Sir Charles Mackerras has died in London, aged 84. The world-renowned Australian conductor had been suffering from cancer for several years.
Just last month Sir Charles conducted Così fan tutte at Glyndebourne and next month he was due to conduct the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in another Mozart opera, Idomeneo, at the Edinburgh International Festival. Mozart operas were one of his specialities, as were Czech repertoire and the music of Gilbert and Sullivan.
Sir Charles was born in New York to Australian parents in 1925, and raised in Australia, where he studied oboe, piano and composition at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. In 1946 he moved to London, where he remained for most of his life.
Aside from conducting, Sir Charles undertook much research into performance practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and he championed the authenticity movement, including the use of period instruments.
In the years leading up to his death Sir Charles maintained a busy schedule, as Conductor Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of Welsh National Opera and Principal Guest Conductor Emeritus of San Francisco Opera.
Sir Charles received many awards throughout his life, including a CBE in 1974 and a knighthood in 1979. He was honoured with the Medal of Merit from the Czech Republic in 1996, made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1997 and a Companion of Honour in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours. Many universities around the world also bestowed honorary fellowships on him.
Listen to a recent interview with Sir Charles Mackerras, in which he spoke about the Glyndebourne production of Così fan tutte.