Conductor Sir Charles Mackerras dies aged 84

Sir Charles Mackerras. Photo: BBC - Chris Christodoulou Sir Charles Mackerras was due to perform at the BBC Proms this month

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World renowned Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras has died in London at the age of 84.

Sir Charles joined the Sydney Symphony Orchestra as an oboist during World War II, before becoming its principal oboe in 1946.

He was chosen to conduct the orchestra on the opening night of the Sydney Opera House in 1973.

Sir Charles was due to perform at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh International Festival this summer.

Prom tribute

Born in New York State to Australian parents, Sir Charles was raised in Sydney but spent large parts of his adult life in the UK.

He conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was music director at the English National Opera, and was conductor laureate of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, with whom he had a 50-year association.

Roger Wright, director BBC Proms and Controller of BBC Radio, paid tribute to the conductor and said a Prom would be dedicated to his memory.

He was due to perform on 25 and 29 July.

"Sir Charles was a great conductor and his loss will be deeply felt by musicians and audiences alike," he said.

"The range and quality of his work was extraordinary. He was due to conduct two Proms this summer and it is very sad to think of a Proms season without his remarkable musicianship, good humour and charm."

'Living treasure'

Sir Charles also had strong connections with the Edinburgh International Festival, where he first performed in 1952.

He returned many times as a conductor and was president of the Edinburgh International Festival Society.

Four years ago, he marked his 55th year at the festival by conducting Beethoven's nine symphonies, and was due to conduct the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in a few weeks' time.

Sydney Symphony managing director Rory Jeffes said: "Australia has lost a living treasure with the death overnight of conductor Sir Charles Mackerras.

"The connection between Sir Charles and the Sydney Symphony has run deep for over 60 years. He was a man of great musical scholarship, talent and energy.

"We are all deeply saddened to have lost such an eminent conductor and a special part of the Sydney Symphony family. Our thoughts are with Sir Charles' loved ones at this time."

His agent Robert Rattray said he was "a giant" of classical music who retained his ability to inspire fellow conductors and musicians into his later life.

"His knowledge and his enthusiasm was something he not only could convey to these orchestral players but to some of the most eminent figures in the classical music world."

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