Sir Charles Mackerras (1925 – 2010)

One of the finest conductors of our time, a pioneer and a gentleman, Sir Charles Mackerras – has died. He passed away in London on 14 July 2010, after battling with cancer.  He was 84.

I have always admired his work, and although he did not appear to have the widespread, trumpeted popularity of the peers of his generation, I still place him among the ranks of the great conductors of the 20th century, such as Herbert von Karajan (1908 – 1989),  Leonard Bernstein (1918 – 1990) and Sir Georg Solti (1912 – 1997).

For me, he was a conductor of refined intelligence and musical grace, and besides being a master of the music of Mozart and Czech composers, Sir Charles was an important pioneer of performance on period instruments, before the movement gained ground in the audience.  His recording – on period instruments – of Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony and especially the Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which I reviewed at the Inkpot here) is still one of my favourites.

I don’t actually own many of his recordings, but I’ve heard him enough to make the news of his passing more upsetting to me than I would realize.

Quite recently, in May, I posted a Youtube video of Sir Charles conducting “Jupiter” from Holst’s The Planets at the 2009 BBC Proms, in my Facebook. Little did I know that I would do it again so soon in tribute to the conductor.

Thank you for your music, and your pioneering work in period instruments performance. May you find jollity in heaven.

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Leon is Singapore's resident champion of Jean Sibelius.

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