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Mackerras, Sir (Alan) Charles (MacLau-rin)

Mackerras, Sir (Alan) Charles (MacLau-rin)

Mackerras, Sir (Alan) Charles (MacLau-rin), eminent American-born Australian conductor; b. Schenectady, N.Y. (of Australian parents), Nov. 17,1925. He studied oboe, piano, and composition at the New South Wales State Conservatorium of Music in Sydney. From 1943 to 1946 he was principal oboist in the Sydney Sym. Orch. He then went to London, where he joined the orch. at Sadler’s Wells and studied conducting with Michael Mudie. In 1947 he won a British Council Scholarship and pursued conducting studies with Vaclav Talich at the Prague Academy of Music. He was a staff conductor at Sadler’s Wells from 1948 to 1954. From 1954 to 1956 he was principal conductor of the BBC Concert Orch. In 1963 he made his debut at London’s Covent Garden conducting Shostakovich’s Katerina Iz-mailova.From 1966 to 1969 he held the position of 1st conductor at the Hamburg State Opera. In 1970 he became music director of the Sadler’s Wells Opera (renamed the English National Opera in 1974), a position he held until 1977. On Oct. 31, 1972, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. conducting Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.He was chief guest conductor of the BBC Sym. Orch. in London from 1976 to 1979, and from 1982 to 1985 chief conductor of the Sydney Sym. Orch. He was principal guest conductor of the Royal Liverpool Phil, from 1986 to 1988. From 1987 to 1992 he was music director of the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff, and then served as its conductor emeritus. In 1990 he made his debut at the Glyndebourne Festival conducting Verdi’s Falstaff.From 1992 to 1995 he was principal guest conductor of the Scottish Chamber Orch. in Glasgow, and then its conductor laureate. He also was principal guest conductor of the Royal Phil, in London (1993–96) and of the San Francisco Opera (1993–96). In 1997 he became music director of the Orch. of St. Luke’s in N.Y. As a guest conductor, Mackerras has appeared with many of the world’s leading orchs. and opera houses, as well as at many of the leading festivals. In 1974 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 1979 he was knighted. His recordings have won numerous awards, including Gramophone Awards (1977, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1994, 1999), a Grammy Award (1981), and the Edison, Deutscher Schallplattenpreis, and the Prix Caecilia (1999). In 1978 he was awarded the Janácek Medal. He has received honorary doctorates from the uni vs. of Hull (1990), Nottingham (1991), York, Brno, and Brisbane (1994), and Oxford (1997), and from the Prague Academy of Music (1999). In 1996 the Czech Republic honored him with the Medal of Merit. Mackerras has won great distinction for his performances of works from both the orch. and operatic repertoires. While he is highly regarded for his interpretations of the standard classics, he has also won renown for his authoritative performances of works by Janácek.


N. Phelan, C. M.: A Musicians’ Musician(London, 1987).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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