FACTBOX - Orchestra conductor Charles Mackerras dies

Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:25pm IST

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REUTERS - Charles Mackerras, a noted orchestral conductor of the world's leading orchestras, has died from cancer. He was 84.

Here are a few facts on Mackerras:

* EARLY LIFE:

-- Alan Charles Maclaurin Mackerras was born in November 1925 in New York of Australian parents. The family moved to Australia when he was two.

-- He studied oboe, piano, and composition at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music and he became principal oboist in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra from 1943-1946.

-- In 1947 he joined the orchestra at Sadler's Wells theatre in London and studied conducting.

-- The same year he won a British Council Scholarship, which enabled him to study conducting with Vaclav Talich at the Prague Academy of Music, where he discovered his love of Czech music.

* THE WORLD STAGE:

-- Returning to London in 1948, Mackerras was an assistant conductor at Sadler's Wells until 1953. He was then engaged as principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra from 1954-1956. He subsequently appeared as a guest conductor with British orchestras, as well as European orchestras.

-- Mackerras was Conductor Laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Philharmonia Orchestra, Conductor Emeritus of the Welsh National Opera and Principal Guest Conductor Emeritus of the San Francisco Opera.

* A CZECH CONNECTION:

-- Mackerras championed the works of Czech composer Leos Janacek and became a specialist in the Czech repertory. His recordings include Antonin Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances", Smetana's "Ma Vlast", Martinu's "Field Mass" and Double Concerto and Janacek's "Katya Kabanova", "Sarka" and the "Glagolitic Mass"

-- Mackerras was Principal Guest Conductor of the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from 1997-2003.

* MOZART:

-- Mackerras undertook much research into performance practice of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. One of the highlights of 1991 was the re-opening of the Estates Theatre in Prague, scene of the original premiere of Mozart's "Don Giovanni".

* RECORDING:

-- His vast discography, apart from Czech music, includes Benjamin Britten's "Gloriana" which won "Gramophone" magazine's Best Opera Recording for 1994. He has recorded all the symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms as well as a number of Mahler symphonies.

-- As a noted authority on Mozart, Mackerras received acclaim for his recordings of Mozart's symphonies with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

-- Mackerras made his debut with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1964, where he conducted over 30 operas, including Guiseppe Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera" which celebrated his 50th anniversary and 80th birthday in 2005.

-- Mackerras received a CBE in 1974 and was knighted in 1979. In 1978 he was presented with the Janacek medal for services to Czech music, on stage at the Coliseum Theatre, by the ambassador of what was then Czechoslovakia.

Sources: Reuters/www.bach-cantatas.com/www.philharmonia.co.uk/www.gramophone.net

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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