Jeffrey Tate

British Conductor (Salisbury, 1943 – Bergamo, 2017)

Sir Jeffrey Tate’s career as an internationally renowned conductor of both operatic and symphonic works began in the late 70s.

Born on the 28th of April in Salisbury, Jeffrey Tate chose music over studying music. He gravitated towards conducting, working first as an assistant to great conductors such as Sir Geog Salti, Colin Davis, Rudolf Kempe and Carlos Kleiber. 

His time as Pierre Boulez’s assistant in the late 70s was very formative; during this time they produced Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung and the world premiere of the three act version of Alban Berg’s ‘Lulu’ (1979), at the Opéra de Paris. 

Jeffrey Tate’s career then took flight; he made his debut in the orchestra pit at the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1979 and was then names Principal Conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra, in 1985. The following year he became Principal Conductor of the Royal Opera House (the first to bear that title in the Opera House’s history). The Orchestre National de France appointed him guest conductor between 1989 and 1998. From 1991 to 1995, Jeffrey Tate took the reins of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and from 2005 to 2010 he was Musical Director of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. His final role was that of conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra, his contract has been extended until 2019. 

During his career he was invited to conduct by a great number of major international symphony orchestras and opera houses (the Met, the Vienna Opera House, La Scala). Some of the highlights of his long, distinguished career happened in Paris, here he conducted the entirety of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Berg’s Lily, Britten’s Billy Budd and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

The eminent British conductor had a broad and varied musical taste, which allowed him to skilfully conduct both classical and contemporary works. His large discography is testament to this; it includes Mozart’s concertos played by Mitsuko Uchida, and Lulu recorded during performances at Châtelet by the Orchestre National de France. 

Jeffrey Tate was born with Spina Bifida, a debilitating condition which caused him much suffering throughout his life but did not stop him from pursuing his career to the highest level. He was beloved and respected by all of the musicians he worked with and the singers he accompanied. He was given a CBE, knighted by Prince William, in April 2017.  

Six landmark dates in the life of Jeffrey Tate

1976: Assistant to Pierre Boulez for the centenary production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, produced by Patrice Chéreau for The Bayreuth Festival.

1979: Conducts World Premiere of Alan Berg’s three act Lulu at the Paris Opera. 

1989-1998: First guest conductor of the Orchestre National de France.

2005-2010: Musical Director of the Teatro San Carlo, Naples. 

2009: Documentary about his life, Jeffrey Tate: Une force unique, created by Benjamin Wolff and Peter Schlögl is released.

2009: Head of the Hamburger Symphoniker, Hamburg.