Brown Bread: Sir Charles Mackerras

Sir Charles Mackerras, who died on 14 July aged 84, was a conductor and musicologist, and introduced the passionate and heartfelt music of Leoš Janáček to British audiences.

Detractors, however, dubbed him “Chuck ’em Up Charlie” for his freelancer’s willingness to conduct anything, anywhere.

A great man, a great loss – but it is good that he was working right to the end. I managed to get to a lot of his performances, all of which were memorable; and I treasure a recollection of finding myself one day in Foyle’s music department (early 80s, I think) when he was the only other person there and we had an enjoyable five-minute chat.

He was once on the panel of a Wagner Society question and answer event following an ENO Rhinegold under his baton. Someone commented on the beautifully delicate and soft horn playing in the prelude and asked him how it had been achieved.

“Old socks and sandwiches,” was his reply, “stuffed into the bells of the instruments. Works a treat.”

R.I.P. Sir Charles Mackerras 1925-2010


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