Charles Mackerras Conducted Finale of Beethoven Cycle Just Hours After Daughter's Death

Classic Arts News   Charles Mackerras Conducted Finale of Beethoven Cycle Just Hours After Daughter's Death
 
"A searing performance ... that revealed the radicalism of this visionary piece." So wrote Tim Ashley of London's The Guardian about Charles Mackerras's performance on September 1 of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the culmination of a complete Beethoven symphony cycle he conducted at this year's Edinburgh International Festival. "Nothing was taken for granted, either at the microscopic level of individual parts or the cosmic scale of the symphony's architecture ... The whole was a thrilling emotional roller coaster, and Mackerras made each of Beethoven's abrupt changes of key and style a gut-wrenching experience. The end of the piece has never sounded so noisy or shattering."

What Ashley didn't know — and neither did Mackerras — was that the 80-year-old conductor's daughter, Fiona Janaway, had succumbed to cancer in a London hospice just a few hours before the concert began.

The news of Fiona's passing was kept from Sir Charles until after the performance, according to the Edinburgh newspaper The Scotsman. His wife, Lady Jane, was in London with their daughter at the time.

Mackerras's agent told The Scotsman that the BBC Prom Concert he conducted last Friday (September 8), with the Choir and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment performing Mozart's "Haffner" Symphony and Mass in C minor (in Robert Levin's completion), would be dedicated to his daughter's memory. That performance, Prom 72, remains available in streaming audio on demand on the BBC Radio Player at the BBC Radio 3 website, www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/.


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