The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Conductor Sir Charles Mackerras dies at 84. Here are obits, an interview with him, and a sample of his Mozart samples

July 17, 2010
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By Jacob Stockinger

One of the interpretive titans of classical music, especially music of the Classical era, has died.

Sir Charles Mackerras (below), a American-Australian-British conductor renowned for his interpretations of Mozart and his opera performances, died Wednesday after a long bout with cancer. He was 84.

Here are links to some fine obituaries, the first English and the second American:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jul/15/conductor-charles-mackerras-dies

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/16/arts/music/16mackerras.html?ref=obituaries

And here is a revealing and entertaining conversation with Mackerras:

http://www.classicstoday.com/features/f1_0200.asp

There is not a lot The Ear can add to the other obituaries and appreciations.

But I would just say a couple things:

I particularly like Mackerras’ Mozart because he seem one of the few musicians who balances period-instrument practices with modern-instrument performances. In that, he was helped by using a smaller chamber orchestra (the Scottish and Prague Chamber Orchestras) and by his attention to interpretive details that are so vital to Mozart. In short, Sir Charles demonstrated an impeccable taste in and appreciation of Mozart — whose music is even more difficult than Haydn, Handel, Beethoven, Brahms, Janacek and other composers Mackerras performed. (He was also a prolific recorder. A search at Amazon.com yields more than 500.)

That leads me to my second point.

Sir Charles liked his Mozart robust and full-bodied. He fought against what The Ear considers to be a cardinal sin: Music-Box Mozart. That just makes Wolfie seem superficial and does a severe injustice to his gifts.

I imagine that is one reason why famed pianist Alfred Brendel chose Sir Charles (both below) for his final series of recordings of Mozart’s piano concertos. Mackerras, like Brendel, was an advocate of Mozart as a serious, thoughtful and historically important — even revolutionary — composer who was so much more than charming.


So in honor of Sir Charles and Mozart and the team that the two master musicians made up,  here is Sir Charles himself, discussing and conducting some of his beloved Mozart, his favorite composer and the one who brought him so many awards and so much critical acclaim:

Do you know Mackerras’ performances and recordings?

What do you think of his Mozart?

Of his other symphonic and operatic work?

What else would you like to say about Mackerras?

The Ear wants to hear.


Posted in Classical music

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