The Australian conductor Sir Charles Mackerras was an incredible musician and an authority on many things, but he had an affinity for Czech music, particularly the music of the composer, Leoš Janáček. In 1947, at the age of 22, Mackerras won a British Council Scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to study conducting with the great Czech conductor Václav Talich at the Prague Academy of Music.
This year of study in Prague proved pivotal in Mackerras’ musical development. He befriended the principal oboist of the Czech Philharmonic (Mackerras played the oboe), who introduced him to the operas of Leoš Janáček. Mackerras would champion the music of Janáček for the rest of his life and, in fact, we can thank him for really introducing this composer’s symphonic and operatic to the rest of the world. Indeed, many of Janáček’s compositions were introduced to the rest of the world for the first time by Mackerras.
Here’s a great podcast interview with Mackerras:
And here are some fantastic videos of Mackerras conducting some of Janáček’s music.