Tuesday, June 20, 2017 12:00pm
Early in the morning of Saturday 3 June, I awoke to the news that Sir Jeffrey Tate CBE, the ASO’s Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser, had died, aged 74.
The news came as something of a shock, as I’d been corresponding with Jeffrey less than 24 hours earlier, making arrangements for his next visit to the ASO in October.
He and his partner, Klaus, were in Bergamo, in their beloved Italy, enjoying a few days off after two performances of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony with the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano and Trento (whose Principal Conductor, incidentally, is Arvo Volmer). They were en route to Turin where Jeffrey was to conduct the RAI National Symphony Orchestra.
Jeffrey and Klaus were in an art gallery, the Accademia Carrara, when Jeffrey suffered a massive heart attack. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
While it was a shock to learn of his sudden death, it is actually something of a miracle that we were able to enjoy Jeffrey’s company and artistry at all. He was born with spina bifida and the earliest prognosis, given the many associated complications arising from his condition, was that he would not live to adulthood.
But live, he did, and Jeffrey lived life to the full. His remarkable life’s work is his legacy to us. It lives vividly in the memories of the thousands around the world who had the fortune and pleasure of attending one of his performances; or who continue to have the opportunity to relish any of his hundreds of recordings.
The ASO owes Jeffrey a great debt of gratitude. His work with the orchestra in 1998, during the preparation and performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle for State Opera of South Australia, changed the ASO forever – not only as a result of that intensive collaboration and the many insights he shared about one of the greatest human cultural achievements, but because of Jeffrey’s enormous humanity.
We were delighted when were able to rekindle our relationship last year and honoured that Jeffrey could play an important part in the ASO’s 80th anniversary celebrations. We are truly sorry that this renewed love affair has ended so soon.
On behalf of the musicians, management and Board of the ASO, I extend my most sincere condolences to Klaus and to the family.
Vale, Sir Jeffrey – we will miss you.