Sir Charles Mackerras tribute concert

Family, friends and many many fans packed the Royal Festival Hall last night to pay musical tribute to the great Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras, who died in July.

Mackerras had been due to conduct The Philharmonia for the concert, so it was fitting that it should become a celebration of his life and work.

The evening was introduced by a friend of the Mackerras family, the actor Anthony Andrews, who recalled some of the great man’s characteristics: "Charles would give a certain look to an orchestra as he was about to turn to the audience at the end of a performance – and it was a look that said: Job well done!"

The first part of the concert involved the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, directed by harpsichordist Steven Devine in several works by Handel, including 'Let the bright seraphim' from Samson, for which they were joined by soprano Mhairi Lawson.

Next up were The Philharmonia and conductor Tomas Netopil, with Dvorak’s Symphony No.7. The story goes that Sir Charles - a great champion of Czech music - was studying the work in a London café in 1947 when a man came up to him, spotted the Dvorak score and suggested that he apply for a scholarship to study in Prague. The rest, as they say, is history.

Violinist Julian Rachlin and violist Lawrence Power joined The Philharmonia for Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Then Sir Charles' nephew Alexander Briger took to the stage to conduct his uncle’s own arrangement of The Cunning Little Vixen Suite by Janacek, followed by the final scene of the opera, featuring baritone Sir Thomas Allen. This was - according to Alexander - Sir Charles' favourite piece of music. Six years ago, over a bottle of wine, Sir Charles told him that “if they ever have a memorial for me, I want this played.” He also revealed that The Philharmonia - Classic FM's Orchestra on Tour - was the orchestra with which his uncle most enjoyed working.

A fitting encore too – Arthur Sullivan’s Pineapple Poll arranged by Sir Charles – as with so many things, he was a noted authority and great fan.