Sunday, July 25, 2010

POSTVIEW: Sir Charles Mackerras (1925 - 2010)

I woke up early this morning to queue up for an iPad, but then when I got there (2 hours prior to the store opening), there was already a long queue! I gave up.

I went to a coffee shop instead to read the newspaper, then I found out that Sir Charles Mackerras died at the age of 84 on July 14 in London. Sir Alan Charles Maclaurin Mackerras was born in New York State to Australian parents and was raised in Sydney. He spent most of his adult life though in United Kingdom where he conducted the BBC Symphony Orchestra and was the music director of the English National Opera.

Ten years ago in 2000, the Hong Kong Arts Festival featured Leos Janácek's Jenufa and Antonin Dvorák's Rusalka by the Prague National Theatre. Not knowing a lot about these opera, I decided to get a recording of them to study. After some research, I was quite surprised that it was Mackerras' name that kept coming up. For me at that time, I associated Mackerras with the Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta he recorded with Telarc or the few Mozart recordings I have of him. I ended up getting two excellent recordings: Elisabeth Söderström as Jenufa and Renee Fleming as Rusalka.
For me, if I have to cite one of Mackerras' most important musical contribution, it will have to be how he championed Czech music (Janácek's in particular) outside Czechoslovakia.

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