Charles Mackerras was born in 1925 in New York and became the first Australian conductor to be chief conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He studied violin at the age of seven. He arrived in England in 1947 and had a long association with the English National Opera and the Welsh National Opera. He worked as oboist and cor anglais player at Sadlers Wells where he met and married Judy Wilkins, a clarinetist at Sadlers Wells. He studied conducting in Prague where he came under the spell of Janacek’s operas.
In 1959 he made a landmark recording of Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks “ using original wind band instrumentation. He was an authority on the operas of Janacek and Mozart and the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan..
He was made a CBE in 1974, was knighted in 1979, made an Australian Companion (AC) in 1997 and a Companion of Honour in 2000. In 2005 he became the first recipient of the Queen’s Medal for Music. He died of cancer in 2010 and left his archive, including his markings of scores and orchestral parts, to the Royal Academy of Music.
Sir Charles and Lady Judy lived at 10 Hamilton Terrace, St John’s Wood, the house now bearing a blue plaque.