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Charles Mackerras (1925 - 2010)


Although born in America, Charles Mackerras grew up and was educated in Australia as part of an extremely musical family; listening to gramophone records of major works was an early experience of childhood. He soon decided that he wished to be a conductor, and learnt to play the oboe as a way of getting into an orchestra and gaining experience of orchestral playing. As a result of conscription for World War II, there was a shortage of oboists and Mackerras was soon launched on a professional career even while he was still at school. He studied conducting, composition and harmony at the New South Wales Conservatorium in Sydney, replacing his own oboe teacher as Professor of Oboe when the tutor left. After graduating, he played with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio Orchestra (which later became the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) from 1943 to 1946, and he also joined the Colgate/Palmolive Commercial Radio Unit, playing jazz and light opera arrangements, a number of which were made by himself. When the war ended he decided to go overseas, and while many chose America, he decided to go to England with his wife. Here, after a brief period as principal oboist with the BBC Scottish Orchestra he joined the Sadler’s Wells Opera both as an oboist in the orchestra and as a répétiteur for the company. In addition he studied conducting briefly with Michael Mudie.

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