, NY, to Australian parents, Mackerras was reared, received his early music education and began his career as an oboist in Australia. He moved to Great Britain in 1947, and subsequently studied conducting with Vaclav Talich in Prague.

He remained an authority on Czech music, notably the operas of Leos Janáček, throughout his career. He was also among the leading interpreters of Handel and Mozart in the opera house and concert hall.

Mackerras was one of the first conductors to alternate freely between modern- and period-instruments ensembles, and one of the first "mainstream" musical figures to apply historically informed performance practices to 19th-century repertory – for example, leading Brahms’ symphonies with the smaller orchestra that the composer would have known in his lifetime.

Mackerras was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, but continued to perform. He had been scheduled to conduct two concerts this summer in the Proms series in London.

An obituary by The Guardian’s Matthew Weaver:

Alan Blyth, who died in 2007, left this more extensive obituary, also published by The Guardian: