Jeffrey Tate (1943-2017)


Sir Jeffrey Philip Tate CBE, was an English conductor.

He was born on 28 April 1943 in Salisbury, with spina bifida, and also had kyphosis. His family moved to Farnham, Surrey when he was young and he attended Farnham Grammer School between 1954 and 1961, gaining a scholarship to Christ's College, where he read medicine between 1961 and 1964. He specialised in eye surgery and during his time at College he enjoyed directing theatre productions. He later worked at St Thomas's Hospital, London, before giving up his clinical career to study music at the London Opera Centre. He became a repetiteur and a coach at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, under the tutelage of Sir Georg Solti.

Tate's international conducting début was with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1979. In 1985, he was appointed the first principal conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra. He became principal conductor of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in September 1986, the first person in the House's history to have that title. He was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra from 1991 to 1995. In 2005, he was appointed music director of the San Carlo Theatre of Naples, and stayed in the role until 2010. Tate's recordings include a series of Mozart piano concertos with Dame Mitsuko Uchida.

Tate was president of UK Spina Bifida charity ASBAH (now SHINE [Spina Bifida, Hydrocephalus, Information, Networking, Equality]) from 1989 until his death. A portrait of Jeffrey Tate is in David Blum's book Quintet, Five Journeys toward Musical Fulfillment (Cornell University Press, 1999). It originally appeared as an article in the 30 April 1990 issue of The New Yorker.

In October 2007, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of Tate as its next chief conductor. He formally took up the Hamburg Symphony post in 2009. In February 2014, the orchestra announced the extension of Tate's contract as chief conductor through to 2019.

Tate was appointed Principal Guest Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for the 2016/17 seasons, in part as a result of his association with that orchestra from the 1998 production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Tate was knighted in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to British music overseas and died in June 2017.