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Charles Mackerras, eminent Australian conductor, dies at 84

The classical music world has lost yet another gleaming light, Australian conductor Charles Mackerras. His extraordinary grasp of style and ability to generate richly expressive performances earned him worldwide admiration. He died Wednesday in London from cancer at the age of 84.

His legacy, preserved on many recordings, is especially notable for the deep insights he revealed in the works of two very different composers, Mozart and Janacek. Mackerras was just as persuasive and engaging in a wide range of repertoire, from Handel to Gilbert & Sullivan.

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Mackerras, born in Schenectady, N.Y., to Australian parents in 1925, was also a champion of period instrument performance, without ever becoming pedantic about it. He held posts with the Sydney Symphony (he opened the iconic Sydney Opera House), BBC Symphony, and Orchestra of St. Luke's, among others. He was a most welcome guest at the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera.

Knighted in 1979 and given numerous other honors during his long career, Sir Charles Mackerras leaves a considerable void. I've attached a video shot a year ago during a Mozart symphony recording session with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (he was conductor laureate of that ensemble); this brief glimpse captures the conductor's magic quite well, in conversation and on the podium. I follow that with "Venus, the Bringer of Peace," from Holst's "The Planets," filmed during a Proms concert last year:

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