Opera Scotland

John Pritchard Suggest updates

Sir John Pritchard.

Born London, 5 February 1921.

Died Daly City, California, 5 December 1989.

English conductor.

Sir John Pritchard had a long and distinguished career as a versatile conductor in both the opera house and concert hall. He is particularly associated with Glyndebourne, where his career began, and he was music director there from 1968 to 1977. He first conducted at Covent Garden in 1951, and continued to appear regularly in both houses throughout his life. Orchestras he directed included the Liverpool Philharmonic (1957-62), London Philharmonic (1962-66) and BBC Symphony (1982-89).

He came from a musical background, his father being a professional violinist, and after a period of study in Italy he was engaged by Glyndebourne in 1947, working initially as répétiteur, then chorus master. As assistant to Fritz Busch, from 1951 he was able to conduct performances of several operas, most notably the key works of Mozart, which he would perform all over the world for the rest of his life.

First operatic appearances abroad included Vienna 1952 and Berlin 1954, Salzburg 1966, San Francisco 1970, and New York Met 1971. He was musical director at Cologne from 1978-81, Brussels 1981-86 and San Francisco from then until his death.

Throughout his career he was an enthusiastic performer of new concert and operatic music. With the Covent Garden company he conducted the premieres of Gloriana (1953), The Midsummer Marriage (1955) and King Priam (1962 in Coventry Cathedral). At Glyndebourne he led the first British productions of Elegy for Young Lovers, The Visit of the Old Lady and Intermezzo.

He was made CBE in 1962 and knighted in 1983.

His operatic work in Scotland began as a novice répétiteur at the first Edinburgh Festival of 1947, and he conducted the Glyndebourne company there through the fifties. He later made two visits with his Cologne company. His actual conducting debut in Scotland seems to have been as early as 1950, when he led the Glasgow Grand Opera Society in performances of The Pearl Fishers and Carmen. He also made a number of concert appearances at the Festival, and, occasionally, with the SNO.

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