Sad news: Eminent conductor collapses and dies

Sad news: Eminent conductor collapses and dies


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2017

The management agency for Sir Jeffrey Tate has confirmed his death, this afternoon, at the age of 74. The eminent British conductor suffered a heart attack while visiting the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, Italy, and could not be revived.

Sir Jeffrey Tate, who was 74, was knighted six weeks ago for services to music.

Born with spina bifida and suffering disability all his life, he has been principal conductor at Covent Garden, the Rotterdam Philharmonic and the Sao Carlo theatre in Naples.

At the time of his death he was chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra.

His disability did not prevent him from working at most of the great opera houses, including the Met. At one point, in the 1980s, he was in line to become music director at Covent Garden. Amiable and sensitive, especially when rehearsing singers, Jeffrey was unfailingly well liked and respected.

He recorded extensively, most notably the Mozart piano concertos with Mitsuko Uchida.

He shared his life with Klaus Kuhlemann, a German scientist.



NB: (The Academia is an art gallery; first reports that he died in an orchestral rehearsal were misplaced.)

UPDATE: Jeffrey Tate: How Britten changed my life.


  • Bruce says:

    Holy shit. Oh, how awful.

  • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

    This is very sad news. His appearances in the UK had become far too infrequent but I cherish memories of some marvellous Covent Garden performances in the 80s and 90s.

    Coincidentally, I was listening just the other day to his recording of Beethoven VII with the Dresden Staatskapelle. He was one of a *very* select band of conductors able to maintain the 6/8 rhythm throughout the allegro of the first movement without letting it slip into 2/4.

  • Ungeheuer says:

    So very saddened by Tate’s passing. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

  • Kristine Powell says:

    I’m sorry that happened☎️

  • Alan Nathan says:

    I’m so saddened by this; having assisted and cover conducted several productions, including a Ring Cycle, Sir Jeffrey was one of the most knowledgeable, kindest and most willing to share musicians I have ever met, and the best influence on a younger generations one could find. All this in a frail body that still seemed to posses endless strength and courage. What a loss, but what blessing to have had him with us as long as we have.

    RIP, Sir Jeffrey

  • Lewis Mitchell says:

    He was also the Pricipal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the time off his death. A man who has done great work with my old orchestra…

  • Eleanor Hope says:

    A delightful human being and a great artist. I am so sad that’s he’s gone.

  • Cubs Fan says:

    What a fine musician – wish there were more like him. Thankfully we have a significant number of recordings to cherish. A marvelous Hansel & Gretel and Elgar symphonies second to none.

    • Steve P says:

      Agree on the Elgar – fantastic music making. I’m not sure I’ve heard a bad performance conducted by Sir Jeffrey.

      • Ian Lawson says:

        How sad – and on Elgar’s 160th birthday too. I have many Elgar recordings but none by Tate, and hadn’t known of him as such a revered interpreter of Elgar. I will look out for them.

    • Nigel Harris says:

      Dead right. An extensive recorded legacy is of course no kind of consolation when a great musician dies, but you’re so glad of it nonetheless. I only wanted to add how good Tate’s ECO recordings of Classical music also are: I love his Haydn London Symphonies and Mozart concertos with Uchida, for example. Just full of warmth, humanity and style.

  • Dominique BOPP says:

    I am very sad. I remember Peter Grimes at Theâtre du Chatelet. We all will miss him.

  • Anat says:

    Very sad news indeed. I had the great privilege of playing under him at Music Academy of the West many years ago. He was an inspiration.

  • David J. Hyslop says:

    Jeffrey was the Artistic Director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest series from 1997-2000 . His talent , charm and good wit were evident in all of his performances and he leaves a large legacy of recordings , performances and productions.

    Sad day indeed .

  • Faxon Bishop says:

    I was fortunate to see his Elektra and Figaro in San Francisco. Both were exemplary.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Very very sad news. He has done wonderful work with the Rotterdam Philharmonic. Sometimes it seems that physical ailments are benefitting an artist’s interior intensity and profundity, to compensate for the suffering. I think that was definitely the case here.

  • Sue says:

    A brave musical soldier and a good man. I like to think that when he collapsed he didn’t suffer and never knew what hit him!

    • Al says:

      Love and agree with everything here. I especially love Sue’s comment near the end. May we all be so lucky as to go quickly and not “know what hit us”. May Maestro Tate RIP, knowing his life and work was not in vain.

      • Sue says:

        Regarding that kind of death; this week I was talking to my hi-fi salesman – an extremely fit 62y/o athlete and bike-rider. He told me he’d had a cardiac arrest during a bike ride 3 months ago and that all he could remember was feeling a little dizzy beforehand. Thanks to 3 doctors on the peleton his life was saved, but he said he woke up in hospital, remembering absolutely nothing and seeing all his fellow riders around his bed. That’s when I realized that, perhaps, a little dizziness is perhaps the only warning some will have of impending death. I wondered if that was what it was like to die with a heart attack and the answer is probably yes.

  • Warrick Dawson says:

    Was privileged to attend the first Adelaide Ring Cycle under his direction. An experience never forgotten.

  • Hilary Dunlop says:

    I am so very sad to hear of Jeffrey’s death. I have known him since we were both 18 when he came to Edinburgh with the Cambridge Footlights. What fun we had in those early days, and I know how hard he worked and what a wonderful friend he has been over the years. My best wishes go to Klaus who looked after him so well for so long

  • taddeo says:

    A dear friend and then neighbour from the very early 1970s. Thank you for all the wonderful times and for taking me under your wing… having just arrived in London few weeks before… at the age of 21. Life-long friends…. my only regret is that I did not see you as often as I should have……… much deep love to you and to dear Klaus.

  • Jill Tinsley says:

    When I first came to live in Cambridge, about thirty years ago, I went to a concert in Kings College where I heard Mitsuko Uchida and Jeffrey Tate playing music for four hands, mostly Schubert. It was pure magic; a never to be forgotten evening.

  • Andrey Boreyko says:

    My sincere condolences… I was very glad to know Maestro Tate will be next MD of Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, when i left. I guess his cadence was the best time for this orchestra. Thank you Maestro!
    Rest in Peace.

  • Mike Sproule says:

    Sir Jeffrey Tate was the finest conductor I ever knew. He inspired love and commitment of the highest order. I sang in choruses under his direction in the eighties and it was life changing. I’ll never forget his instruction to get the right effect in the Benedictus of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis ; “Sing like nuns saying the Rosary”. We did. It worked magically! Thank you, Jeffrey, for bringing so much music to life.

  • John de Jong says:

    This is very sad news. My thoughts of sympathy are for his partner, friends and family.
    I cherish the memories of beautiful concerts with the Rotterdam Philharmonic, in De Doelen of Rotterdam and in the Concertgebouw. May he rest in peace.

    I’d prefer as headline “Jeffrey Tate has died”. He may have been underrated, but for readers of this blog Jeffrey Tate is well known The headline “Eminent conductor dies ” is unnecessarily anonymous. What counts first is the death of the beloved human being Jeffrey Tate.

  • Andrew Keener says:

    I can only add my sadness to the expressions above. I was privileged to produce some of Jeffrey’s recordings of Mozart and Schubert with the English Chamber Orchestra. From the very beginning, here, evidently, was a musician of depth, humanity, high intelligence and emotional susceptibility. Many marvellous conductors succeed with some of these. Jeffrey had them all. My thoughts, and those of my partner Peter, are with Klaus at this time. We both hope that his dedication and his memories of a remarkable journey together will help to sustain him in the time ahead.