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Conductor led concert hours after death of his daughter

THE conductor Sir Charles Mackerras led one of the climactic concerts in the Edinburgh International Festival only hours after the death of his daughter, it has emerged.

The audience for Beethoven's 9th Symphony at the Usher Hall last week knew nothing of the tragedy that preceded the performance by Sir Charles, one of the world's greatest musicians and a longtime favourite in Edinburgh.

His daughter, Fiona, died of cancer last Friday, just a few hours before the late afternoon concert. She had been critically ill in a London hospice, his agent said yesterday.

According to one friend of the family, the news of his daughter's death was kept from Sir Charles until after the concert.

A newspaper notice published this week said Fiona Janaway, ne Mackerras, died on 1 September "after a brave fight against cancer. Devoted mother, and much loved daughter, partner and sister." It asked for donations rather than flowers to St John's Hospice in London.

Sir Charles, 80, was due to conduct Mozart's Symphony in D and Mass in C Minor at the Royal Albert Hall last night as part of the BBC Proms. The concert was to be dedicated to his daughter's memory, his agent said. The unfinished Mozart mass has been reconstructed by the American music expert Robert Levin.

The American-born Sir Charles conducted all nine of Beethoven's symphonies over two weeks at the festival as part of the highly successful Lloyds TSB Scotland Concerts.

On Friday Sir Charles conducted the final, famous "Choral" symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Edinburgh Festival Chorus.

Lady Mackerras was in London because of her daughter's illness.

Only a few people in the audience had any hint of what had occurred. One critic called the performance "fresh, startling, unsettling" and "completely convincing".

An EIF spokesman had no comment yesterday and Sir Charles' agent said the family wished to keep their loss private.

The story has circulated privately within Edinburgh this week, but staff at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, where Sir Charles has a long association as principal guest conductor, also declined to comment. One member of the audience contacted The Scotsman after hearing musicians talking about it.

Born in America to Australian parents, the eldest of seven children, Sir Charles was an oboeist before he moved to conducting after the war. He has conducted orchestras and opera companies worldwide in his distinctive style, and is constantly in demand, following a rigorous performance schedule through his 70s.

He is described as someone who feels his emotions through music. His wife, Judy, now Lady Mackerras, was an accomplished oboeist in her own right. They married in 1947 and had two daughters, Fiona and Catherine. He was knighted for his services to music, and is the first ever holder of the Queen's Medal for Music.

The Lloyds TSB concerts, offered three live concerts a night at the Usher Hall, with single symphony concerts that were accessible to all with tickets of just 10.

Featuring the series of nine symphonies by Beethoven and Bruckner, they were a festival first this year, and have proved a major success. In most of the Beethoven symphonies, Sir Charles conducted the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but the Philharmonia Orchestra played in the last.

 
 
 

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